Essential Day of Service Planning Tips for your Company, Church, Community or Team: Groups Giving Back
Are you looking for a fun-filled volunteer experience for your organization, group or team? Have you been brainstorming ideas to contribute to your community with a ‘Day of Service’ by pitching in at the food bank, cleaning up the park or helping with the homeless? With Global Youth Service Day and National Volunteer Week (both in April!) just around the corner, it is the perfect time to take action!
Whether you’re coordinating 50, 500, or 5,000 volunteers, everyone deserves to have an easy and uplifting experience throughout the entire volunteer journey so that giving back is so enjoyable it becomes a memorable, repeated event. From the nonprofit seeking out volunteer help to the group leader organizing the opportunity to each individual group member scheduling to give their time on the big day – planning and scheduling group volunteer opportunities takes (a lot of) coordination.
There are many moving pieces to host like a pro and create a fun and successful Day of Service for all group members. We asked the experts, heard from the community and spoke with company leaders about planning successful Service Days - here are their top tips:
We wish you a memorable Day of Service with your group or team using all the SignUp planning ideas below. Share your experiences with us so we can celebrate your Service Day success!
Service Day Planning Essentials
Before committing to your Service Day, review these key pointers to ensure you have the appropriate group of volunteers to match the Day of Service volunteer opportunity:
Assess Your Group
- What are the age groups and skill sets of volunteers?
- How many are likely to participate?
- Will families and younger children be included?
- What causes is your group interested in supporting?
- Where are your group members already volunteering individually? Do these organizations need extra help?
- Who has existing relationships with nonprofits, schools and nursing homes needing support?
- How many projects will be needed so everyone can participate? Note: the more simultaneous projects, the more service leaders and coordination required.
- Who is available to support the planning and coordination of the event? Key roles include:
- Nonprofit liaison (or team) to source volunteer opportunities
- Volunteer coordinator
- Communications coordinator
- Logistics person to help with supplies, t-shirts, etc.
Plan As Far In Advance As Possible
- Choose a date for your Service Day - at least 3 months, preferably 6 months in advance so that the most people possible can get involved and volunteer together, socialize and share their experiences during Service Day.
- Don’t underestimate how long it can take to communicate with nonprofits and leaders at schools and nursing homes to organize your Day of Service activities.
- Some nonprofits require donations to fund the project you’ll be working on during your event. Allow enough preparation time for donations to be collected before your Day of Service.
- Assign someone to be a Service Leader for each individual project your group will be committing to. This person will ensure all preparation and day-of details get handled and volunteers get the information and supplies they need to be successful.
Group Volunteering Opportunity Roundup
The goal for everyone in the group is to give back – with this in mind, look to create volunteer experiences that are fun and impactful and that will encourage future community participation. Brainstorm volunteer opportunities that are appropriate for your group (consider group size, various ages, skillset & volunteer timeframe) then start contacting local nonprofits, community groups, schools and hospitals to see who has project needs that can accommodate your group on your Service Day date. Start with organizations that your group has personal contacts with, then expand to other community organizations. Here are some suggested volunteer projects:
Volunteer project ideas for large groups of 15-100 (or more) adults
- Beautification and clean-up of community spaces, local parks and highways (Get planning tips here!)
- Trail maintenance and wildlife habitat rehabilitation
- Larger builds or assembly projects for groups like Habitat for Humanity
- Warehouse organization and inventory at local food banks, donation centers or thrift stores
- Building or refreshing playground equipment
- Converting a local open space into a community garden
Volunteer project ideas for small teams (15 people or fewer)
- Preparation of seasonal mailings for nonprofits
- Serving (and helping prepare) meals at a community kitchen
- Planting a community garden plot
- Painting and building projects at schools, libraries and shelters
- Stocking shelves at food bank or charity thrift store
- Styling hair and painting nails of nursing home residents
- Sorting and shelving books at the library
- Walking dogs or cleaning pens at a local animal shelter
- Mowing lawns and raking leaves for elderly community members
- Removing graffiti from local buildings, mailboxes and lamp posts
Volunteer project ideas for families with young children
- Creating seasonal table decorations for nursing homes and community kitchens
- Harvesting vegetables in a community garden
- Decorating reusable grocery bags for the local food bank
- Planting projects at parks and community gardens
- Bringing refreshments and treats to adult daycare centers
- Assembly projects (listed in the next section)
Volunteer projects that can be assembled anywhere ‒ great for families with young children and people with limited mobility
- Gratitude packages for deployed service members including personal notes, snacks, sunscreen, magazines, etc.
