Many times, seeing a need in your community and wanting to do something about it comes naturally! But how do you take your great service idea and put it into action? Whether it’s tutoring students, building a community garden or walking rescued pets, doing good takes proper planning, especially if you want to make a lasting impact.

Here are three quick steps to get you started on the road to service with success:

1. Make a Plan. Service projects are a lot like recipes, you have to put in the right ingredients to get the sweet taste of accomplishment with your finished product. For a service project, this means taking an inventory of what you need in order to meet the goals of your service project. The best inventories are taken when you actually go into the community you are serving and take the time to LISTEN. Listen to your clients, to local business owners, to families and especially to other groups who share your goals. Uncovering the needs in your community can be overwhelming, so collaboration is key.

  • If you’re interested in an education program, take time to visit local schools. Meet with staff and find out if you can do a simple survey with students and their parents. Surveymonkey is one of many free online survey tools that make gathering data quick and easy.
  • Make an appointment to talk with local business owners or plan to attend a town hall meeting. Find out what concerns they have and how they might be willing to help support your goals. Also meet with other nonprofit organizations in the area and find out what’s working, and what’s not.
  • Invite people to a get together at a local coffee shop, or plan a book club that will feature literature that deals with your area of interest. Not only will you get to hear feedback from a variety of backgrounds, you may also find others in your area who share your passion.

2. Focus In. After hearing from so many different sources, don’t be surprised if you end up with a notebook filled with needs. At this point, it’s easy to get overwhelmed, but don’t lose heart! All of that information can help you uncover what is most important as you move forward. One trick that we’ve used, is to write each idea on a Post-It note and stick it to a wall. Next, you can begin to sort the ideas into ‘like’ categories. Before your eyes, that wall of ideas will begin to narrow into just a few themes. Choose the stack of notes that feels most urgent or resonates most deeply, and only focus on those ideas and suggestions. You can further narrow those down using the same technique, and soon you will begin to see what type of project or opportunity will have the greatest reach, while also matching your level of readiness.

3. Share the Load. One person makes a difference, but 5 people make an even greater impact! Recruiting volunteers can be hard work, but there are few things as powerful as an organized group of passionate volunteers. Many people want to serve, but just aren’t quite sure how to serve. Spread the word by starting a Facebook page, hang up fliers at your local library, find out if you can put an announcement in a newsletter at your place of worship; there are so many simple ways to include others! Resources like VolunteerMatch and VolunteerSpot can help you get the word out online, while also allowing you to stay organized and your volunteers to stay connected.

After you’ve done the work, your new project will be ready to meet your service goals and make a difference in your community. Go do some good!

Do you have tips or ideas that you would like to share?
We’d love to hear them, just leave us a comment!