50 National Volunteer Week Ideas
We all want to live in connected communities, and part of being connected is getting involved and personally investing in your community. National Volunteer Week is held each year in April and is a great way to break out of busy schedules and give back. Try these 50 ideas, broken out by group type, and enjoy serving!
Service Projects for Schools
- Hold a Sports Camp - Older students can hold a soccer or sports camp for a local Boys & Girls Club or for younger students. For example, a high school soccer team or group of students working together with the physical education teacher can plan a fun and educational camp for underprivileged youth.
- Beautify School - Have students work together to plant flowers at the school, and create a fun science project out of the experience. This can work at any level school. For an elementary school have parents help, and at a middle or high school the science teachers can coordinate and implement an interactive teaching time along with the planting project.
- Paint a Mural - The art teacher can work with a group of students to paint a mural on one side of the school or in a nearby neighborhood that needs some TLC. The students can collaborate with the art teacher and each other to decide on the subject matter and gather the supplies beforehand. It can be the school mascot, an encouraging quote wall, a mosaic or any variety of subjects.
- Teach Tech - Donate old computers to other schools that might need them or to an afterschool club for students to use to do their homework. Coordinate a workshop and have people sign up to help distribute the supplies and spend an afternoon teaching the children — and potentially staff and volunteers — how to use the computers and other software.
- Bake Treats - Bake and deliver cookies to bus drivers. They are often underappreciated. Students can work together at home to do this and bring them to school, or if the school home economics department has a kitchen, students can work with the school staff to do it there.
- Plan a Canned Food Contest - Hold a canned food drive for a local food pantry. Different grades can compete against each other to make it more interesting, and the winning grade gets to have a party, pajama day or another fun incentive. Genius Tip: Use these 25 ideas to plan a successful food drive.
- Give a Concert - The school choir can volunteer to sing at the local children’s hospital or a nursing home. Music is a great way for kids to share their time and talents.
- Organize Boxes for Troops - Kids can make care packages for U.S. military troops stationed overseas. They can bring candy, chips, gum, small peanut butter packs and make thank you cards while working together to assemble the boxes. Make a geography and/or social studies lesson out of it and teach the kids about the area(s) where the soldiers are serving and the sacrifice they are making for their country. Genius Tip: Contact your local USO to see what items would be best to send and collect. Another idea is to ask a local army officer to come speak to the students — either active or retired.
- Hold a Jump-a-thon - Pick a charitable organization that will resonate with students, and ask them to raise money by collecting pledges from neighbors, friends and families. Students will jump rope during National Volunteer Week as a tribute.
- Go Green - Kids are natural environmental advocates with their love of nature and the outdoors. Share easy ways to help the planet that students can take charge of at home, such as bringing reusable bags to shop and separating plastic and paper for recycling.
- Share Snuggles - Ask your students to donate one stuffed animal or a book to a child in need. First responders can often give these items to children affected by fires, accidents, illnesses, homelessness and more.
Organize a college community outreach day with a sign up. SAMPLE
Service Projects for Businesses
- Make it a Competition - Have departments at work compete against each other to log volunteer hours during National Volunteer Week, and the winner gets a dress down day, a special lunch or whatever incentive works best for your company. Volunteer time can be done together as a department or individually during the week. For example, the marketing team may take a Friday afternoon to go volunteer together. This builds team unity as well as further engages employees with nonprofits.
- Give Financial Planning Advice - Offer to host a financial planning day teaching basic budgeting and money management skills for people in the community. You can contact your local United Way to see what groups could benefit from this service. Whether your business specializes in financial planning or you use your accounting department and some other math-savvy staff, this is a tremendous need for many individuals. Genius Tip: See how this Colorado organization coordinates free tax prep help with online sign ups.
- Donate and Teach - Tech companies and large corporations (or nonprofits) can donate old computers and phones to schools that need them or to a nonprofit that gives them to low-income families. This will help cut down on “electronic waste.”
- Share Your Expertise - An engineering firm can help with a robotics club or other tech group aimed at kids. Volunteer during National Volunteer Week to help the group or, even better, on a regular basis — whether it is once a month or weekly.
