by Imed Bouchrika, Phd
Chief Data Scientist & Head of Content
We are wired to help one another. At least, that is one of the conclusion y0u can derive from a study that shows olunteering for at least 200 hours is associated with increased psychological well-being and physical activity (Sneed and Cohen, 2013). And aside from helping out individuals we know in need of help, we could opt to get involved in community service.
If you are wondering where you can find great examples of community service projects, this a place to start. We divided the list based on the nature of the volunteer work so you can easily choose activities that fall under your area of interest. You will also get links to nonprofit organizations, learn some tips on how to choose a community service project, and get an idea of the many benefits you can gain from doing community service.
Examples of Community Service: Table of Contents
- Farming and agriculture
- Food collection and distribution
- Teaching and tutoring ideas
- Ideas for health and wellbeing
- Ideas for community safety and crime prevention
- Ideas for community cleanliness and improvement
- Ideas to help the environment and fight climate change
- Fundraising ideas
- Ideas for helping people with special needs/disabilities
- Ideas for helping seniors
- Animals and pet-related ideas
- General labor
What is Community Service?
Community service refers to volunteer work that is usually organized by a group within a specific community. While community service is part of public administration, one does not need a public administration degree to organize a community service initiative. Participants can come from all sectors, such as employees of a company, military personnel, healthcare professionals, church volunteers, or students.
Although community service and volunteerism can sometimes be used interchangeably, they differ in such a way that the former can also refer to compulsory work. For example, a court judge can order an offender to do several hours of community service as punishment for a crime he or she committed. Usually, the punishment or type of community service has something to do with the offense committed and will ultimately benefit the community.
There can be many reasons why people participate in community service. For some, it can be part of their company’s corporate social responsibility, while for others it can be something related to a cause that matters to them, such as animal welfare, the environment, or the elderly in their neighborhood. Community service for students, on the other hand, is often part of a school project or requirement. For public policy majors, they offer a glimpse of the strength of community dialogues and collaboration. Community service activities can also be organized because of a local event or a natural disaster that struck a particular area.
There can be many types of community service activities. The top national volunteer activities are food collection and distribution at 24.2% followed by fundraising at 23.9%, engaging in general labor or providing transportation at 18.8%, and tutoring or teaching at 17.9% (“The Ultimate List Of Charitable Giving,” 2018).
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics 2015 Designed by
Reasons for Doing Community Service
On the surface, community service benefits go directly to people in need and the community. But there is also a lot to gain for the part of volunteers. Here are some of the most convincing reasons why it can be worthwhile to participate in community service.
Create memorable life experiences. Joining in a community service activity that interests you or is connected to your passion can be a fun and rewarding experience. It can be a great way to enrich your personal experiences and escape from the routine activities of daily life. For example, students who spend most of their time in classrooms can participate in a community service that involves outdoor work, such as tree planting or ocean cleanups in order to spend time in nature. On the other hand, employees who work all day in the office can organize an activity in the local area where their company is located so they can give back to the people supporting their business.
Open doors to opportunities in your career. Choosing a community service project in your field can not only help you gain related skills or work experience but also give you the opportunity to meet people and grow your professional network. Moreover, since community service often involves working in groups or with other people, you can also develop important soft skills used in the workplace. These include interpersonal communication, teamwork, critical thinking, problem-solving, and leadership.
Through community service, you can also discover your innate talents and potential, which you can consider once you make future decisions about what degree to pursue in college or which occupation to engage in. Additionally, 60% of hiring managers consider volunteerism as an asset when making recruitment decisions.
Boost your psychological and physical well-being. Participating in community service can have enormous benefits for your physical and mental health. For one, the meaningful connections you can make when volunteering can be a way to gain a support system and protect yourself against loneliness and depression. Another good example is working with animal welfare organizations. Interacting with animals has been known to reduce anxiety and stress and is a perfect activity for pet lovers who still want to bond with animals but cannot keep pets in their building or do not have the time to fully take care of their own pets.
