While no two projects will be the same, successful projects will share a few common practices. We encourage you to incorporate the following elements into your service project:
- Create a team with your friends and neighbors to share the effort;
- Set outcome-based goals and track your progress to those goals;
- Celebrate your successes together.
The Challenge: Many community-based organizations do not have enough capacity to manage a large number of volunteers, so they need you to organize yourself in coordination with them. This tool kit is designed to either help you organize a group and be a positive addition to a community-based organization, or, if such an organization does not exist, to be a well-organized independently-run group that fills a gap in the community.
A step-by-step guide to getting started and executing service activities follows. Please let us know how your project goes and what you learn by telling your story at Serve.gov.
Step One: Prepare Yourself and Identify Local Resources
Check out which organizations are already helping in your area. Many have identified community needs and built the expertise to provide solutions, and there may already be an active volunteer group that you could join. Here are several ways to identify local groups and volunteer opportunities:
- Visit www.CitizenCorps.gov to find local Citizen Corps Councils, USAonWatch (Neighborhood Watch) groups, Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT), Fire Corps programs, Volunteers in Police Service (VIPS) programs, and Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) units. Ask them what you can do to prepare and train yourself and your community for disasters and how to get involved locally.
- Contact local chapters of Citizen Corps Affiliates, such as the American Red Cross and National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster for local disaster preparedness and response service opportunities. Be sure to ask the organization for items they might need.
STEP TWO: Build a Team
Teams can help share the work, motivate members, and hold each other accountable. Teams build community. Ask your family, friends, colleagues, neighbors, and faith group members to serve with you.
- Host a house meeting or potluck to choose a project, set goals, recruit volunteers, and plan next steps.
- Get a guide for hosting a house meeting.
- Post your service activity on Serve.gov to recruit new volunteers.
STEP THREE: Set a Goal
Set a service goal and hold yourself accountable. Find out what your partner organization needs and then work to fill that need. For example, commit as individuals and as a team to helping at least three people who may need additional assistance in preparing for emergencies (including the frail, elderly, individuals with disabilities, and others with special needs). Set your goals high to stretch yourself. Then keep track of how you are doing and designate someone to be responsible for updating the group on how you are progressing toward your goals. You’ll be surprised at how much you can do when you commit, focus, and follow through.
STEP FOUR: Serve Your Community
The key to effective service is planning. Organize your materials, make confirmation calls, and, if you have time, read supplemental materials before you volunteer.
- Get a tip sheet for your service activity.
- There are over 2,300 Citizen Corps Councils throughout the country, each of which is based in a town, a city, or a county. You can find a Citizen Corps Council near you or learn more about the work they’re doing at www.citizencorps.gov.
Step Five: Report and Celebrate Successes
Your team members, the community, and the President want to know about your successes and hear your stories. Share your accomplishments by reporting your results. We will highlight the best stories throughout the year. Tell us about your successes and what you have learned, or just tell your story of service at Serve.gov.
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Site Last Updated: January 12, 2015