10 Things to Keep in Mind when Choosing the Right Community Service Project
The challenge in fulfilling the community service requirements for your college application is finding the best fit for your situation, goals, and values.
“Look to creditable organizations or ones you know,” Barb Quaintance, a civil engagement specialist recommends.
No matter your tastes, ideals, values, skills, or availability, you can fill an important need in the community.
10 Tips to Help You Choose:
1. Evaluate your Skills.
Whether you are considering volunteering for a charity or large organization, understanding what you have to offer is helpful. Don’t sweat it if you think you have no expertise. Skills you take for granted are often needed in many communities.
2. Define Community.
Where is the community you want to serve? Is it your neighborhood, city, or country? Perhaps you identify with the international or global community. Define this, and you now have an area to search.
Consider what impact each service organization actually has on your community. Do you know of anyone who has benefited from the works of the organization? Look for testimonials from local leaders or trusted officials.
4. Is it Legit?
If you are looking at non-profits or charities it is up to you to put forth due diligence in determining the soundness and reputation of each organization. Beyond a Google search, you should also check them out on GuideStar, a service that profiles non-profits.
5. Understand the Mission and Values.
Perhaps the most important consideration is whether you are a match in this area. Ask for mission and value statements, as well as a list of the works done for the community and the demographics of those helped.
6. Treatment of Volunteers.
There are many horror stories about volunteers being mistreated and overworked. Ask each organization for references, seek recommendations from friends, and search online for reviews.
7. Align Expectations.
Maybe you already know the organization for which you want to volunteer. Make sure that you understand their expectations and that they meet yours. Volunteering is a job with all the commitment but without the pay. These organizations depend on you to meet your obligations. Be sure that you do not commit for more than you can do. Be clear about what hours you can work and on which days. Request a schedule at least two weeks in advance and do not agree to be “on call,” unless you intend to be available at times outside of normal hours.
8. Opportunities to Network.
Is there anyone affiliated with a specific charity or organization that could prove influential in your life? There is no reason that you cannot make connections that further your endeavors, though this should not be your primary concern.
9. Consider Online Opportunities.
Many organizations have started providing “virtual service opportunities.” Volunteer Match offers virtual volunteer opportunities that match a candidates skill set to an organization’s needs. DoSomething.org has many ideas and fun activities that promote volunteerism online.
Can’t seem to find the perfect fit? Create your own community service project. Idealist.org provides an excellent tool designed to help you develop the perfect opportunity based on your idealism and interests. Enlist the help of friends and siblings. This could be a great way for them to begin fulfilling their own college application requirements and for a perfect way for you to staff your community service program.