Examples of Community Service
In a nonprofit trends report, 74% of nonprofit organizations said that their constituents’ desire to participate in their activities increased. Fortunately, in today’s digital environment, it has become easier to search for various community service or volunteering activities online. In fact, 65% of people found volunteer opportunities online.
Farming and agriculture
- Participate in farmers’ markets that need volunteers to take care of setup and cleanup. The Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture, for instance, is an excellent place to start on community service in farmers’ markets.
- Offer cooking lessons or workshops on handmade items at a farmers’ market event.
- Be an organic farm helper and learn all about sustainable farming. Check out Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms-USA, which accepts volunteers from around the world and helps people gain practical skills in farming.
- Help in harvesting, weeding, or pruning.
- Lend a hand in taking care of a ranch and farm animals.
- You can also flex your muscles and offer handyman/carpentry work and fix things at the farms.
- Be a volunteer trainer or lecturer for workshops like vegetable planting or organic farming.
- Contribute your creative skills. Take photos or videos of farms and their products to be featured on their website.
- Help build bee houses.
- Help farm communities in marketing and selling their harvested produce.
- Help in various eco-projects in small farms, orchards, vineyards, or off-grid smallholding. Here are more global locations where you can volunteer for farming and agriculture work.
- Start a community garden to promote urban gardening.
Food collection and distribution
- Help prepare and serve food for feeding programs in different communities.
- Join organizations that target the reduction of food waste like the California-based Food Forward. It aims to fight hunger and prevent food waste by saving fresh surplus produce.
- Volunteer with a charity like Feeding America or at your local food bank.
- Collect food donations for the homeless or destitute.
- Create grocery baskets with essential food items for distribution to a local shelter.
- Volunteer at a soup kitchen like Grand Central Food Program (GCFP) in New York. GCFP has been providing free meals for over three decades.
- Organize or participate in a holiday meals program for the homeless.
- Be a meal or groceries volunteer at food delivery services like Food and Friends.
- Create information materials on food safety and nutrition.
- Start a program that provides free nutrition counseling.
- Organize a Thanksgiving dinner event for people who might not be able to prepare meals on their own.
Teaching and tutoring ideas
- Offer to teach or tutor children from under-resourced communities just like what you can do at nonprofit, Jumpstart. Teaching can cover a variety of activities such as reading, playing a musical instrument, sports, or even counseling.
- If you are a college student, TeachForAmerica can be an excellent place to get opportunities to teach at public schools in exchange for further skills training, compensation, and even student loan deferments.
- Become a mentor to other education professionals. Check out Learning Forward—a nonprofit focused on training teachers, principals, and school staff for continuous improvement.
- Conduct a workshop on resume writing to help jobseekers.
- Offer free reading sessions at your local library.
- Support efforts of education-related projects such as Classrooms with a Cause.
- Offer programs that teach kids valuable life skills.
- Organize a donation drive to collect used electronic gadgets and donate them to students in need.
- Join or start a program for teen counseling.
- Create materials that can help people gain technical skills.
- Conduct training on how to use a learning management system or LMS.
Ideas for health and wellbeing
- Organize a community event that offers free health checkups.
- Put together portable first-aid kits for distribution in your community.
- Offer free classes on yoga, pilates, or low-impact exercises one can do at home. You can look for organizations such as The Women’s Club of Raleigh to see community service opportunities in health and wellness.
- Conduct vegan cooking lessons or create information materials on the vegan diet and recipes.
- Volunteer for physical therapy and rehabilitation programs. Search for more volunteering opportunities in public health at PublicHealth.org.
- Share your know-how on making wellness products like natural soaps, aromatherapy oils, candles, etc.
- Conduct free sessions on meditation.
- Organize a support group for people dealing with substance abuse or other addictions like gambling, alcoholism, etc.
- Join or start your own program to help kids and adults achieve excellent dental health.
- Volunteer your time or talents to support nonprofits creating awareness on cancer or other diseases. You could also go on to promote the scientific benefits of gratitude.
- Help promote public health by sharing information on your social media page. Check out Healthy People 2030 to get promotional toolkits.