- Plan a Career Day - Host a career day for a local high school or after school program so youth can come learn about your business and career options. Your business could even collaborate with other area businesses to host an internship fair for high school students, which is great timing leading up to summer break.
- Hold a Job Fair - Host a job fair for a local men’s or women’s shelter or a group serving people reentering society after prison. You can teach basic interviewing skills, help people with their resumes and give them interview tips and a business outfit. Collect gently used business apparel from your company’s employees before the job fair to donate.
- Give College Help - Host a SAT prep course for students at a low-income high school. Go through the basics of what they will need to know and how to take the test. While college prep courses are available, they are expensive. On a similar note, you can assist students with college applications and help them review their options and make a plan for how and when to fill out the applications. Genius Tip: If possible, work with the school guidance counselor.
- Help Your Corporate Giving Partners - Employees can volunteer with one of your businesses’ corporate giving partners. This is a great time to reach out to any nonprofits that the business donates to and/or partners with as a company. Contact your giving partner well in advance to determine their needs and how your employees can help.
- Provide Paid Time - To incentivize involvement, you can give employees paid time off to volunteer during National Volunteer Week. Volunteering together leads to team bonding, and it also provides valuable volunteer hours to the charities.
- Donate a Portion of Proceeds - If you’re a restaurant or other type of public-facing company, offer to donate a percentage of profits during National Volunteer Week to a favorite cause.
Service Projects for Neighborhoods
- Adopt a Highway - Besides beautifying your own neighborhood, you can adopt a local road or highway and clean up trash and debris in that area. Working together gives you a chance to get to know your neighbors and work toward a common goal. You can even make it a contest and see which street group collects the most.
- Assist a Neighbor - In the past, neighbors built barns together to lighten the load and for fellowship. Modern neighbors can set up a neighborhood work day to fix up elderly neighbors’ homes. This can include performing yard work or building a ramp so elderly neighbors can avoid climbing stairs to get into their homes.
- Plant Flowers - Plant seasonal flowers in a nearby vacant lot, a neighborhood park or a running/biking trail. Even better, plant bulbs in the fall so flowers will return in the spring.
- Bake Treats for First Responders - Volunteer to bring goodies to your local fire fighters or police officers. You can work together to make chocolate chip cookies and deliver them.
- Plan a Relay Race - Hold a 5K or a fun run in your neighborhood to raise money for lights, benches or whatever pressing need your community has. Involve kids from the neighborhood by having them put up signs, hand out race numbers and participate in a special kids’ race. Genius Tip: Get started with these tips for organizing a 5K, 10K or fun run.
- Beautify a Trail - Collect trash along your local greenway/walking trail during National Volunteer Week — and ongoing if possible. You can also rally a group to make and install signs identifying different trees and flowers and what animals you might see.
- Organize a Crime Watch - Neighbors can sign up for shifts to watch out for crime in targeted areas of the neighborhood. Other neighbors can volunteer to provide cookies or coffee to those on patrol.
- Make Blessing Bags - Ask people to donate snacks (such as granola bars or packaged crackers) and bottled water with an online sign up, and set up an assembly line to create packages for a local homeless shelter. Ask children to include a note or piece of artwork in each bag. Share the importance of compassion and looking out for ways to help our neighbors.
- Hold a Neighborhood Yard Sale - Pick a central location in the neighborhood, such as the clubhouse, and ask neighborhood households to donate clothing and home items for a sale that will benefit a charitable organization.
Coordinate a community service day at your church with a sign up. SAMPLE
Service Projects for Churches
- Bring Music Therapy - Have your worship team and other musically talented congregants volunteer to go sing or play instruments at a nearby nursing home. Pick hymns and songs from their era. Music has a deep connection with people and can bring people to back to another time and place.
- Plan a Special Prom - Organize a prom for disabled or ill children who might not be able to participate in a traditional dance. Church youth group members can sign up to be a “date” and escort their new friend for the night. Make it memorable for the participants with a special dress up station for the girls with tiaras and jewelry and boutonnieres and hats for the guys. It is also nice to offer a hospitality room for the caregivers so they have some much-needed time to rest. Genius Tip: Try these 25 prom themes and ideas.
