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54 Creative Community Service Ideas for Nonprofits

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By Jesse Sumrak

community service food bank

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Published October 28, 2022 Reading Time: 10 minutes

Need help coming up with a community service idea that builds relationships and exposure for your nonprofit? Don’t worry—we’re here to help. The good news is there are so many different opportunities available.

But the best community service ideas don’t need to be a game changer or brand new—just meaningful, engaging, and relevant to your nonprofit. People want to give back to their local community. They just need a nonprofit (like yours) to provide them with the right opportunity.

Consider this article your jumping-off point. Below, we’ve compiled over 50 community service project ideas to get your creative juices flowing. Take a look through the possibilities and see what stands out. And don’t be afraid to mix and match ideas or completely deviate from something we’ve outlined below—there’s no one-size-fits-all way to go about community service.

What Makes a Great Service Project Idea?

Before we start looking through service project ideas, let’s talk about what separates good ideas from great ones. 

  • Passion: Do something meaningful to you. You may see a timely need in your community or an opportunity to make a difference with something close to your donors’ hearts.
  • Relevancy:  The key to understanding how to retain volunteers is knowing how to make the service project relevant to your nonprofit’s mission. You and your staff already know the communities you serve and how many legs your work has, so use that to continue the impact through your volunteer efforts. If your organization focuses on environmentalism, teaching music lessons at your local day care might not align. 
  • Need: Identify genuine needs. No community is perfect—there are people, businesses, and causes that require time, love, and care. Find them.
  • Organization: Determine the who, what, where, when, and how behind your project. Establish clear lines of communication and keep logistics neat and tidy.
  • People: Establish a team dedicated to your specific project, aside from their day jobs at your organization. Find leaders, thinkers, planners, and doers.
  • Timing: Look for the best time to make it happen. A service project on Tuesday at 10 a.m. might not work for most of your busy volunteers, but what if you moved the project to Saturday at 10 a.m.?

54 Creative Community Service Ideas

12 Physical Labor Community Service Ideas

1. Clean Up the Park

Pick up trash at your local park, river, or recreational area. While you’re at it, look for other future service opportunities. For example, you might notice a broken bench or weathered playground equipment. Many organizations find these activities successful around Earth Day. What better way to collect Earth Day donations than by encouraging volunteers to get involved in caring for the community in which they are a part of?

2. Rake Leaves

Visit someone or a community center that could really use help raking leaves. You can help clean up their yards, clear snow from driveways in the winter, and grow grass in the spring. 

3. Build a Shed

Parks, churches, schools, and even single-family homes might need a shed to store equipment. If you have a handyperson on your crew, get their help to build a simple shelter for storing outdoor belongings. You might even go the extra mile and personalize it with a fresh paint job or (better yet) a mural.

4. Plant Trees and Flowers

Plant Trees and Flowers

A famous Chinese proverb says: “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” Planting trees, flowers, and shrubs make the neighborhood look better and could benefit your local community for years.

5. Mow Lawns

Notice an overgrown yard or community area? Offer to mow the grass. This improves the look and feel of the entire community and prevents critters from nesting in places they shouldn’t.

6. Paint Old Buildings

It’s amazing what a fresh coat of paint can do. Volunteer a touch-up paint job on homes or community buildings in need.

7. Install Wheelchair Ramps

Know of a family with a recent disability? Offer to install a wheelchair ramp to make entering their home more wheelchair accessible. 

8. Host a Car Wash

Provide free car washes to anyone in the community. While you’re at it, raise awareness. For example, you might do the car wash at your local animal shelter.

9. Provide Rides

Host rides every other week (or month) to families (or individuals) in need. For example, you might take a parent to the grocery store or give rides to someone traveling across town to their doctor’s appointment.

10. Repair Benches and Fences

Notice benches giving people splinters? Are fences in need of repair? Get out your tool belt and fix them up.