Ideas for community safety and crime prevention
- Offer free self-defense lessons.
- Organize seminars that educate people on topics like drug abuse, depression, mental and emotional wellbeing.
- Lend a helping hand to a nonprofit that helps battered women such as Women Against Abuse.
- Help create safety drills or procedures for schools or your community during natural disasters like earthquakes, hurricanes, forest fires, etc.
- Work with groups that advocate safe and crime-free communities such as The Crime Prevention Fund.
- Organize programs that teach kids about safety on the streets and in their neighborhoods.
- Volunteer to be a crossing safety guard at a local school.
- Work with organizations like The Dannon Project that supports reentry into society of incarcerated people, unemployed, and homeless people, etc.
- Join crime prevention efforts through community outreach events.
- Volunteer as a firefighter in your community.
- Conduct training classes for kids about being safe while alone at home.
- Create a training program that teaches life-saving skills like CPR or the Heimlich maneuver.
Ideas for community cleanliness and improvement
- Organize volunteers to help clean or pick up trash in your neighborhood.
- Clean up your local playground or park.
- Help install street lights for a street lighting project in your area.
- Collect materials or donations for families who have lost their homes in fires, hurricanes, or other natural disasters.
- Join groups that campaign for more bike lanes and sidewalks. Check out nonprofit, World Bicycle Relief.
- Participate in community projects that offer small home repairs to households.
- Support organizations like Clean the World with projects like distributing bottled amenities to communities in need, making soap, and assembling hygiene kits.
- Organize flower planting projects in your community.
- Create a campaign for donating cleaning materials for your next community cleanup project.
- Create your own cleanup volunteer group. Get inspired by CleanupGiveBack.org.
Ideas to help the environment and fight climate change
- Organize a river, beach, or ocean clean up project.
- Start a tree planting activity in your area.
- Work with nonprofits that address the global clean water crisis such as Generosity.org.
- Teach waste reduction, recycling, and composting at schools and organizations in your community. This could pique the interest of some enough for them to pursue environmental careers at some point.
- Organize an information campaign about hazardous household waste and how to properly segregate and dispose of them.
- Start a program on water monitoring and teach about water quality monitoring methods. If you are interested in doing an empirical study, you can check out our guide on what is empirical research.
- Support or join organizations that advocate conservation and climate action like 350.org or the Sierra Club.
- Support programs that address plastic pollution such as the ones conducted by Plasticpollutioncoalition.org.
- Share your eco-friendly talents by conducting plant-based cooking lessons, DIY natural beauty products, or turning recycled materials into fashionable clothing or accessories.
- Become a volunteer guide for trekking.
- Support projects or initiatives focused on introducing renewable energy.
Fundraising projects can be for a variety of purposes such as community improvement, helping the homeless in your area, raising funds to rebuild homes, helping clean up rivers, funding facilities in a hospital or nursing home, etc.
- Create and share your own fundraiser. There are many online fundraising platforms like GofundMe where you can either create or share on social media your own fundraising project or donate to one that is close to your cause.
- Ask businesses to match donations. This type of fundraising activity can motivate people to donate since they know their contributions can be doubled or even tripled depending on the level of matching. The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society is one organization that does donation matching/fundraising.
- Organize or join a fundraising event for foster animals.
- Host a Chili Cook-Off in your community to raise funds for a cause and have people come together for a great meal.
- Host a silent auction to not only engage your donors but also incentivize them for their donations.
- Host a virtual event and use technology to engage your community without the need for physical space.
- Give to charities that support causes you care about. Find an extensive list of charities at America’s Charities.
- Start a crowdfunding campaign for community projects.
- Sell custom-made t-shirts to raise funds for the charities you support.
- Sell your artwork online. Some platforms you can visit include Etsy, Redbubble, and Society6.
Ideas for helping people with special needs/disabilities
- Read books to people who are visually impaired or work with nonprofits that support people with disabilities.
- Organize a buddy program to match a volunteer with a person who has special needs.
- Collect learning materials or school supplies for special needs classrooms.
