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 need 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: Identify Local Organizations
Local organizations and VA Medical Centers will already have relationships with veterans in your community. There are several ways to identify volunteer opportunities.
- Contact your local VA Medical Center and ask to speak with the VA Medical Center's Volunteer Service Office or the Volunteer Service Program Manager. You can also submit this email form to your local VA Medical Center and a local Program Manager will get back to you.
- Check Serve.gov and search by keyword “veterans.”
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 pot luck 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. Commit as individuals and as a team to drive a specific number of miles or to assist a specific number of veterans. 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.
- When volunteering with a VA medical center be prepared to fill out some minimal paperwork. If you are serving as a driver, you will need a valid driver’s license, proof of insurance, and completion of a VA volunteer orientation.
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.