No matter what type or size of organization you work with, nonprofit event planning is a massive...
50 Best Community Service Ideas for any Nonprofit
Most individuals are thrilled to give back to the community in some way. What is difficult is developing community service ideas for projects that motivate them to volunteer. They need nonprofits like yours to invite them to engaging activities!
The newest Census data shows that over half of Americans informally helped their neighbors during the Covid pandemic, while only 23 percent formally volunteered with charities. That means that people want to help out. They are not necessarily signing up for formal activities, however.
There are plenty of ways nonprofits can create opportunities that are more “informal” in nature and invite people to give back to their neighbors.. Here are some of the best community service examples to consider.
Why do people participate in community service projects?
Motivation for service can be complicated, and it varies on the individual. In general, however, there are some driving principles that nonprofits can follow to better design service projects.
Passion and values. People are interested in advancing different values and improving the community in different ways. One person may be highly dedicated to helping elders, another may want to work with animals. It is important to create experiences that overlap different values and appeal to what your community cares about. You might check out your local Community Needs Assessment or develop one internally before you decide upon a service event calendar. What do people in your community need and want?
Skills development. Some people want to learn new things or add new skills to their resumes. Or they might want to practice certain skills they have. They look for open opportunities in the community through service to do so.
Connection. People want to feel connected to others and to their community. If you can link volunteer opportunities to particular people and places, and maximize peer-to-peer relationships for recruitment, you will likely draw in more volunteers.
Be active. Some people simply have time, or are looking for opportunities to get outside and be active in a productive way. It is important to understand different types of volunteering, and how varying opportunities can support higher engagement.
50 community service ideas for any nonprofit
Very active project ideas
First, you might consider mixing one or two active community service events into your calendar. A good number of volunteers spend their work hours in an office. They want to enjoy their free time outside doing something physical.
1. Park clean ups. People from throughout the community enjoy visiting their local parks. Often, however, these places rely on friends groups and nonprofits to organize volunteers to clean up trash or plant debris. Planning a park clean up can draw out new volunteers, especially on a beautiful spring or fall day!
2. Ocean or river clean ups at state or federal land. Similar to parks, your local waterways might benefit from a clean up. These can appeal to a different set of volunteers.
3. Mowing lawns. Elderly or disabled community members may rely on outside help to mow their lawns. Paying for a service can be expensive! A nonprofit in the community can attract volunteers who love to mow for exercise and fresh air to join up with a free mowing service.
4. Taxi service. Many people who need transportation cannot afford car services or taxis. This includes people vulnerable to homelessness, families in shelters, disabled veterans, newly released prisoners, or the elderly. A great service project is to coordinate sign ups for drivers to help these different categories of people get to where they need to be.
5. Planting. Almost any nonprofit or school can benefit from planting more trees or gardens in their space. Asking members of the local community to join with you to do so can attract new volunteers who love to stay active.
6. Raking and other garden work. Garden work in general is a great way to engage people, even if the action you need help with is cleanup and maintenance as opposed to planting! You might even think about starting some new gardens simply to draw in volunteers.
7. Construct a shed or storage structure. All those new garden tools for volunteers need a home. Asking people to show up for small scale construction projects can draw in your home improvement specialists and would-be carpenters to support your cause.
8. Construct and install ramps. Similarly, many nonprofits or places in the community may need new wheelchair ramps. Asking handy men or women to come out and help lay concrete is a fun way to work together.
9. Repairing fences and benches. Almost anyone can grab a hammer and help you fix a fence, bench or similar structure that has turned to disrepair. You can ask people to come out at their convenience to help with these small projects.
10. Painting. Those newly fixed benches and fences, or your old buildings, can probably use a coat of paint too! A great service event is encouraging people to come out to your site or a community park and paint. It helps them feel a sense of ownership of different community spaces while staying active.
11. Create new features for kids. Outdoor spaces and indoor spaces alike can benefit from kid corners. This may include asking volunteers to paint a blackboard wall for kids to write on with chalk, or developing a playspace in part of your lawn. You can also partner with a local park with a kid’s play space to improve on park features, with new see-saws or slides.
12. Walking. People in your community with health concerns may be tasked to walk, but they can use the motivation of a friend to do so. Asking volunteers to sign up to go on walks with local people in need from hospitals, elderly homes, or other support groups can make a difference.
