You’re ready! You’ve got a great idea for a volunteer project that can help your community. You’ve gotten a nonprofit partner (or you are a nonprofit), and you have a plan for having the project be more than just a one-shot project. You’re ready to do something.
Before you sit down to think up a task list, remember some of the preparation tasks that need to be done to make sure you have an awesome volunteer project.
Assess the situation
Typically, project planning starts with a needs assessment. Your most effective projects will emerge where several components come together, including an assessment of needs, opportunities and resources. Once you know the project’s needs, then you can sort out the options and choose a focus.
A needs assessment can be as simple or complex as you choose to make it. You can
- Do a community walk to see the neighborhoods where your project will take place and talk to residents and business owners.
- Interview community leaders, agency staff and other residents.
- Conduct a survey in the community or at a local school to help find direction for your project.
- Host community forums or town meetings to talk about visions and priorities for the community.
It is likely you will be able to identify dozens of needs. Getting people together to brainstorm freely is an important first step. The goal is to identify the effort that would best match the needs, resources, readiness level and hoped-for outcomes of everyone involved.
With time and creativity, you will have innovative ideas that get everyone excited.
Link the project to the community
Before moving into the details of planning, take time to flesh out the project objectives for everyone involved.
The service provided may appear to be the same whether or not you make strong community connections, but the impact is quite different. When community members have a voice in guiding the project’s direction, they’re able to contribute their knowledge of what their community needs help in achieving. With community input, the impact of the project can be longer lasting.
Recruitment volunteers can be a difficult, but working with a nonprofit partner can make things easier. Use traditional networks to find and recruit volunteers, and branch out to digital resources like the Make A Difference DAYta Bank to make your project visible to a digital audience.
Once you’ve recruited your volunteers, don’t forget to have a volunteer orientation so that volunteers have a good idea of what they’ll be doing and how to do it.
Have you planned your own volunteer projects? Let us know what tips you have in the comments!