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Fundraising Tips

40 Unique Community Service Ideas for Nonprofits (2024)

December 15, 2023

Individuals, companies, youth groups, and schools can all plan and participate in community service. Anyone can plan and participate in a community service project regardless of who you are.

Most community service project ideas come from the heart and are an excellent way to give back, build and strengthen relationships with your neighbors, and develop crucial skills for yourself.

We've listed 40 community service ideas for different age groups and causes. If you're looking for ways to engage your volunteers and tips to organize and manage a community service project, you've come to the right place.

Explore our community service ideas for each age category:

Community Service Ideas for Grade School Children 

Community Service Ideas for Middle School Kids 

Community Service Ideas for High School Students 

Community Service Ideas for College Students or Sororities and Fraternities 

Explore our community service ideas by type of activities:

Mentorships and Educational Ideas 

Health and Wellness 

Food and Shelter 

Arts and Culture 

Community Spirit

Animal Welfare 

What is Community Service? 

In the simplest terms, community service is when you do something to better your community. Community service ideas and projects can include volunteering, fundraising, advocacy actions, mentoring and coaching, and other development projects.

What Makes a Great Community Service Idea? 

The best community service project ideas engage the community and address a need. Some community service ideas are perfect for individuals, but most will require groups to plan and execute sustainable activities. When planning your group's next community service project, here are a few things to keep in mind:

Our Favorite Community Service Project Ideas  

Community Service Projects are an excellent way for people to give back and make a difference in their neighborhoods. Most volunteers for these projects are adults, but we're doing more harm than good by not offering children more opportunities to volunteer and build solid social relationships.

The following community service ideas can be accomplished by all ages, many by children as young as two or three.

Community Service Ideas for Grade School Children 

1. Read to shelter animals 

A shelter can be scary and lonely for a dog or cat. Animals that have faced abuse, abandonment, and other misdeeds often have difficulty trusting humans. This understandable reaction can, unfortunately, make some impossible to re-home and lead to their untimely deaths.

Children have a unique ability to put many animals at ease. Reading to shelter dogs and cats will get them used to human companionship without endangering the children. This is an excellent community service project for local Boy Scout and Girl Scout groups. Contact local animal shelters to see what their requirements are for volunteering.

2. Help on a farm or animal sanctuary

Another idea that can help teach responsibility and caregiving skills is volunteering on a farm. Your community may have farms or animal sanctuaries that are looking for volunteers. Children as young as grade school can help with activities like animal socialization, clearing and cleaning out stalls, and helping with event preparation. Parents and schools can both ask around to see if local farms and sanctuaries need help. 

3. Clean up a community garden 

A community garden is a beautiful addition to any town. Young children can volunteer at a community garden, clearing out unused spaces to be used by others and learning to grow their own gardens. This can be a wonderful class project that gives hands-on experience to support a teacher's lessons.

4. Recycling programs

A bin full of garbages ready to be cleaned

Climate change will be the most significant issue in our children's lives. Many kids are already looking for ways they can help the environment. Community service projects that inspire children to collect plastic, metal, and glass for recycling and educate their neighbors will impact your community and the world.

5. Visit Nursing Homes

Nursing homes are already filled with men and women whose families don't visit enough. An "Adopt a Grandparent" project with your local nursing home can help eliminate the loneliness many senior citizens feel and form long-lasting and impactful relationships for children and adults. As a family, you can encourage your children to develop relationships with an elderly neighbor and have the same effect.

Community Service Ideas for Middle School Kids 

6. Tutor younger children 

Middle school kids can help tutor and mentor young children as they learn the basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic. Teachers and other school groups can form relationships with local grade schools and schedule time before, during, and after class for older children to share their knowledge and excite younger kids about what's to come.

7. Fundraise for animal shelters 

Fundraising is easier than many assume. Middle school children are more than capable of raising funds for their favorite charities in person or online. If you're looking for a community service project for middle school children, running a fundraiser for their local animal shelter will help them feel responsible for the outcomes and teach them crucial budgeting, marketing, and organization skills.