13. Training for a race. Some people want to help with your marathon or bike-a-thon, but they are more suited as a coach than a participant. Asking people to train together in volunteer groups can be an effective community service event.
Empower your volunteers with a mobile app that allows them to sign up for shifts, track their progress, and stay connected with the community.
Drives for community causes
Getting necessary items together appeals to a whole different volunteer type. These are concrete, fixed actions and events that appeal to a broad range of community members and their different values.
14. Holiday donation drives for toys. People rally behind ensuring children have toys for the holidays. You can ask volunteers to lead events and ask their neighbors, family and friends to participate. Alternatively, you can work with local church groups, nonprofits, or companies to ask them to set up a box for donations.
15. Back to school supplies drive. Many families are struggling, and they find it difficult to equip their child with the necessary supplies to be successful at school. Different charities and organizations can work together to engage volunteers to help assemble backpack kits and other solutions to support those children and families.
16. Blood drives. Your local Red Cross or hospital almost always needs new blood donations. Anyone can help with these, by providing a space for mobile vans to park, helping with advertising, and engaging community members to show up and give.
17. Homeless hygiene drives. Chronically homeless people often depend on hygiene kits from local charities for survival. Volunteers can help assemble these tools - toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, and shampoo.
18. Food drives. Almost every community in the United States has a food bank or a local agency serving as a food resource for those in need. Pair up with them, and see how you can help collect necessary items or fill in gaps in their pantry.
19. Drives for domestic violence shelters. People fleeing violence often leave everything behind. These individuals or families will need all the basic hygiene items and clothes. The shelters can usually benefit from household goods for rooms, towels, and other basic household items. Asking people to donate or collect these goods is a powerful service idea.
20. Art drives. Local nonprofits, hospitals, or shelters may benefit from art donations for their own walls or to auction for donation benefits. This type of drive might appeal to a different set of volunteers.
21. Put together meal kits for Thanksgiving. There is likely some sort of community need for Thanksgiving meals for homes in economic peril, or to elderly or other vulnerable individuals who lack resources. Assembling those kits is a form of gratitude that appeals to a number of potential community volunteers.
22. Valentine’s Day drives for schools. Kids love the Valentine’s Day tradition of handing out notes to their friends and decorating their classrooms. Many schools and families lack the resources to make this a reality, however. Asking more affluent community members to donate Valentine kits or decorations can be a meaningful service project.
Opportunities to teach, mentor, and show off skills
Many people volunteer to share a particular skill with their community. Great service ideas incorporate opportunities for using those skills as a means to give back.
23. Teaching computer and tech skills at retirement homes. A great service idea for students or younger generations is to ask them to help elderly neighbors learn new mobile skills or computer skills. Showing them how to use messaging apps to connect with family, or even writing an email, can support community connection.
24. Baking or cooking for different community groups. Call together cooks of all varieties to prepare cookies for a bake sale, or simply provide meals for a struggling family.
25. Teach sustainability skills. Volunteers who are passionate about the environment may be drawn to service events that help improve sustainability. This can include household energy audits, lawn audits for wildlife, or personal diet audits for improved climate impact.
26. Second language conversation help. Many people in your community probably have language skills they would love to put to use. This could be helping local English-as-a-Foreign-Langauge (EFL) centers and programs, or connecting with people that want to talk in a common language.
27. Teaching EFL to immigrants. Beyond being a conversation volunteer, you might consider getting an EFL teaching certificate and helping local immigrants and children improve upon their English. Many volunteers or retired teachers may have these relevant skills and be willing to help if invited.
28. Read to children. Most people can read, so this is a great skill that can be transferred to others for good! Adult reading time for children at a local library or through a local literacy program can greatly improve literacy outcomes for children in need.
29. Show people how to fish or hunt. Youth especially can benefit from outdoors skills like fishing, hunting or survival tactics. Nonprofits in your area may be looking for volunteers to help with these specific skill sets.
30. Help homeowners learn maintenance skills. Homes are expensive! Beyond the mortgage, owners need to constantly keep a budget line available for repair and maintenance. Often, simple plumbing or repairs can be done by themselves, if they have a guide to help them.
