Written by Street Team Member Becca Sirull
On the surface, it’s easy to see why a university Service-Learning Program is mutually beneficial for both student volunteers and community-based organizations (CBOs). Students get a chance to engage in the community while gaining practical skills relevant to their coursework and CBOs are supplied with additional volunteers for their programs. In my experience with Service-Learning I’ve seen a huge number of mutually beneficial partnerships develop between Northeastern students and CBOs. We hear plenty of reasons why Service-Learning programs add value to students’ educations, but what about the partner organizations? Here are four ways I’ve seen CBOs benefit from partnering with a Service-Learning program.
Spread your Organization’s Message
Sometimes the toughest obstacle to overcome as a CBO is spreading awareness of your organization’s mission and showing people that there is a real issue needing to be solved. Many students come away from their Service-Learning experience feeling a strong connection to the organization they served with, and a renewed passion for continuing to work towards that organization’s mission. For some students, their experience with Service-Learning represents exposure to a completely new social mission, addressing community needs they may never have known existed before. Others may already have a strong sense of the need for a certain CBO, but after serving with them directly they will be much more eager to spread the message and continue furthering that cause. By building relationships with local student volunteers, you also gain an entirely new audience for your organization’s message.
Build Relationships with Universities
As students build bonds with members of the surrounding communities, in turn, CBOs can also strengthen their relationships with local universities. One of the core goals of Service-Learning is to bridge gaps in understanding between the university community and local community in a certain area. While students benefit from learning about the communities outside their campus, CBOs can also benefit from learning more about the college experience and the goals of the university. In addition, establishing a connection with a local university gives CBOs access to other platforms like Northeastern’s bi-annual Service-Learning EXPO. Here, students show off the work they’ve done over the past semester at their service site and representatives from CBOs are invited to network with each other, with faculty members, and with students who may become future volunteers.
Access New Perspectives
While student volunteers bring a multitude of different skill sets and experiences to their service sites, sometimes the most helpful thing to have is simply a fresh perspective. We’ve all been in positions where we’re working on a project for so long, it becomes impossible to see it how an outsider would, and we begin to overlook simple solutions. By bringing in a new set of volunteers each semester, CBOs get the chance to consult outside perspectives and see their processes, programs, and marketing strategies through a fresh lens. This is especially helpful if the organization is aiming to reach a college, teenage, or young adult audience, as the student volunteers can give insight into how those demographics would react to different approaches.
Pique Students’ Interest in the Non-Profit and Social Impact Space
On a more long-term scale, partnering with Service-Learning programs can help ensure that the work of CBOs will be continued into the future. For many students, the idea of working in the non-profit or social impact space had never even occurred to them until they began serving with their community partner. Of course, not every student volunteer will be so enthralled they decide to change their career path in the direction of service, but some may choose to look into working in a related field in the future. Even if students don’t end up working at a CBO or social enterprise, they will likely be much more interested in the work done by those organizations and supporting them in the future. It’s hard to become interested in something without directly experiencing it. But as more students get involved in Service-Learning, CBOs gain more opportunities to show the importance of the non-profit and social impact space.
Want to partner with the Northeastern Service-Learning Program in Fall 2017? We are currently recruiting partners and accepting applications for the Fall 2017 semester through the RFP portal. Applications are due on the 30th of June. Click here for more information on how to become a partner!