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Partnerships, Placements and Projects - Overview

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Front Page / Bonner Program Resources / Partnerships, Placements & Projects / Overview



Partnerships, Placements & Projects

Overview  |  Guides  |  Campus Examples  |  Documents to Download



Well-developed community partnerships are necessary for creating change within our local communities, nation, and even world. The Bonner Program rests on a commitment to meaningful, long-term service commitments to the partners and communities with which we work. These relationships are intended to be intentional and reciprocal. Each campus program develops a long-term approach, working with key partners year after year.  This dedication to our partners promotes more significant change, resource development, and capacity building in our communities—as well as allows for personal and professional growth for each volunteer.


Levels of Community Partnerships

For the purposes of the Bonner Scholars Program, “community service” is defined as service provided to individuals or communities to meet social, educational, or environmental needs. This service may be provided directly or indirectly through a student-initiated project or a project sponsored by a non-profit or government agency.


Since the Bonner Program rests on a commitment to meaningful, long-term service relationship to the partners and communities with which we work, the following are different levels of partnerships. For each level, it is recommended that you include the annual completion of the Opportunity Forms and Accomplishment Forms.


Level 1: 1x Service Project Partnerships

    • Discussion of the Bonner Developmental Model
    • Have few student volunteers (Bonners)

    • Exploratory/short-term academic or co-curricular projects
    • Clear understanding of mission, programs, and structure
    • E.g. Day of service, winter term course  

Level 2: Regular Service Partnerships

    • Clear partnership plan (ideally 1+ year commitment)
    • Agency working to develop a team (at least three students) with developmentally distinct positions (working towards more)

    • Clear liaison; regular communication; experimental faculty roles 
    • E.g. Direct service + some capacity-building (CB) projects

Level 3: Project-based Partnerships

    • Engages students across teams with clear roles (direct & capacity building) 
    • Ongoing connection with at least one faculty member

    • Partners help train students; annual plan and evaluation

    • E.g. Progress to capstone / CB projects guided by partners and staff/faculty

Level 4: Deep Partnerships

    • Sustained engagement with teams/students
    • Long-Range (multiyear)

    • Strategic Plan (or collective impact focus)
    • Partners as co-educators (Collaborative work with faculty) 
    • E.g. Ongoing projects through Bonner, courses, Consulting Corps 



Types of Community Partners


Because of the long-term nature of partnerships cultivated by the Bonner Program and campus centers, the schools, nonprofit and government partners can count on having a range of different supports including:


  • Regular student volunteers (or staff and faculty as well)
  • Program or site coordinators (who help train and manage volunteers)
  • Capacity Building projects (like writing curriculum, launching a program, raising money, or doing needed research)
  • Connections with faculty and coursework
  • Participation in public education or advocacy campaigns designed to raise awareness on an issue or mobilize people


The chart below captures how this work might also be conceived up in a developmental progression.




A partner for the Bonner Foundation could be not just one organization, but an organizational partnership. For any organization, working in a organizational partnership  can be difficult, costly and take more time than working in isolation. There are many ways of working in a organizational partnership with others organizations:


  • One first stage can be to work in a cooperative approach, primarily on sharing information and expertise. In this stage of the relationship, participants are loosely connected so their contribution to the relationship is low.


  • The second stage is the coordinated approach, where the parties realized the need to work together to meet a set goal. Although involved in setting joint policies and programs, organizations still enjoy a high degree of freedom.


  • The collaborative approach is characterized by a strong and highly interdependent relationship, whereas we could say that the collective impact is the top-notch collaboration model.

Although cross-sector participation is widely present in collaborations, it may not always be found in the first steps of this continuum. Cross-sector collaboration is a key factor in addressing complex problems as hunger, poverty or education. Being part of a cross sector organizational partnership will help Bonners have a wider vision of  the causes that generate poverty and social injustice, while understanding the implication of different stakeholders (e.g. private sector, public agencies, non-profits, communities or schools).


Communication to Community Partners

Community Partners are gaining access to motivated, trained, students that serve ten hours per week for multiple years. It is important that as your campus forges partnerships with community organizations they understand that they also serve an important role as co-educators for your Bonner students. The developmental model, campus calendar, gold tracking, and accountability measures are all helpful components to communicate every time a student begins working at a site.


Communication to Students 

Whether students are placed with community partners or if they have the opportunity to choose them, it is important as administrators to articulate the expectations of each site. Through a sound orientation in conjunction with community partners, students will understand what is expected of them and whom to reach out to should any concerns or problems arise. Students should also be made aware of the student development model, accountability measures, goal setting expectations, and advising opportunities. Establishing this from the beginning will aid in student feeling supported and confident in their work with community partners. 



Through Bonner Programs around the nation, Bonner Scholars and Leaders are engaged to work with non-profit, governmental, and education partners. Additionally, centers and programs engage other students, faculty, and stakeholders from across campus in addressing the unmet needs of local community partners and assisting in their organizations’ programs. Because students can be involved with the same partners for multiple semesters and even years, they can take on a variety of roles and projects. These capacity-building roles often involve more complex program, organizational, and project development functions, such as curriculum development and resource development. This resource guide provides some useful steps and resources to help you expand these opportunities for your students and community partners.