- Create educational materials teaching others how they can support people with special needs or with disabilities.
- Become a member of nonprofits supporting people with special needs like The Arc.
- Create a support group to lend an ear to the needs of people with disabilities.
- Volunteer to empower people with intellectual disabilities. You can look for opportunities at Volunteers of America.
- Organize tutoring sessions for kids with learning disabilities.
- Work with organizations that empower people with autism such as The Autism Project.
- Work on an art project with children with special needs.
Ideas for helping seniors
- Drive seniors to doctor’s appointments.
- Or pick up medicine for an elderly neighbor. Nonprofits like the Institute on Aging and Meals on Wheels America are organizations dedicated to providing the needs of American seniors.
- Help elderly neighbors in doing house chores.
- Organize events or game nights at senior homes.
- Volunteer your time at senior facilities. Check out opportunities at American Senior Communities.
- Teach computer skills to elderly people in your community.
- Conduct workshops on cybersecurity for elderly neighbors.
- Gather friends to perform a musical number or serenade seniors in a nursing home.
- Start a project that makes blankets or quilts for seniors.
- Volunteer your time to walk with seniors or assist them in their daily exercises.
Animals and pet-related ideas
- Offer dog walking services.
- Take care of animals at an animal shelter.
- Volunteer in wildlife rescue programs. Check out this list of wildlife rehabilitators in every state.
- Join programs that protect marine animals.
- There are many nonprofits focused on saving and taking care of animals such as The Humane Society of the United States, Animal Friends of the Valleys, and The Animal Foundation.
- Organize a toy drive for the benefit of animals in shelters.
- Help out in administrative/office work at animal welfare organizations.
- Set up donation centers for animal food donations.
- Care for a neighbor’s pet.
- Participate in or start a community dog wash program.
- Offer free, mobile pet grooming services.
- Become a foster parent for a pet until they find a new home.
General labor community service can include a wide range of activities or tasks, from assisting in-home painting to cleaning neighborhoods and delivering groceries. You can also use your skills to contribute to community service projects.
- Write articles for organizations that support your cause.
- Set up a community website or community newsletter.
- Do social media management for nonprofits.
- Volunteer with a charity like World Vision, Habitat for Humanity, United Way, and YMCA.
- Use your photography skills to take and donate photos during community events.
- Offer to host community events such as bake sales, activities for kids, or patients in hospitals.
- Lend a helping hand in Veterans events. You can check the Veterans Affairs event calendar.
- Repair broken appliances or gadgets.
- Organize or participate in local or national events like a community blood drive or the National Youth Service Day or Memorial Day.
- Help organizations paint run-down buildings or spruce up a neighborhood playground.
- Collect items such as old books, clothes, or toys and donate them to a library or charity you support.
How to Choose the Right Community Service
With so many options, it can be quite challenging to decide which community service or volunteer activity to join. Here are a few questions you can ask to help you find the best match in community service:
- Do I want to work with children, adults, or seniors?
- Am I capable of working with people with disabilities?
- Do I want to work with animals?
- Am I willing to physically go to a location or do I prefer volunteering online?
- Do I want to work in a school, hospital, youth organization, nonprofit organization, sports team, etc?
- Do I want to work behind the scenes or take on leadership roles?
- How much time am I willing to commit to community service?
- What causes are important to me? What kind of impact do I want to make?
- What skills can I contribute to the community service project?
Most importantly, don’t hesitate to contact the nonprofit or the group responsible for the community service you want to join. This is the best way to get answers to your questions and find out whether your skills or interests match the volunteer activity goals or the nonprofit organization’s needs.
- Sneed, R. S., & Cohen, S. (2013). A prospective study of volunteerism and hypertension risk in older adults. Psychology and Aging, 28 (2), 578–586. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0032718
- NPSource (2018). The ultimate list of charitable giving statistics for 2018. NonProfitsSource.com.
- Salesforce (2020). 2nd Edition Nonprofit Trends Report. Salesforce.org.
- InitLive (2020). 15 volunteer statistics every nonprofit needs to know. InitLive Blog.