Balancing Commitment and Experience: The 20 Hour Rule

In order to ensure that the Community Engagement Scholar and the host organization receive the greatest benefit possible, participants in the program are required to complete a minimum of 20 hours at each community organization. Sustained commitments made by a student to an organization over an extended period of time (6 months to a year) will generate the greatest amount of learning and community benefit. We also encourage students to work with at least two different types of organizations throughout their participation in the Scholars Program. This is also in preparation for the capstone experience in which students will be asked to complete a community engagement project in partnership with an organization.

*Volunteering 4 hours a month as a WATCH Court Monitor for 1 year = 48 hours, would satisfy the 20 hour rule, whereas a one time event with an organization would not.

What Counts Towards Hours?

Engagement experiences must be completed with a nonprofit, public agency, or student organization that addresses social issues and community needs. The following are examples of what can count.

Volunteer Engagement

  • Direct volunteer experiences: mentoring, tutoring, packing and delivering food, working at a food shelf, answering a crisis line, or being a companion visitor at a long-term care center or group home
  • Indirect volunteer experiences (behind the scenes): creating brochures, flyers, or social media, fundraising, participating in urban renewal project such as mural painting, habitat restoration, growing or harvesting food 

Advocacy Engagement

  • Conducting nonpartisan voter registration drives
  • Door knocking to support policies/legislation 

Research Engagement

Research on or off campus can count towards the program as long as the research addresses social issues and community needs. Research with a professor or UMN lab should have direct connections to a nonprofit, public agency, or community organization

  • UROP project to test drinking water quality in low income housing with Hennepin County 
  • Research thesis addressing culturally appropriate prenatal care with Planned Parenthood 
  • Volunteering with a UMN lab employing community-engaged research methods, such as the Program in Health Disparities Research

Internship/ Work Engagement

Community engagement done through a paid/unpaid internship or job may count towards the program as long as the organization is a nonprofit or public agency that addresses social issues and community needs. 

  • Paid tutoring position with America Reads
  • Unpaid internship as a communications specialist with Dress for Success
  • Job coaching youth sports with Minneapolis Parks and Recreation

Unusable Hours

Students may not record:

  • Work done as part of a for-profit organization
  • Court-mandated community service
  • Service completed independent of an established organization
  • Religious instruction 
  • Work that only involves the UMN campus community i.e. Welcome Week Leaders, Orientation Leaders, Admission Ambassadors

Hours Abroad/Outside the Twin Cities Area

Students can complete community engagement hours abroad or outside the Twin Cities area. Experiences must meet the same guidelines for hours completed in the Twin Cities. Students should always meet with a program advisor before completing program requirement abroad. 

  • Hours must be completed in partnership with a nonprofit/NGO, public agency that meets a need in the community. Hours must meet the 20 hour rule. 
  • Research must be directly linked to a nonprofit/NGO, public agency that meets a need in the community. 
  • Learning abroad experiences (hours, internships, research) must be verifiable by the organization or the Learning Abroad Center. 

Different Types of Hours


  • Engagement performed through a non-profit, public agency, or student organization that meets a need in the broader community (i.e. beyond the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities).*
  • Unpaid internships with non-profit or public agencies
  • Engagement through a faith-based organization that benefits the broader community (e.g. working in an after-school program, food shelf, homeless shelter)
  • Involvement through a non-partisan political organization (e.g. Progressive MN, Sierra Club)
  • Hours completed for a community-engaged learning course
  • Meeting, planning, and set-up hours (indirect engagement), provided these preparations are for a service that will benefit the broader community, beyond the University.

Restricted Hours:
Students may record up to 200 total hours in the restricted category:

  • Paid service (through work-study, a paid internship, or a job with a nonprofit or public agency)
  • Involvement through a partisan political organization (e.g., DFL, Republican, Green party)

*Community engagement on campus may be considered if there is an office campus connection or is part of a larger social issue. E.G. The student group PERIOD.MN focuses on destigmatizing menstruation and providing menstrual care products to local communities in need.