CCEL supports students in identifying and getting involved with community organizations in Cleveland. Whether you are a Civic Engagement Scholar seeking a primary site or a CWRU student who is looking to contribute to a cause you care about, here are some tips on how to connect with community organizations.
Identifying an Organization
Request a copy of the Service Partner list from firstname.lastname@example.org, or browse the for different organizations that meet your interests or check CampusGroups to see what volunteer opportunities are currently available. Here are some questions you should consider when browsing these resources:
- What interests you? Are you looking for organizations that address a specific social issue (healthcare, food insecurity, homelessness) or do you want to work with a specific population (children, senior citizens, etc). You can filter the Partner List using one or more categories of interest including Adult Education, Children and Youth, Health, etc.
- When are you available? If you factor in time for transportation, you will generally need at least a 3 hour block available during the day to serve. If you are only available during evenings and weekends, opportunities may be more limited. Use the keyword "weekend" in the Partner List to find organizations with weekend opportunities.
- Where can you serve? Are you looking for sites that are within walking distance from campus? Are you willing to take the RTA public transit system or do you have a personal vehicle? Use the keywords "on campus," "walking," or "RTA" to filter opportunities in the Partner List depending on your transportation needs.
If you prefer to get recommendations from CCEL, complete the Community Service Advising form, and a CCEL staff member will email you recommendations.
Contacting the Organization
If you identify an opportunity listed through the CCEL E-news or CampusGroups Service Opportunities list, be sure to follow the directions outlined in the opportunity. This might include submitting a volunteer application or completing an online volunteer registration form with the organization.
If you are contacting an organization you found through an internet search or through the Partner List, you can reach out to the volunteer coordinator at the organization by email. The Partner list lists this contact person including their email and phone number. Here are some things to include in your initial email:
- Personal Introduction: Introduce yourself as a student at Case Western Reserve University seeking to volunteer at the organization. You should include your name, academic year, major, and a short statement of why you want to volunteer at the organization or any skills/experience you bring (e.g. you are interested in working with youth, you volunteered at a hospital in your hometown and have a passion for healthcare).
- Availability: Provide the organization with times when you'd be available to volunteer for at least a 2 hour window (not including transportation time to and from campus)
Here are suggested email templates for partner communications that you can adjust. If you don't hear back from the organization after sending your initial email, follow up by email or phone approximately one week later.
Being Effective at the Organization
- Establish a regular schedule: Be consistent with your schedule
- If you have to miss a volunteer shift, make sure to notify your volunteer supervisor as soon as possible, preferably at least one week in advance. Be proactive about notifying them of university breaks or particularly stressful academic times (midterms, finals), if you anticipate you will not be available. It is important to never "no show" at your site.
- Follow organizational policies: Understand all the policies at your organization, such as acceptable attire, use of cell phone at your site, and the correct process for notifying your volunteer supervisor of absences.
- Be proactive: Organizations appreciate volunteers who are flexible, resourceful and adaptable, and are willing to jump in and help out as needed. At the same time, if you have a specific goal in mind for your volunteer experience, talk with your supervisor and see how you might shape the opportunity to meet your interests or skills.
- Ask for feedback: Don't be afraid to occasionally ask for feedback about your performance. If you are encountering issues or challenges, you should also talk with your volunteer supervisor.
- Develop your professional skills and networks: Reflect on the transferable skills and experiences you are gaining from your volunteer experiences, and write them down. You may also consider asking your volunteer supervisor if they would be a future professional reference for you.