11. Go on Walks With People Who Need a Friend

Sometimes, being there for someone is the most important community service project you could ever do. Offer to go on walks with a person at a nursing home or even someone who doesn’t feel safe walking alone.

12. Train for a Race With a Participant

Know someone (or a group) training for their first 5K or marathon? Go and train with them. It can be motivating and empowering to have a workout buddy, especially when aspiring athletes are new to a sport.

13 Collect and Donate Community Service Ideas

13. Host a Back-to-School Supplies Drive

Brainstorming different fundraising ideas for schools in your local community? Collect school supplies for families in need. Everything from notebooks to crayons to folders to pencils—it all counts.

14. Collect Nonperishable Foods for the Hungry

Hosting a food drive can be a great community service activity around giving holidays like Christmas and Thanksgiving. Donors get to clean out their pantries, and shelters get a fresh supply of canned and boxed food—everyone wins. As inflation rates fluctuate, the demand for this support is growing.

15. Start a Holiday Donation Drive for Toys

As a holiday fundraising initiative, collect toys to give to children in low-income families, so everyone gets a gift during the holiday season.

16. Provide Valentine’s Day Supplies to Schools

Interested in spreading the love and hosting a Valentine’s Day fundraiser? Donate paper, stickers, scissors, and crafts to elementary schools to help the kids create Valentine’s Day gifts in class or at home. You could do the same thing at a local day care or community center.

17. Create Hygiene Bags for the Homeless Community

Collect soap, toothbrushes, toothpaste, floss, deodorant, feminine hygiene products, and hand sanitizer to provide hygiene bags for your homeless population. 

18. Gather Products for Domestic and Sexual Violence Shelters

Shelters and charities need donations, products, and volunteers to help survivors of domestic and sexual violence. Work with your local shelter to find items needed to provide visitors with a more comfortable stay.

19. Donate Blood or Plasma

donate blood

Find volunteers to donate blood or plasma regularly. It doesn’t have to be anything too formal, but a simple reminder can go a long way to letting your community know how to give back.

20. Organize a Blood Drive

Organizing a blood drive helps those who need blood and can lower blood pressure and the risk of heart attacks for givers.

21. Create Meal Kits for Thanksgiving Dinners

Build meal kits for your community to enjoy the harvest holiday with their families.

22. Collect Clothes for Children

Kids grow up, but parents don’t always clean out right away. For example, your community members likely have bins of clothing sitting in their attics or garages. Encourage them to donate those unused clothes to people in need.

23. Build Little Free Libraries Around the Community

Little Free Libraries let your community members exchange books at multiple locations around town. Building these around the community can be an excellent resource for those who live far away from the town library.

24. Gather Art for a Nonprofit or Charity Auction

Nonprofits and charities often rely on donated goods to raise money at auctions. Find unloved art or commission volunteers to create pieces that a charity can put to good use.

25. Bake Treats for the Community

bake treats for the community

Who doesn’t love cookies and brownies? Bake treats and hand them out for free downtown or at a local park or special event.

10 Teach and Educate Service Project Ideas

26. Teach English to Immigrants

Live in an area with a large immigrant population? Volunteer to teach English lessons once a week.

27. Teach Tech Skills at Retirement Homes

Older generations might want a hand learning how to operate laptops, tablets, and smartphones. Teach them basic tech skills like FaceTiming with their family or setting up a social media account.

28. Show People How to Fish

Volunteer to show your community how to fish. Gather rods for a small group and head down to the lake or river and show them the ropes. Fishing can be a great, low-cost hobby for those in your community, and those who attend your class might be able to catch and cook some tasty dinners with the newfound skill.

29. Show Homeowners Do-it-Yourself Skills

Host events where you teach basic home maintenance skills, such as weatherproofing a home, fixing a leaky faucet, and installing a new door lock to help homeowners take care of their homes.

