How to: Plan a Service Project

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Posted 11 Sep 2007 in Soulville

Ok people. Part of life is giving back to others what someone else has done for you. In other words, community service is essential to maintaining the balance of kindness and goodness in the world. So how do you plan such a project?

Pick a category – Kids, Outdoors, Construction, Destruction, Fundraiser, Animal, Blood Drives, etc.
Look at the expanse of that category in terms of projects. For example, with kids you can go read at the library, go build a playground or a playroom, help a daycare with cleanup, baby-sit for a Moms Night Out, give a kid a holiday to remember, etc. The possibilities are ENDLESS. But you have to pick one. So do that. Remember, a service project can be a combination of these different types of projects so don’t limit yourself unless you have a limit on people to help.

Think of how many people you want to attend – this number is crucial to the type of project you plan. If you want to do something like a playground, you’ll need about 10-20 people depending on what size you’re building. If you’re doing reading to kids, depending on the size group you’ll need about 3-6 people.

Think of the type of people you want to attend – if your group is anti-dirt and hates being outdoors, do not plan to do construction project or a roadside cleanup. If your group loves the outdoors and is great maintaining trails but doesn’t really do well with kids, don’t plan to do a project where the kids are there but perhaps a project the kids can benefit from.

Write down a list of local places that do the type of project or need the services you can provide. Call them all and get full contact info for their volunteer coordinator – this person is the most important person to know and get to know. They can get you in last minute for projects and can toss big/important stuff your way.

  1. If you know who you already want to work with, call them up. You need to know this info –
    1. When is the project? Get 2-3 dates if possible so your group can decide the best date.
    2. Where is the project to be? How will you get there?
    3. What will you be doing?
    4. How many?
    5. What do we need to bring?
    6. What do they provide?
    7. Do you need any clearances prior to the event?
  2. If you have to provide a location for the project, brainstorm for the best places to hold it and find out the contact person, fees for that location, paperwork and deadlines. If you do it right, they will let you come back and use their facility again. If you mess up or leave it messed up, then they won’t.
  3. If you don’t know who you want to work with yet, let your group help you decide and call the different places on the list you’ve compiled to see what they have going on and if you can help. This list of ideas will be great to write down for future reference and can help you make an easy decision now.

Let’s say the place you really liked is excited you can come and build a shed. They can accommodate 15 volunteers. They are going to provide all the materials, you guys just need to bring lunches and yourselves. Next steps:

  1. Easier – If you are in a club or organization and have a group of people available, put out a sign up list and emphasize the fun this project will be, etc and get 15 volunteers to sign up. If you send it around and don’t have 15, keep putting it out up until a couple of days before the event to catch people.
  2. Harder – If you aren’t in a club or org, send an email to your friends and make fliers etc to get people interested and to contact you to come. If your campus has a service office, have them send a message to everyone on campus and give the slots to the first 15 confirmed people.
  3. Among your volunteers, decide what you want to do for lunch – PB&J sandwiches and some bottled water works really well and is extra cheap, but whatever you guys want that is a) portable, b) doesn’t have to be refrigerated and c) is something everyone can eat is great. Make sure you get an allocation for the lunch from the group (from the treasury or from everyone in the group to chip in 1 or 2 dollars to cover it all).
  4. Figure out transportation. Who is driving? Can you get a university van? If people are driving, is everyone supposed to chip in on gas or how will that work? Have directions from point A to point B printed out for every driver with extra copies available.
  5. Have a short evaluation for everyone to fill out after the project. Make sure you ask whether they liked it or not, whether they’d like to do it again or not, etc.

Go do the project and afterwards, breathe. And start over again!Service project planning isn’t as hard as it is made out to be. Getting people to come is the hardest part. By allowing members of your group to give you an idea of what they want to do, when they are available, what they really don’t want to do, etc then you can have a better chance of them coming and being involved. Be creative with ways to bring up the projects – use props, fliers, etc.

Allow others who have more creativity to do it for you if you are uncomfortable doing all that. But try different methods and mix up the project offerings. Rarely will the entirety of your group be interested in the same thing all the time – you may have people who only love doing stuff with kids, people who’d love to be on trails all day, people who want to be photographers (yay for photo documentation), etc. Use them wisely!


HarriMac enjoys a well lived life with a large serving of soul. Her special feature, Welcome to Soulville, appears every Thursday. Subscribe to the Welcome to Soulville feed to get new installments in your feed reader.

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