8. Design posters and art 

Another way to inspire middle school students to volunteer is to develop a community art program to spread awareness for the causes they care about and share their gifts and passion as artists. It's often difficult to get this age excited, but allowing them to take the lead and use their minds and hearts to advocate for a cause is an excellent start.

9. Send thank you cards

Thank you letters

A simple way to encourage volunteering and add a community service project to your classroom activities is to start a mailing campaign. Ask your students to write letters to military personnel, police, firefighters, nurses, and doctors during the holidays or throughout the year.

Community Service Ideas for High School Students 

10. Mentorship programs

Many high school children have faced and overcome difficult experiences, which makes them one of the best ways to connect and help younger students in your community. Local schools and community centers can start mentorship programs that offer one-on-one and group meetings for all ages. Adults can oversee these activities and offer advice, but the primary mentors should be high school students.

11. School advocacy campaigns

An advocacy campaign against bullying or to end homelessness can be a compelling way to get students involved. In some cases, students will start these by themselves, especially if there is a controversial teacher or action taken by the school. In these cases, school administration can use it as a teaching experience and direct students to use their passions responsibly.

12. Peer-to-peer fundraising

If you're in charge of a school or community club and looking for ways to encourage more participation, let the students take the lead in planning a fundraiser. You can host an event or run an online peer-to-peer fundraising campaign and have them form fundraising committees for sponsorship solicitation, social media marketing, writing fundraising appeals, and more.

13. Home and Yard Services

Another way high school students can help their community and an elderly neighbor is by offering free home and yard services. Schools can host fall and spring volunteer days that offer participating students a day off of school in exchange for volunteering around town to rake leaves and clean gutters and homes for families in need.

Community Service Ideas for College Students or Sororities and Fraternities 

14. Blood drives 

A student giving his blood

College students, especially sororities and fraternities, always seek unique community service projects. A blood drive is an excellent idea to give nursing students real-life experience while collecting blood for the local hospital or clinic.

15. Health awareness campaigns

Since the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v Wade, states have taken many actions that confuse and distress women and families in communities nationwide. College groups, sororities, and fraternities can run health awareness campaigns to educate students on their abortion rights and where to get necessary health care services.

16. Adopt a school

"Adopt a School" programs provide tutoring and mentoring for local public schools and students. College groups can contact local public schools and form relationships that can continue through the years. Younger students having the opportunity to speak with and learn from college students will encourage them to learn more about college, educational opportunities, and how they can make a change in their own lives.

17. Provide Healthy Snacks for Schools

Most college students won't leave campus for their entire tenure, but some community service projects can open their eyes to the lives of those living in the same town. Many families can't afford healthy meals for their children, and far too many neighborhoods are "food deserts." Student programs that find and make healthy snacks for local children can help alleviate this issue and educate college students on issues close to home.

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Mentorships and Educational Ideas 

18. Computer Literacy Classes

A volunteer teaching how to use a computer to local schools

Computer literacy is required for most jobs, and the creation of AI has scared many people who wonder what skills they may need in the future. Businesses and local groups looking for ways to give back can teach computer skills at local schools, churches, and even family shelters to ensure more job opportunities and a better future for all.

19. Career Development Seminars

Other career development services individuals and community organizations can provide are resume writing, mock job interviews, and career advice. Connect with local businesses and community centers to set up a location, date, and time for an event or build long-term relationships with local schools, nonprofits, and government offices to offer these services year-round.

20. Entrepreneurship training and support

More people are working from home, and many have started side hustles and new businesses since the COVID-19 pandemic. Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) USA report shows an all-time high rate of entrepreneurship activity in 2022. Business owners in your community can share their expertise with new entrepreneurs in your town. They can also visit local schools and educate high school and college kids about the different work opportunities outside college.

Health and Wellness 

21. Fitness classes

Health clubs and fitness classes can be unaffordable for many. A helpful community service idea for community groups, nonprofits, and businesses is to offer free fitness classes to senior citizens and others in your community. A chair yoga class at a community center gives community members affordable and attainable fitness challenges.

22. Health Education workshops  

With constant marketing and news about the best way to live a healthy life, people are overwhelmed to the point of giving up. Your youth sports team can host annual health education workshops to educate neighbors on nutrition and stress management to help build healthier lives. Contact local businesses and healthcare facilities to find speakers and tips you can share. You may also entice them enough to sponsor or donate to your event.