30. Teach a Second Language to Adults

Have a volunteer willing to teach Spanish, French, German, or another language? Get them to host a once-a-week class teaching adults. While there are plenty of apps for adults to learn a second language, it’s hard to beat an in-class experience.

31. Educate the Community About Sustainability

teach sustainability

Nearly 90% of the global population wants a more sustainable and equitable world, but most don’t know where to start.1 Host events in your community to educate the public and show them real-world skills for how they can contribute to a more sustainable society using natural resources.

32. Help People Register to Vote

Host a service project to help people register to vote. This can be especially helpful if resources aren’t readily available in their language.

33. Provide IT Assistance

Everyone from your local bakery to your gym to your day care could use a little IT help from time to time. If you have an expert on your team, consider doing some basic workshops or visiting small businesses that might need a helping hand.

34. Teach a Budgeting Class

Show your community members how to stretch their income and do more with their hard-earned dollars. Your budgeting classes could be as simple as life hacks for saving money or could include more advanced financial planning advice.

35. Show People How to Start a Business

Show People How to Start a Business

More than 40% of Americans planned to start a business in 2022. Consider doing some mentoring or providing a crash course on starting a small business to help members of your community reach their 2022 goal.

19 Places in Your Community That Need Volunteers

36. Help Out at the Animal Shelter

Have a passion for cats and dogs? Volunteer at your local animal shelter playing with animals, taking dogs on walks, and cleaning cages. 

37. Organize Books at Your Local Library

Need help restocking for your community of voracious readers? Volunteer to organize books and clean up public reading areas.

38. Staff Special Events at the Park

Your park could host anything from a 10K to a fall festival. Find volunteers to staff the special event to help with parking or hand out refreshments.

39. Mentor Students

mentoring students

Know any high school students who might want to expand their learning beyond the classroom? For those who want to experiment with professions, connect them with a plumber, electrician, or carpenter for hands-on work or an apprenticeship.  

40. Tutor Students

Volunteer to help kids with after-school classes teaching anything from math to reading.

41. Supervise After-School Programs

Help chaperone anything from school dances to basketball practice at your local recreation center. 

42. Volunteer as a Coach

Consider volunteering if you know a sport that needs coaches (and even if you don’t). You don’t need to be a retired professional to play a big role in teaching others a new skill.

43. Assist Churches With Services

Volunteer to assist local churches in your community that might need help with lawn care, building maintenance, or picking up hymn books after church.

44. Pick Up Trash at a State or National Park

Get out in nature and preserve your parks with a community service day at your local state or national park. 

45. Restock Shelves at the Food Bank

Your local food bank might not have the hands it needs to sift through donations, organize food, and restock the shelves. Find a time to help around a giving holiday when it’s likely to receive higher-than-average donations.

46. Distribute Food to Homeless Shelters

After a food drive, find volunteers to drive and distribute donations to homeless shelters around your state or county. 

47. Volunteer With a Political Organization

Want to support an up-and-coming politician? Offer to volunteer with their organization, helping with campaign to-dos or staffing fundraising events.

48. Usher at Your Community Theater

Show your creative community some love by staffing and ushering at your local theater. 

49. Find a Buddy at a Long-term Care Facility

Make a friend in a long-term care facility, and write or find time to visit them.

50. Teach Music Lessons at a Day Care

teach music lessons

Know a musically gifted giver willing to teach kids music? Volunteer at your day care teaching kids how to sing and read music. You could even bring a keyboard and provide private lessons.

51. Help a School as a Crossing Guard

Schools with busy streets can always use help with crossing guards. Volunteer to take the shift for a specific day of the week or week of the month.

52. Chaperone a Field Trip

See if your school needs help with chaperones. They might need additional adults for a trip across town or assistance with a bigger cross-country commitment.

53. Volunteer at Your Community Pool

Ask your local pool if they need help with lifeguards, cleaning, or maintenance.

54. Visit Children at the Hospital

Put a smile on a child’s face with a special visit to the hospital.

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