31. Teach business and entrepreneurial skills. A record number of people are starting their own businesses or trying their luck as freelancers. Many of these burgeoning entrepreneurs can benefit from a business mentor to help them thrive. Local nonprofits and charities often look for support in this area as well, to help veterans and other vulnerable groups learn new skills that can improve their employability and income.
32. Teach finance. Many American adults can benefit from improved financial skills, from budgeting to investing. Local charities may have programs established already to support these connections.
33. Mentor students. Dozens of organizations need volunteers to help mentor students in need, to inspire them to finish school and go to college.
34. Tutor students. At the same time, too many children and youth lack adult capacity at home to help them thrive at school. They can benefit from volunteer tutors in special subject areas.35. Teach music. If your special skill is guitar, or you simply love banging on the drums, you might think about volunteering to teach music. Daycares and other childrens’ groups are often looking for support in these areas.
Helping people with basic tasks to make their lives easier
Some of us do not have special skills, or we tire of using them in our work life. It’s important to design community service opportunities for basic help.
36. Registering people to vote. People across values and passion spectrums may share a common interest in wanting to participate in democracy and civic life. A basic support that any volunteer can help with is helping register people to vote. Opportunity types in this field can be diverse and draw upon different talents. One volunteer may want to sit at a table at a community event. Another might prefer organizing a drive through social media.
37. Helping with local politics. Another great way to get involved in civic life is to help local politicians. Usually these offices are understaffed and underfunded and rely on volunteers for a wide variety of fairly skill-less tasks, like stamping postcards, sending out emails, and making calls.
38. Helping out with animals. Animal shelters almost always need volunteer help to take care of their tenants. This may include learning how to engage troubled cats to be more adoptable. It may involve walking dogs or cleaning out stalls. Most of these opportunities can be learned with limited training and appeal to a wide range of individuals.
39. IT volunteers. Most people have basic IT skills. Those same skills, however, can be valuable to different organizations and community causes, saving time and energy from limited staff. Think about creating opportunities for virtual data entry or other similar tasks that can help out your staff!
40. Organize books at the library. Small and large libraries alike are understaffed. They can usually benefit from volunteers with alphabetizing skills and a knowledge of library systems (most people) to put away books and resources.
41. Organize pantries at the food bank. Similarly, anyone with organizing skills and desire can help out at the local food bank or shelter, organizing supplies.
42. Supervising at after-school programs. Usually schools are thrilled for any parental assistance to help out with supervision at special events or after-school clubs. Local nonprofits running programs probably have a similar desire for help! Any volunteer who enjoys spending time with children or youth can be attracted to a supervision role.
43. Volunteering as a coach. Local sports clubs and school teams usually can benefit from volunteers of any skill level. Volunteers help with organizing, cleaning up, and team encouragement!
44. Help staff events at a park. Often, local parks host events through municipal committees or volunteer groups and need help for basic tasks. Setting up chairs, cleaning, and decorating can all be useful tasks.
45. Help local churches. Local churches also depend on volunteers to staff events, reception desks, daycare centers, and other tasks.
46. Ushering at a local theater. A fun job for volunteers is ushering. They get to see a movie or hear a concert for free, while helping out the community.
47. Distribute food to shelters and homes. If driving people seems too intense, you might offer services as a delivery agent for food agencies or shelters in your area.
48. Volunteer roles at local pools. Community pools or even the local YMCA might depend on volunteers to help clean or teach classes to seniors and children. This is a great way to give back and spend time in the sun!
49. Help people locate friends and family. You may have great internet search skills or social media capacity. This can come in handy to help seniors, veterans, or generally displaced people find friends and family with whom they have lost contact.
50. Cleaning up peoples’ homes. A very neighborly and useful task is to help people who are incapacitated or struggling clean up their houses. Charities can offer a day service for a community volunteer to come help wash dishes and vacuum once or twice a week. Anyone can clean, and the impact can be tremendous on a struggling person’s life!
Some general advice: no matter which community service ideas you pick
People love to give back. The problem is creating opportunities that appeal to them to draw them in to volunteer their help.
Having a variety of different types of community service ideas can help a lot. It can also help to be creative within your service opportunities. Names for volunteer groups, for instance, like the Mow-a-Thoners, can make the opportunity seem more fun and help connect people.
Then, volunteer management systems like Golden can help you market those creative names and opportunities to a wider audience. People looking for particular community service projects will find your opportunities, drawing in more volunteers and improving upon your impact.