Successful Communication

Communication with your community partner is integral to having a successful experience in your service-learning course.  The community partner organizations are often communicating with students and faculty from other area colleges, so make sure to identify yourself, our college, and the course that is partnering with their organization

Contacting a Community Partner

If you are assigned to complete service hours with a community partner:

• What is the organization about? Search online for the organization’s website or social media page(s) to learn more about their programs/service opportunities.
• Know your schedule and be upfront when talking to your community partner. Be sure that your available times don't conflict with your class or work schedule.
• Ask about their process. Some organizations require you to fill out a volunteer application and/or attend orientation first.
• Be very clear when you set up start and end dates that will allow you to fulfill your course requirement. You can exceed the required hours, but be sure to communicate this information ahead of time to your community partner.
• Keep track of your hours. You may have to log your hours using a system that the community partner has in place or you may use the service log.

Sample E-mail

Dear Mr./Ms. __________,

My name is  ________, and I am a student at Buffalo State in ________ (professor’s name and course title.) One of the course requirements is completing ___ (number of hours) hours of service with a not-for-profit organization that serves people who deal with ________. I would like to work with ________ (organization name) to complete my service hours. Based on the information on your website, I can help with  ________ (task) on ________ (days/times). I do not have a class or work conflict. Do you still need help at that time? You can reach me by phone at ________ (your telephone number.) or by email at ________(your e-mail address.)

Thank you,

(your name)

If you are assigned to complete a service-learning project with a community partner:

• What is the organization about? Search online for the organization’s website or social media page(s) to learn more about their programs/service opportunities.
• Know your schedule and be upfront when talking to your community partner. Be sure that your available times don't conflict with your class or work schedule.
• Know the goals/purpose of the project. Your professor should provide an outline/information regarding expectations related to the project. Make sure you understand them so you can talk to your community partner knowledgeably. Also know what the purpose of the project is from your community partner’s perspective, especially how it can influence or impact programs or services within the organization.
• Be clear about the timeline for the project. When is the final project due? Are there other assignments that require additional information from the community partner? If you miss these details and are contacting your community partner at 11:00 p.m. for an assignment that is due the next day at 9:00 a.m., don’t expect a response from your community partner.
• Share your final project. You have spent considerable time creating the project for your community partner, so make sure that you provide a copy for him/her. Your partner assisted with the creation of your project and he/she may subsequently use that information to better meet the organization’s needs.

Sample E-mail

Dear Mr./Ms. ________,

My name is ________ and I am a student at Buffalo State in ________ (professor’s name and course title). For this course, (several other students and) I have been assigned to your organization to create ________ (name the project). I’d/we’d like to meet with you to learn more about the clients who will be served and to set up the next phases of the project. We are available this week/next week on ________ (specify days) at ________ (list times). Would one of these days/times be convenient for you? We are looking forward to meeting you and creating  ________ (project name) to meet the needs of your clients. You can reach me at  ________ (your telephone number) or  ________ (your e-mail address) to confirm a day and time when we can meet.

Thank you,

(your name)

 

Reporting For Service

You are expected to report to your community service site at the agreed-upon times for orientations and/or service hours. If you are unable to make your scheduled time due to emergency or illness, please notify your community partner as far in advance as possible so they can make other arrangements.

Communication Tips 

  • Identify the best way to contact the community partner (e-mail, phone, online web form, etc.)
  • Include your full name, college name, course, phone number, or e-mail
  • Know what the professor and community partner expect & state this in your email/phone call (e.g., 20 hours of service)
  • Give the community partner up to one week to return your first message. If you don't hear back after 3-4 days, reach out again.
  • If you will be late or are ill, contact your community partner ASAP so they can make other arrangements.

Safety Reminders

Practice common-sense precautions whether you are in areas that you are familiar with, or not.  Please follow these basic safety reminders while you are in the community and at your service-learning site. 

  • Familiarize yourself with the new area ahead of time
  • Travel with a buddy
  • Carry only what you need
  • Let someone know where you are going and when you expect to return
  • Always lock your doors and leave a light on
  • Park or walk in well-lit areas
  • Never leave valuables in plain sight
  • If you become a victim of a crime, call 911 (off campus) or (716) 878-6333 (on campus)
  • If you have any questions, always ask your course instructor or reach out to the Civic and Community Engagement Office for additional support.