- 'Blessing bags' for the homeless with trail mix packs, mini deodorants, socks, bottled water, small gift cards, etc.
- Towel and toiletry sets for shelter guests
- Welcome baskets for new babies including diapers, wipes, onesies, baby wash, pacifiers and other supplies
- Backpacks of school supplies and including pencils, pens, markers, notebooks, etc.
- Furry-family gift bags for animal shelter adopters including leashes, toys and new pet blankets
- Craft activity kits for kids in the hospital or at shelters
Flash opportunities – for people who can’t participate during Day of Service, choose one or two ways to ask them to give back on behalf of your group:
- Donate food items, clothing, books and toys for a local charity
- Participate in a blood bank’s bone marrow registry (just a cheek swab needed)
- Amplify Service Day social media posts on sites like Instagram, Twitter, Facebook & Snapchat
- Complete the form to become an organ donor
- Sign up for Amazon Smile to donate a percent of purchases to a local nonprofit or school
- Donate money to an organization-wide fundraising campaign
Easy Volunteer Scheduling for Service Day Success
Your volunteers are the key to a successful Day of Service. Online sign up sheets with SignUp.com are helpful to keep large groups of volunteers organized and in the loop! From donations to volunteer shifts - the various aspects of organizing large groups of volunteers for a Day of Service just can't be managed with clipboard sign ups, reply-all emails, and phone call after phone call.
SignUp makes organizing your people power for your Day of Service simple and it is easy to use on any device. With just a few clicks, group members can sign up to choose their volunteer shift/task or what to donate. After group members have selected their shift, SignUp sends automated confirmations and reminders to help everyone keep their commitments. Don’t forget to assign a group leader as a point of contact for each task so there is no scrambling day of to find a team lead. Try a live demo!
Service Day Communication Planning
In most cases, Day of Service events are a combined effort from a nonprofit coordinator, a group leader and all the volunteers involved in planning. Keep in mind that everyone involved is part of that process and all parties involved are key to a successful event. Here’s a basic communication timeline for orchestrating a successful Day of Service and keeping everyone in the loop before, during and after your event:
3-6 Months Before the Event
- Save the Date - ask all your group members to block out Service Day on their calendars.
- Add calendar links to newsletters and set up a Facebook Event posting for additional amplification.
- Share your event information in your newsletters, organization-wide emails and social media posts. Be sure to start recruiting volunteers for your group’s Day of Service as early as possible. Ask your employees or group members to invite family members to volunteer as well if it is a family-friendly event.
- As your specific volunteer projects come into focus, share details with the larger group so they know which organizations your teams will be supporting.
4-8 Weeks Before the Event
- Set up SignUp sheets for individual volunteer projects and post them to your website or to a SignUp Group Page. Here’s a live example.
- Remind co-workers or members about Service Day at any on-site meetings, luncheons and gatherings.
- Share information about the specific nonprofits you’ll be supporting, the projects you’ll be completing, and any prerequisites or supplies needed.
- Publish Volunteer SignUp links in all communication including newsletters, website, group text and social media channels.
- Encourage team members to share which volunteer projects they will be supporting (if applicable) and if their families will be participating.
1-3 Weeks Before the Event
- Share which volunteer projects are full and which need more assistance.
- Confirm all details with the nonprofit using the checklist below.
- Share social media hashtags and suggested posts for Day of Service.
- Give shout-outs to the nonprofits you will be serving.
- Set up a custom Snapchat filter if a large number of millennial or teen volunteers will be participating in your event.
Day of Event
- Maintain regular contact with on-site group leaders and nonprofit liaison throughout the day.