- Provide Crisis Assistance - Work as a group to help someone going through a crisis or health issue by watching their children, making freezer meals, cleaning and shopping for them.
- Form a Prayer Chain - Organize a prayer chain to pray for the needs of your church community, city, country or world. Create a sign up with hour-long slots.
- Plant a Community Garden - Create a community garden that people in the surrounding neighborhoods can use as well as church members. Clear the beds and plant it during National Volunteer Week, and then have church members volunteer for slots to help plant, water, weed and harvest throughout the year. Deliver the fresh produce to a local food pantry.
- Deliver Meals - Volunteer to deliver food with Meals on Wheels or a similar program. Use your church kitchen to make meals for “shut-ins” — people who cannot easily get out and shop or cook — and then deliver throughout the week.
- Book It - Hold a book drive for a local elementary school, and include books for required summer reading for low-income students. Offer to sort books or other school supply donations for the school as well.
- Get Youth Involved - Encourage your youth group to participate in National Volunteer Week. They can help with many of the above ideas or they can offer to help with spring cleaning of elderly congregants, such as washing windows inside and out, clearing debris and helping with any administrative tasks.
- Sell Easter Baskets - Depending on the timing, Easter can coincide with National Volunteer Week. Have church members put together baskets and sell to the church community with proceeds going to a favorite church mission.
- Start a Family Night - It’s a longer-term play to keep going, but work with a low-income school in your community to host a family night each week where members can use their expertise to lead clubs for students in a variety of topics from robotics to online publishing.
Recruit food pantry spring cleaning volunteers with a sign up. SAMPLE
Service Projects for Nonprofits
- Make Flower Boxes - Build flower boxes or bird feeders for Habitat for Humanity homes or families in a low-income neighborhood. A little bit of beauty goes a long way. Depending on the size of your nonprofit, you can have one group build them early on in the week, and then a second group install them later in the week.
- 24-hour Relay - Organize a 24-hour bike-a-thon or relay race or a scenic area of town or the countryside to raise money for a charitable cause. Ask that people raise a certain amount of money to participate.
- Grant Wishes - Collaborate with your local children’s hospital to grant wishes for children. Work with the hospital staff and parents to see what “grantable” wishes your nonprofit can help with and then rally your staff to make those wishes come true.
- Pack Up - Collect school supplies and backpacks leading up to National Volunteer Week, and then take a lunch break at the beginning of the week to sort and stuff backpacks with school supplies, small toys and basic toiletries for children in need.
- Clean Up a Playground - Whether it is over a long lunch break or after the work day, work together to refurbish playground equipment and do yard work at a low-income school or neighborhood park that needs it. Genius Tip: See how this nonprofit used SignUpGenius to build a playground for special needs children.
- Give Time - Have employees volunteer at a local senior center throughout the week to help make seasonal decorations for their rooms, clip coupons, listen to stories, label pictures, play card games or write cards or letters. Contact the center well in advance to see what their biggest needs are and then pair employees with seniors.
- Help the Night Shift - There are hundreds of medical personnel who work the night shift so our communities can be cared for 24/7. As an act of appreciation for the men and women who work overnight, employees from your nonprofit can sign up to take cookies and coffee or pizza and sandwiches to night shift staff at a local hospital. Medical staff will not only appreciate the treats but appreciate being remembered and seen.
- Baby Supplies - Offer to help your local crisis pregnancy center sort baby clothes, maternity clothes, diapers and other donations. You could even host a baby supply drive beforehand to collect supplies from your staff, and then have a group volunteer with the pregnancy center to sort it.
- Shop for Teachers - As the school year winds down, teacher supplies such as paper, markers, tissues and more can be running low. Hold a school supply or fundraising drive and help restock waning school supply stocks.
- Bring a Furry Friend - Whether you visit a college campus or senior community, dogs can help lower stress during anxious times. Work with a local animal shelter or therapy dog organization to create a schedule.
Remember, make volunteering fun! When volunteer opportunities are engaging, people are more likely to do it again and recruit others. National Volunteer Week is a great opportunity to serve with your group and unite and connect with your community.
Andrea Johnson is a native Texan now living in Charlotte, N.C., with her husband and two daughters. She enjoys running, photography and good chocolate.