Getting started at your community site

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1. Contact the organization

Once you have determined where you would like to volunteer, it is time to contact the organization. Call or email the community organization’s contact person to ask specific questions and/or schedule a visit to the organization. In this first contact, you should identify yourself in the following manner:

“My name is [your name] and I am a student at the University of Minnesota. I am interested in volunteering with your organization. I was referred to you by the Community Service-Learning Center at the U of M.”

The more you explain exactly what you are looking for and why you are interested, the more likely you are to have a good volunteer experience. Other important items you should cover during your first conversation include

  • Specific volunteer positions you are interested in
  • Transportation information (bus routes, directions, carpooling, parking)
  • What are the skills required 
  • What are the hours and does this fit with your schedule
  • What are the application procedures (do you need to fill out an application, provide references, submit a resume and cover letter, be interviewed, and have a criminal background check?) If your organization requires a criminal background check, the primary documents that can be used to perform a criminal background check for international students are a valid 1-20 form, I-94 form and passport with a valid or expired visa stamp.)

We highly recommend doing a site visit to the organization so that you get a feel for how the environment is and how the organization runs. After completing your site visit, you should have a better idea of whether or not the organization would best meet your goals and is a place in which you would feel comfortable. Most organizations have volunteer trainings that you will be required to complete before you can start your community experience. It is very important that you find out when their training dates are and make it a point to attend them.

2. Interview

3. Orientation and training

4. Scheduling

Next module: Community partner perspectives