Picking a service project can seem daunting to a first time volunteer. So how do people do it? When considering the wide variety of ways to serve, volunteers can help focus their efforts by putting together a list of the issues that are most important to them and then deciding what skills are appropriate to the cause.
Once a volunteer decides what issues they are passionate about and the skills they can provide, the next step in picking a service project is to determine an action strategy. There are four major ways a volunteer can contribute: awareness, service, advocacy and philanthropy.
Awareness — Educating others can help spread awareness. Teaching and sharing with others can change their behaviors and increase exposure for the cause.
Example: D.A.R.E., the highly acclaimed program that gives kids the skills they need to avoid involvement in drugs, gangs, and violence.
Service — Volunteering time is one of the top ways to give back. People can offer skills and talent directly to a cause to meet the needs of their community.
Example: Habitat for Humanity, an organization that provides people with a decent place to live by offering Habitat homeowners help build their own homes alongside volunteers and pay an affordable mortgage.
Advocacy — Advocacy and awareness are similar in that they both allow for educating others. Speaking out and encouraging changes in policies and law are what sets advocacy apart.
Example: Planned Parenthood Action Fund, a nonprofit focused on protecting women’s reproductive rights and educating voters on how to get involved locally to promote healthy policies.
Philanthropy — Financial contributions are incredibly important. Collecting and donating are two valuable ways to give back philanthropically.
Example: St. Jude’s Children Research Hospital Charity, a charity that supports the St. Jude’s Children Research Hospital which aims to provide cures for children with cancer and other catastrophic illnesses.
After all of these are determined, volunteers can put them all together to get a clear idea of the service project that they should participate in. This exercise allows volunteers to organize their opportunities in a manner that shows what is important to them and an actionable strategy to giving back.