Voluntary community service is often a gateway to philanthropy. While even a single person can make a difference, much more can be accomplished in teams. As the old African proverb goes, “If you want to go fast, travel alone – if you want’ to travel far, go together”. How then can you get people in your community excited about service projects? Easier than you might think – identify a need in the community, have a plan, and start small. Often times, small activities lead to something bigger later on.
There are a ton of ways to engage other community members in a service project. Perhaps you can plug into something being organized by your local Rotary Clubs, Kiwanis, Lion’s Club or other service organization. The local government, schools, or specific neighborhoods may have annual fundraisers or events. If not, then you can simply start your own project. In order to do this, however, you’ll need to find a network that’s on board.
I’ve put together a list of easy but worthy activities that can jumpstart your community’s love of giving.
One of the easiest ways to connect with other members of your community is to reach out and get to know them. A colleague has a friend who lived on a block in their town that had a coffee social every Saturday morning. It started out as one couple sitting alone at a table in their driveway that said “coffee” on it and after a few months it turned into a cherished weekly gathering where everyone got together to discuss their lives and the community. After many years of this, the group began donating their time to bettering the city and finding worthy causes to get involved with, including fundraising for worthy causes. Sometimes all it takes is a cup of coffee to get things started.
Toys for Tots
The essence of holidays should be giving. Toys for Tots is a great way to give to families in need. Of course, monetary donations are always accepted and available with this program, but if you live in a community that has a lot of children, odds are high there are some extra toys lying around that could use a new home. Make it an annual event for your community to get involved in. The spirit of giving, especially in the winter months, will help to bring your community together.
Adopt A Block
There are many cities across the United States that have Adopt A Block programs in place. The best part about adopting a block is that it doesn’t have to be your block. If you’ve already given your neighborhood the love and care it deserves, give that love and care to another community. Your community will be able to give a gift to others that will not only give them a sense of pride for their neighborhood, but will leave you feeling even more connected to your community having done a good deed together.
With programs like the National Trust for Historic Prevention, you can find out the history of your neighborhood and have it made into a landmark or historic preservation ordinance. While this may seem like an unconventional way of bringing the community together, it can certainly contribute to a sense of pride within your town. Having a designated space that is special to your community also gives you a place to gather and throw events like fundraisers, creating a connection between history and the community.
Relay For Life
Teaming up with community members to participate in a cause that reaches beyond your own is also a great way to give back. Programs like Relay For Life allow you to support a cause while being part of a team. While all participants want to support the cause, a little friendly competition doesn’t hurt. Have some fun designing team shirts, or by having a picnic or happy hour afterwards.
Getting your community involved in giving iis easier when you start small, build confidence, and make it both fun and meaningful. These are just a few ideas for small activities that can jump-start community service. Do you have ideas for other small community service projects? Feel free to share over email or tweet them to me at @bryan_schaaf on Twitter.