50 Community Service Ideas
Whether you’re planning a service project for school credit or organizing a volunteer event with a group, you’ll be helping your community and building relationships, which is a win-win. Here are 50 ideas to inspire your next community-building and community-serving event.
One-Time Service Ideas
- Keep Toes Warm - Host a “Socktober” event and collect new warm socks of all sizes to donate to a family crisis center or homeless shelter.
- Organize a Parade Clean-up Crew - “Everybody loves a parade,” they say. How about volunteering to help with clean up after your next local parade. Some popular ones to consider: high school/college homecoming, Thanksgiving, Martin Luther King Jr. Day and St. Patrick’s Day. Sometimes you can get fundraising dollars for your organization by helping with these as well.
- Partner with Parks and Rec - Parks and Recreation departments offer lots of service opportunities for one-time beautification projects, plus special events like dances for seniors, community festivals and seasonal events.
- Deck the Halls with Tiny Trees – Decorating mini trees can be a fun service project to do as a group and then deliver to family shelters, group homes or a veterans hospitals.
- Flex Your Green Thumb - Is there a neighborhood park or area that marks the entrance to your subdivision? Check with your homeowner's association and volunteer to do clean up or a beautification project in your neighborhood.
- Cook for the Ronald McDonald House - Groups can serve at the Ronald McDonald House to prepare a meal or bake cookies for those in residence at the house. Genius Tip: Watch how the Ronald McDonald House of Charlotte uses SignUpGenius to schedule volunteers.
- Work the Voting Polls - Election season is a great time to serve your community by volunteering as a poll worker. Some states even allow student election assistants if you are at least 17 by Election Day. Contact your local county Board of Elections office for more information.
- Help Animals Get Adopted - Your local chapter of The Humane Society probably hosts one-time adoption events and needs volunteers to help fill out paperwork for adoptions and clean up after the event.
- Create Birthday Parties in a Box - Make “Birthday Boxes” that include balloons, a cake mix (just add water), mug, birthday hats, candles and streamers. Donate to a family shelter so when a birthday comes up, they have an instant party available.
- Speak at Career Day - Volunteer to help in your children’s class for career day. You can speak about your own job for younger children or help older ones understand the importance of a resume, their social media presence and more.
Organize a school coat drive with a sign up. SAMPLE
- Create Goodie Bags - Gather neighborhood friends and put together care packs to keep in your car to serve the needy you see on the street. Include a granola bar, water and basic toiletries inside a Ziploc bag.
- Collect Humane Society Wish List Items - A good way to involve younger volunteers, collect items off your local animal shelter’s wish list — such as toys, treats, old towels or blankets — to help take care of the animals.
- Give a Basket Baby Shower - Throw a baby (or big kid) shower for a foster family by packing commonly needed items in baskets. Get names from a local family services organization and drop off the baskets so they can pass them on to the families.
- Meet Critical Needs - Host a “critical needs” drive for the Red Cross or a local shelter, collecting new items such as socks, underwear, diapers and toiletries.
- Give the Gift of Hugs - Loving Hugs and Stuffed Animals for Emergencies are nonprofit organizations that give stuffed toys to kids in crisis situations. Host a stuffed animal drive at your church or school to help serve these great charities.
- Tutor Future Leaders - If you have a high-poverty school in your area (most school districts have a list of Title 1 schools) and have time during the day, offer to tutor, proctor tests or read tests aloud to students. This makes a huge difference in student success.
- ‘Tis the Season for Service - Look for seasonal opportunities to help process donations for organizations such as Toys for Tots or Operation Christmas Child. Make sure donations fit the guidelines for the charity.
- Spread Cheer through Song - Gather your school choir or college a cappella group (or any group that loves music) and sing at a retirement community or homeless shelter. Whether you’re belting out carols during the holidays or classics that everyone loves year-round, the simple gift of music can serve others by bringing joy.
- Get Bookish - Search your local public library’s website for shelving and organizing opportunities or special events where an extra set of volunteer hands are needed.
- Write Encouraging Notes - Organize a holiday card-making party and write encouraging notes to those in the hospital, nursing homes or for your local heroes such as firefighters and police officers.
Coordinate a bell ringer schedule with a sign up. SAMPLE
- Girls Just Wanna Have Fun (While Making a Difference) - Gather your women’s book club, Bible study or girls’ night out group and plan a service project “for the ladies.” Family and women’s shelters always need women’s feminine products, so host a night of fun and collect donations for an organization in your community.
- Welcome Newcomers - Create “Welcome to (your school, church or community)” baskets or bags that include a map, list of interesting facts or organizations and something to show your school or community spirit — like a printed pencil or water bottle sticker. Distribute to newcomers and become a self-designated welcome wagon!
- Stuff Envelopes - This might not sound glamorous, but many nonprofits need helping hands to stuff envelopes with fundraising mailers or thank you notes. Set aside an hour or two and get to work!
- Volunteer at a Local Race - Is there a local 5K raising money for a cause that’s important to you? Consider supporting the race by working at registration, clean-up or at a water station along the way.
- Organize an Angel Tree - Get your business, church or group involved in a great cause by adopting local families during the holidays and providing presents and other important basic necessities. Genius Tip: Get ideas for organizing a holiday angel tree program.
