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Finding a Community Partner

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These guidelines are meant for students wishing to develop a partnership with a community-based organization for a self-designed Haas Center Cardinal Quarter Undergraduate Fellowships experience (i.e., immersive, quarter-long, full-time experience that can be supported through the Haas Center).


Before you begin, clarify your interests and objectives: What do you hope to learn and focus on? What type of service work do you want to do, and where? What knowledge and skills can you offer to an organization? What types of people do you want to interact with?

Finding organizations

Once you have established your interests and objectives, start your research early in order to find a suitable community partner for your summer fellowship.

Haas Center / Cardinal Quarter Connections

Begin your research by looking at organizations with existing connections to previous student fellows or to Haas Center staff.

  • Peruse the list of Cardinal Quarter Connections.  From time to time we receive potential opportunities from Stanford Alumni and others who have expressed interest in working with or hosting a current Stanford undergrad for a summer or quarter-long fellowship/internship experience. Please communicate with the listed contact person for each opportunity regarding any questions you may have. These opportunities could be supported through one of the Haas Center Undergraduate Fellowships programs.
  • See where students have served previously on this map and on our Resources for Fellowship Applicants page. Feel free to network with these fellows and see if they can connect you with their host organizations; many students and alumni list their emails in StanfordWho or the Alumni Directory.
  • Staff at the Haas Center keep a list of previous organizations where students have worked, and may even have contact information. Email the Cardinal Quarter team for more information.


If you need to expand your search, begin networking. Tell people you know that you are looking to partner with a public service organization. Contact previous employers and volunteer supervisors and attend any Stanford events where you can meet professionals.  Potential leads may also come from faculty members knowledgeable about the issue area.  Many Stanford alumni are also willing to host students, and you can look up their profiles in the Alumni Directory. As you begin contacting relevant organizations, even if they are unable to host you this summer, be sure to ask them for other leads or recommendations they may have; many organizations are connected to other partner organizations through coalitions like the Right to the City Alliance.

Stanford Career Education & web resources

Visit Stanford Career Education to find out more about their programs and events and take a look at the Handshake platform, which will allow you to interface with organizations in a recruiting/job search manner.

Other web resources include:

Note: These organizations are not affiliated with or controlled by Stanford University or the Haas Center for Public Service. Information or references to unaffiliated organizations are provided as a courtesy to students. Such references are not intended to, nor do they constitute, an endorsement of the referenced organizations by Stanford University or the Haas Center for Public Service. Students are solely responsible for evaluating the suitability of the organization for the proposed project and for evaluating the safety of the environment in which the student will be traveling and/or working and for taking appropriate precautions.

Reaching out

Elevator pitch

Before you begin making phone calls, identify what you have to offer in terms of knowledge, experience, skills, and interests. Develop a brief “elevator pitch” about yourself and what you would ideally like to do. Do your homework about the organizations you are contacting, studying their website and printed materials. Consider attending a Stanford Career Education resume workshop or scheduling an appointment in Handshake so that you can attach a well-edited resume to any email inquiries.

Start early; be persistent and responsive

When making contact, give yourself a lot of time, especially when communicating with community-based organizations, which are often overworked and understaffed. If you do not hear back, be friendly, patient, but persistent. Try using multiple forms of communication—sometimes phone calls are returned more readily than emails.

Begin with any existing known contact within the organization, even if the person is not in the position to supervise or collaborate with you. If you cannot determine an established connection at an organization, you can begin by asking for someone who coordinates volunteers or interns.

You will also want to consider the number of organizations you are contacting. Not everyone you contact will be interested in your proposal, so be prepared to call more than one organization. However, you also want to be careful not to contact too many organizations. This is time consuming, and can be awkward when apologies need to be made.  

Be responsive to any leads. While your schedule is complex and you have many commitments, so does your community partner. The organizations are doing you a favor, so present yourself well. Remember, you are also serving as an ambassador of Stanford! In general, you should respond to emails within 24 to 48 hours.

Deciding on a community partner

If you need to make a choice between several possible placements, you should determine the likelihood of your relationship being successful. Does the organization understand the expectations? Are they excited about the work that will be done? Is your supervisor/partner interested in supervising or collaborating with you? Is the work realistic, substantial, and aligned with your interests? Is the partner responsive? Choose the organization that seems like the best fit.

Do follow up with organizations that you are not working with to inform them of your choice. It is common courtesy (and you may want to work with them in the future).

Maintaining the relationship

Once a partner is selected, make sure you agree upon expectations: the roles that both partners will play, what will be accomplished, and the logistics. It may be a good idea to put in writing the expectations agreed upon by both partners of the relationship (i.e., number of hours, supervision or collaboration required, nature of possible projects, etc.). This is important as it helps alleviate any misunderstandings that may happen. .

While in the process of working with your community partner, maintain the relationship by having regular check-ins. Be professional. Compromise. Give and take is crucial to any successful relationship.


Please feel free to email the Cardinal Quarter team if you have questions about finding a community partner.