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What have you been involved with before – or what do you want to learn more about?

  • Start with those in your home community – especially ones you already have a connection with.
  • Read about their mission, current projects, assets, needs, and their experience hosting volunteers or interns.
  • What skills do you already have? Where can you contribute?
  • Here are some examples of projects:
    • Directly with people: 
      • Outreach and community building
      • Leading community meetings and focus groups
    • Improving the effectiveness of the organization: 
      • Researching and making recommendations regarding, e.g., volunteer engagement, diversity & equity, protecting nonpartisanship, cybersecurity, the gender pay gap, crowdfunding possibilities
      • Fundraising and grant writing
      • Database development
    • Content/Product Creation: 
      • Lesson plans or other curricula
      • Website or app development
      • Social media content
      • Photos, video, success stories, infographics
      • A natural disaster preparedness plan
    • Policy & Research:
      • Literature reviews
      • Developing and administering surveys, interviews or focus groups
      • Data analysis
      • Writing reports or policy recommendations
  • Start with email, to give people a chance to think about your request. Sample language below.
  • If you have an idea for a project after studying the organization and thinking about your interests and skills, feel free to suggest it. But let them know you want to do what’s most useful for them.
  • Plan for delayed responses.
  • Is there enough work to keep you busy? DukeEngage projects need to be full time for eight weeks. Gateway projects need to be at least 100 hours over five weeks.
  • Collaborate to set some initial goals (based on needs and priorities identified by your partner as well as your own skills and learning objectives). Recognize your limits. If you’re not qualified to work with victims of domestic violence, or aren’t interested in mentoring youth, be honest. Think about what’s feasible given your time frame, knowledge, and available resources. Discuss possible challenges. Later, refine these goals and create a detailed work plan.
  • Who will supervise your work? Have an open conversation. Respect the organization’s limits, but make sure someone will be available to work with you.
  • What time period will work for both of you?
  • What will your work hours be? Defer to the organization’s needs. DukeEngage should be your primary commitment during the time period.
  • Will you need a background check, or training?

Dear [find the name of a person within the organization to write to]:

I’m writing to ask whether I could be of use to your organization this summer.

I’m a student at Duke University applying for a program called DukeEngage / DukeEngage Gateway Program a summer program that supports undergraduate volunteers working with community organizations.

[Remind them of your connection with them, or briefly state your interest in their work.]

I have experience with [briefly list any relevant skills or experience]

A few things to note:

  • To receive Duke’s support, I need to work full time for eight consecutive weeks between mid-May and mid-August [for DukeEngage; for the Gateway Program you would say “at least 100 hours over five weeks between June 21 and August 13, 2021].
  • I would need to submit a project description, and know the name of the person supervising me, by March 14th.

If this is at all of interest, I’d love to talk with you by phone or Zoom about potential projects I could support. I look forward to hearing any questions you have. You are also welcome to contact DukeEngage for more information, at