How to Start a Community Service Project

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You may have a tradition of doing volunteer work through your church or temple, or from when you were in high school or at work. You can volunteer in many ways.If you are a parent, there are easily a dozen times a year when you will be recruited to coach your daughter’s soccer team or to bake cookies for a son’s bake sale at school.These are all avenues that can be easily utilized to create your own community service project. The amount of time you commit is entirely up to you. Your project may be seasonal, offered during the summer when your children can help you, or centered around a certain holiday. Thanksgiving and Christmas are popular times of the year for food drives and distribution projects.

Identify your demographic. Is your community service project going to help senior citizens by bringing trained dogs to visit them? Are you going to work with local restaurants to donate leftover food supplies to local shelters? Use your special talents and skills. Determine what you would most enjoy doing in this community service project. Is it tutoring at-risk teens in math at a junior high school, or are you more drawn to helping non-native speakers learn how to speak and read English?

Volunteer at a similar project to see if the work suits you. Especially if your educational and professional background is in another field, do a test drive. Offer to plant trees at a nearby elementary school with a group of fourth graders. Did you like the four hours you spent with these children, or did you use up your emergency stash of aspirin in the first hour?

Draft a business plan. Determine the mission of the project; what group of people your project intends to serve; and what skill, service or item you are providing. Will this be a seasonal project or something you operate monthly?Include a budget for operating costs and supplies you will need. You can seek donations from your church or school. Determine how many other volunteers will be needed to staff the project.

Locate resources to help you sustain your project. If you are employed at a large corporation, you will probably have been approached to donate to large nonprofits such as the United Way and similar groups. Contact these groups' volunteer projects coordinators to learn how you can submit a proposal. If they do not fund projects like yours, ask for a referral to an agency that might.

Start small. You might start with a one-time event, such as recruiting five hair stylists to offer free haircuts to women who were previously homeless and who have completed vocational training and are heading into their first job interviews. Partner with local merchants to donate old clothing stock that these women can use for their job search.

Advertise your event and get local media to cover it. If the event succeeds, approach well-heeled philanthropists in your city to start a fund (named after them) to continue your project for six months.

Create a website for your project that will generate public awareness. Set up links so visitors can donate money, supplies or volunteer. See Resources below for groups that recruit volunteers so you can see if you enjoy doing this kind of community service and as a way to inspire you to start your own project.