As Montana’s economy and demographics change, the nonprofit world is greatly impacted. Whether seeking strategies to cultivate new donors, staff, volunteers, or board members, organizations across Montana must begin to think and act creatively and intentionally to bring new generations into our missions. At Montana Nonprofit Association, we are finding ways to support this growth through training and education, policy work, member benefits, and, most recently, through an initiative launched to explore service learning partnerships with K-12 Schools and Universities across our state. As an Americorps VISTA member, I am leading this effort.
Our objective is to help both higher education institutions and nonprofits build strong, sustainable partnerships through service learning, a credit-earning experience that reaches beyond the scope of the classroom while fulfilling community needs. Sustainable partnerships between universities and nonprofits allow students engaged in service learning to be exposed to new ideas and gain the tools they need to make a difference in our world. At the same time, academic service learning bolsters the strength of local communities by involving our next generation of leaders in nonprofit and service work. Strong service learning partnerships track student involvement and retention rates, while also demonstrating impact in communities. And, we have seen that when students participate in a service learning experience during college, it increases the chances they will embark on a lifetime of service as leaders, volunteers, board members, and donors.
As we gather the lay of the service learning land in Montana, we see incredible examples of partnerships between community organizations and Universities, and exciting opportunities for growth. To determine what MNA can provide for universities and nonprofits, we need more data. In a partnership with Montana Campus Compact, MNA is conducting a survey for nonprofits across the state to collect missing data on existing partnerships. This study will provide a comprehensive overview of the academic service learning opportunities currently available at each university, while helping us determine the needs of Montana and what we can provide for organizations seeking to build or sustain existing partnerships.
If you, or your organization, are interested in helping us collect this data we would greatly appreciate your participation in our academic service learning survey. Stay tuned to find out what academic service learning programs are going on at our eight target colleges across Montana!
Blog Post by Maya Miller, MNA Americorps Vista Member