By Gabby Jarmoszko, Manatee School for the Arts ’15
Hey Action Team Captains! Planning your own community service project – especially that first one! – can seem daunting. But whether you’re developing a project to meet a college requirement, or simply doing so out of a love for volunteering, take a deep breath; it’s a lot easier when you know that you’ve got a great team to help you hit a home run! So try following these easy steps to move your community service around the bases:
Step 1- Come Up with an Idea
First things first: before you begin organizing and tangibly managing a service project, you have to come up with an idea.
For this step, remember that the internet is an amazing tool; there are fundraiser and service project ideas all over the web. Try keeping a file folder, a notebook, or binder filled with project ideas that you might think could be both fun and help fill an important community need.
Be sure to answer these questions about your service project:
• WHO will the service project benefit? (A local food shelter, a national organization, your school, etc.)
• WHAT will the project involve? (Are you hosting an event? Or selling a product? Having a bake sale? Putting on a show? Cleaning a park?)
• WHEN will your project take place? (Is your project a one-day event, or something to be stretched out over a longer period of time?)
• WHERE will your project be?
• WHY will people attend your event/assist in your project? (What can you do to make sure your project is successful?)
Step 2- Find a Mentor
OK, so now that you’ve got your service idea down, it’s time to put your plan into action!
To successfully run your own service project, it’s a good idea to find a mentor — somebody older and more experienced who has the connections and the know-how necessary to advise you on event management. Take your idea to somebody who you think will fit the role! Then listen.
Who will you go to?
SCHOOL: Take your project idea to an Action Team adviser, a teacher, a principal, counselor, or a peer leader who can help you get started in bringing your project to life.
COMMUNITY: Try talking to a church leader, a camp counselor, youth group director, or family member for help in organizing your project.
NATIONAL: If you are planning a huge service project, consider partnering with a national organization with expertise in that area. Try reaching out to a local/branch representative, a marketing director, a community relations director, etc– these people typically have their contact information on a website’s “directory” page.
Step 3- Get People Involved!
You’re surrounded by one of your best resources – the rest of your Action Team. Get your team involved! Tell your friends about your idea, your teachers, your family– anyone! It’s time to get people excited for what you’re planning, and (more importantly) actually involved in the project. The more people you can bring on-board, the more likely your service project will be successful.
Delegating responsibilities will help your teammates invest in the activity. Try appointing different teammates to be the leaders/organizers of different aspects of your project. Match them with tasks for which they are well suited. For example, appoint a Marketing Captain, a Budgeting Captain, etc.
Step 4- Budget
Now that you’ve got an idea, a team and a mentor, get everyone together and formulate a budget; it’s time to start really planning! Regardless of whether your budget is $1 or $1 million, budgeting is a crucial part of any project.
Here are some tips to help you through this menacing step:
BUYING. First, figure out what you have to purchase to make this event possible. Think down to the smallest, tiniest detail: everything from flyers to posters to markers to cooking supplies to uniforms; anything you could possibly need, make sure you account for it. Write down each item in a notebook.
RESEARCH. Now that you have a handle on what you’ll need to acquire, research the most cost efficient way to make it happen. Do you know anyone who can donate supplies? Does one store sell a product cheaper than a different store? Remember, try to spend as little as possible!
BREAKING EVEN. Remember when you create your budget, it’s important to ensure that you will break even — that is, making sure what you spend on this project will AT LEAST equal what you bring in. This means carefully planning out everything that you sell (whether it be tickets, food, or items) and making sure that you price them accordingly.
Step 5- Focus on Location
Alright! You’ve got your project idea, you’ve got a team, you’ve got a budget; but, now, you need a location to host everything! Many times, the type of event will help make that determination for you, but there are usually options.
Your location can be as simple as borrowing a school cafeteria or gym, or as complicated as renting out a conference room in a hotel plaza — whatever you and your team decide is most suitable to your project needs and is most budget-friendly.
When searching for a venue, be sure to contact the owner of the property to see if they are willing to help out and host your event. Again, try contacting community relations directors, principals, teachers, youth group directors, building owners, etc.
If your event is going to be outdoors in a public space, don’t forget to consider the weather. You may need to take extra precautions (like a tent or covered area) or you may even want to have a backup, indoor location in the event of extreme weather.
Step 6- Purchasing and Preparation!
Details, details, details. This is the part where you make sure you have everything you need. Remember that materials list from Step 4? Now it’s time to go out and buy what you need! Make sure there’s a plan of action and everyone knows their role. You may want to do a walk-through or develop a checklist, so you don’t forget something.
When you purchase things, be sure to keep careful track of how much you spend and who’s spending it. And make sure you have an accounting system! If someone buys something with their own money, there needs to be someone who authorizes the expenditure and a system for reimbursement. People will need to keep receipts and details of the purchases.
Step 7- Market and Promote!
You’re almost at home plate! You have pretty much everything you need to host a successful event– all you need now is to spread the word! Promotion is just as important as conjuring up a project idea, so make sure that you use all available platforms raise awareness.
Try the following means of marketing for your service project:
POSTERS. Posters, flyers, and handouts can be a valuable tool; not only are they informative and useful, but cheap and easy to make! Ask local community leaders where you can post your flyers to market your project. Seek high-traffic locations.
SOCIAL MEDIAL. Create a Facebook page, use Twitter, Pinterest– or all of the above! Social media is one of the fastest and most effective ways to advertise an event.
SCHOOL ANNOUNCEMENTS. Get your classmates involved! Ask the school principal if you can make morning announcements regarding your project, reserve an ad in the school paper, or even post an ad on the school website.
Once you’ve completed all of these steps, there’s only one thing left to do: host your event!
Congratulations! You are now ready to start a service project of your very own. Remember: don’t be discouraged if everything doesn’t turn out as planned. Being flexible and staying positive are important parts of being not only a team leader, but an Action Team member. You can do it!
Good luck to all Action Teamers out there!
[Editor’s Note: Action Team members can also check out the Resource Center at www.ActionTeam.org for step-by-step service project ideas (Password required.) Also, if you have a project that you would like to share with other Action Teams, please send it along via e-mail to ActionTeam@mlbpa.org.]