- Encourage participants to post on social media throughout the day by tagging the nonprofits social media accounts and using any event hashtags.
- Measure Up! How many people participated? For how many collective hours? What was the impact of your Good work - for example number of pounds of food packed, miles of trail cleaned, or welcome baskets assembled? If monetary donations were also collected, how much money was raised? Gather info on continuing to volunteer with the nonprofit organization beneficiary from the Day of Service event.
- Thank the people involved for any Day of Service event and share the impact of their efforts. By using SignUp to organize your volunteers for their shifts - thanking them for giving back couldn’t be easier. Along with automated reminders before the event you can send out a post-event note that thanks individuals for giving their time to their community and shares the event success stories quantifying the impact of the Service Day as a whole.
- Send a personal thank you to any volunteer liaison you worked with at the nonprofit that hosted your group for your Service Day.
Volunteering With Nonprofit Organizations as a Large Group
Be realistic about your expectations. Most nonprofits don't have a full-time volunteer coordinator, so try to be as helpful as possible. These projects for groups should be ideas that can be moved around since space is such a valued commodity at most nonprofit organizations and anything can happen the day of your event. The project for volunteer groups should also only take a few hours so they can be completed during the dedicated Service Day timeframe so everyone can celebrate a successful event.
Ask your participants to donate the supplies or funds needed to complete their assigned volunteer project. One of the biggest obstacles to a nonprofit accommodating a volunteer group is money and supplies. Many nonprofits have a wish list of activities only a group of volunteers can do, but they don't have the money for the supplies needed for the activities. Getting your participants to donate the supplies needed for the volunteer project they'll be working is a way to give back two-fold.
Checklist for Group Volunteering with Nonprofits (schools, hospitals, etc.)
Have this conversation with the Organization you will be volunteering with:
- What background about the organization’s mission and volunteer project impact can be shared with the volunteers ahead of time?
- Volunteer and Project Details
- Number of volunteers who can participate (min/max)
- Number and times of shifts on Service Day (and number of volunteers per shift or project)
- Age restrictions
- Required waivers or releases
- Background checks (if needed, how will they be managed)
- Supplies or funds needed and who will purchase
- Social media policy
- Organization supervisor contact name & information
- Leading up to the Service Day
- Day-of point of contact
- Event Details
- Exact times for the project/event
- Map and parking instructions
- Onsite contact information
- Volunteer orientation
- Safety and emergency procedures at location
- Personal supplies needed (water, sunscreen, gloves)
- What to wear
- Lunch/Break information
- Social media (organization's handles and hashtags)
- Rain contingency
- Follow up requests from the organization
- Results and impact of Day of Service activities
- Ongoing volunteer opportunities for individuals
- Donor opportunities
NPOs: Create Day of Service Projects for Large Groups
As a nonprofit hosting a large group of volunteers is a great way to get all those long-overdue and much-needed projects completed and also to introduce the organization to a larger batch of new potential supporters. Some nonprofits are already set up to host groups of volunteers and have a well-oiled plan for Service Days. Others may need assistance in thinking through the logistics of a Service Day - larger groups can be a catalyst for discussing these opportunities with nonprofit leaders:
Assembly lines, clean-ups, multi-touch tasks are all projects that are perfect for group volunteering. Brainstorm one-time projects that would make the most impact with several lending hands at once.
Organize work tasks to support smaller breakout groups instead of one group as a whole. This way you'll get multiple tasks completed in a dedicated time frame and everyone can pitch in and participate.
Forge relationships to keep them coming back and giving back. Some businesses or churches reach out to nonprofit organizations looking for a short-term or one-day service project they can assist with to fulfill service hours. These group projects are often difficult to plan for (especially if there is no dedicated volunteer coordinator position); however, they are a great way to build a relationship with volunteers and recruit individuals to volunteer more consistently in the long-term.
Volunteers are more likely to become donors when they've already engaged with a nonprofit organization and seeing their good work firsthand. Every Day of Service participant should provide their contact information to the nonprofit when signing liability waivers involved in the project. After the event, add volunteer contact information to the organization’s communication campaigns for future calls to volunteer, advocate and donate.