Ongoing Service Ideas
- Put Plastic Bags to Use - Have too many plastic bags and a penchant for knitting? Upcycle all those bags by starting a “Plarn for the Homeless” (plarn is yarn made of plastic) and get your group to create waterproof blankets for local homeless shelters.
- Volunteer to Coach - Local church or parks and recreation sports leagues often need people willing to step in as coaches or assistant coaches. You can serve as a mentor to the next generation and share your love of the game. Genius Tip: Organize your sports team with SignUpGenius.
- Provide Transportation - Coordinate with local schools and afterschool programs to determine which lower-income students are in need of transportation to activities. Set up a schedule of trusted designated drivers or organize a carpool with other parents who will already be driving.
- Foster a Pet - Fostering an animal is a wonderful community service and gives you the short-term joy of caring for a pet while they wait for their forever home.
- Clean Up the Roads - Adopt-A-Highway programs are free and require a commitment of only a few times a year for several years. This is a great way to beautify an area where visitors get a first glance of your city and bring together your friends, family, co-workers or neighbors to make an impact.
- Educate During Election Season - Put together a team of “election season educators” to boost community engagement every November. You can make fact sheets about local candidates, help people register to vote and explain policies that affect your community.
- Make Hospital Hope Kits - Create these kits and leave for residents at a local Ronald McDonald house or similar group. You can also contact a nearby emergency room and see if they will accept these types of care packages. Include donated magazines, granola bars, bottled waters, lip balm, mints, etc.
- Lead Through Reading - Organize a summer reading program at a community center. Offer to read aloud to younger students or arrange summer reading tutoring for elementary-age students. Ask the community center director to see if older children in the community could join your effort and mentor younger students as well. Genius Tip: Get tips for setting up a summer reading program.
- Honor the Past - Contact your local historical society for the name of a historical marker that could use some maintenance.
- Partner with School Counselors - Your local school counselor is a great resource for helping children in need. She can keep identities private while still giving ideas for helping children at risk. You may be able to provide extra clothes, technology or grocery gift cards.
- Spread Holiday Cheer - Run a mini gift-wrapping business and give the proceeds to a children’s charity. Operation Christmas Child also has regional processing centers where you can help get gifts ready for shipping all over the world.
- Read to Nursing Home Residents - Ask a local nursing home if you might be able to read to residents who are visually impaired.
- Be a Scout Leader – Volunteer to be a leader or assistant leader with a scout troop. Check with your local council first to see where the greatest needs are. You’ll be able to impart wisdom as children work toward badge requirements and be a positive adult role model. Genius Tip: Organize your troop with simple online sign ups.
- Pack Weekend Lunches - Find — or start — a local program that packs nonperishable items for weekend lunches for low-income school children. This extra nourishment can be invaluable.
- Serve on a Nonprofit Board - Have a cause you’re passionate about? Research local nonprofits and see if you can apply to be a board member. Whether you have a career in finance or marketing, nonprofits can use different perspectives for strategic planning.
Collect money for a booster club fundraiser with a sign up. SAMPLE
- Become a Mentor - Relationships help create lasting change, so sign up to mentor a boy or girl in your community who could use some extra assistance. Whether it’s helping with math homework or taking them for a monthly outing, you can make a big impact.
- Teach Nature Classes - If you have a passion for the outdoors, research bike or animal safety and spend time sharing your passion and knowledge at local schools, parks and nature centers.
- Love Your Neighbors - Use a social networking site to let neighbors know you’d like to do seasonal yard work like raking leaves, shoveling snow, putting up outdoor holiday lights or light yard work for any senior citizens in the area.
- Be a Translator - Have a language skill you don’t mind putting to use? Many public schools and libraries can use translators for events such as program registrations, health fairs and job interviews.
- Manage Social Media - Volunteer to set up and manage a social media account for a local nonprofit that you are passionate about, particularly if it’s a small group that relies on extra help.
- Train to be a Shelter Manager - For disaster relief in your area or to help other communities, you can be trained to be a shelter manager with the Red Cross. You can find more community service training opportunities on the Corporation for National and Community Service’s website.
- Train Your Pet for Service - If you have a pet that is great with people, explore the possibility of getting them certified as a pet visitation animal. Reach out to your local nursing home or hospital to see if they have a pet visitation volunteers program where you and Fido can help others in your community.
- Provide Classroom Supplies - Though back-to-school supplies are great, things start getting thin by the first of the year and by May, supplies are really running low. Take the opportunity to grab pencils, lined paper, sanitizing wipes and tissues when they are on sale and drop of them off at a nearby school. You will become a local hero.
- Serve the Nations - Have a heart for refugee care in your community? A little internet search will help you connect with churches or non-profits in your area who will pair volunteers with a newcomer to help them with English conversation and mentoring.
- Teach Computer Skills to Seniors - You can help older community members understand how to communicate with their families, order items they may need, search for events and more through technology. Show them how to set up their email, use FaceTime or create social media accounts if they wish!
Devoting time to community service is never a waste of time. It’s a great way to make a difference in your community, discover a new interest, cultivate relationships, and have fun.
Julie David is married to a worship pastor and after 20 years in ministry together with three daughters, she is still developing the tender balance of thick skin and gracious heart. She leads a small group of high school girls.
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