23. Health Screening

Many businesses and nonprofits have stepped up and started to offer health screenings to employees and members. These community service ideas can help improve the health of your community when provided to individuals without access to healthcare. If you're interested in offering these services, contact a local homeless shelter or food bank to see if you can provide free vision, dental, blood pressure, and cholesterol screenings to those needing them.

24. Mental Health Peer Support Groups

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) began in 1935 to offer a safe space and social connections to others suffering from alcoholism. Starting an AA group in your community is as easy as getting a group of alcoholics together and setting a regular time and meeting place. Groups can contact the national AA community for resources, but it isn't necessary. The success of this community service project has inspired similar groups to start more worldwide to address various addiction and mental health issues.

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Food and Shelter

25. Food drives 

A food drive for your local food bank is an easy community service project to add to your community group's calendar. You can collect canned food from members at every meeting, set up a table to collect food from your local grocery store or host an event to raise funds and collect donations.

26. Holiday meal events  

Holiday meal event

Another way to help feed your community is with holiday meal events like a soup kitchen or pancake breakfasts. Start by forming an event committee and find sponsors for your event. From there, you can collect in-kind donations of food and other items and promote the event throughout your community. You can partner with another local organization and make this an annual event.

27. Budgeting and money management skills

Job skills are critical, but many adults need more budgeting and money management skills. Organizations and community groups can work with schools, local homeless shelters, and other nonprofits that work with needy families to educate children and adults on the necessity of creating a budget, the best ways to save and make money, and more.

28. Surplus Food Distribution 

One eye-opening truth about starvation in the US is how much food restaurants throw away daily. A life-changing community service project would be collecting and delivering this excess food to local food banks. Learn federal, state, and local laws regarding food and food delivery. Connect with business leaders and organizations to see how you can help eliminate this waste.

Arts and Culture 

29. Free art classes and performing arts workshops 

Art classes and performing arts workshops can feed the mind, but few free opportunities exist for children or adults to participate. Your school, business, or community group can volunteer or find artists to offer these classes to others in your community. Ask local companies to house your classes, sponsor an event, or provide items to help limit the costs.

30. Artisan markets  

An artisan market of local artists is an excellent way to promote community spirit and raise money for your cause. Local artists can rent a space to display and sell items. If you have enough space you can partner with other community groups to run a talent show or other performing arts.

31. Community Theatre Performances

Community theatre allows kids and adults to strengthen their artistic gifts and perform in front of a crowd. You don't need a theatre to put on a show. Your local library or outdoor amphitheater may be enough. Form a group to choose the show, audition, and choose actors. Finally, you can start rehearsing and building your sets and enjoy each other's creative talents.

32. Art for Healing

Music, art, and dance therapy have proven to be successful therapies for those healing from trauma. Offering these services for free to those in your community can make a significant difference in the health and safety of your community.

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Community Spirit

33. Neighborhood watch program

Community Spirit can encompass a host of things, but it means nothing if your neighbors don't feel safe. A neighborhood watch program that involves everyone and works with the police department to follow the laws can keep everyone happy and safe and build community spirit.

34. Historical tours and talks  

All towns have a history that most who live there know nothing about. Historical tours and storytelling can strengthen your town's community spirit and encourage more participation in town activities.

35. Historical Preservation

Documents, buildings, and personal stories tell the tale of your community. The preservation of these and preserve cultural traditions, locations, and stories. 

36. Community Mural

Community murals created by groups of artists in your community can brighten public spaces and improve community spirit. Involve local artists and find businesses willing to sponsor you with free space and art supplies.

Animal Welfare 

37. Pet fostering

Fostering a pet can be a meaningful and challenging volunteer experience. It's also profoundly needed by animals and shelters worldwide. Contact your local shelter to see how you can foster a dog or cat.

38. Animal care workshops  

Animal care workshops are another way to help animals and provide community service. Teaching pet owners how to feed and care for their animals can eliminate early deaths and encourage more to adopt.

39. Shelter Volunteers

If fostering isn't an option, you can always find volunteer opportunities and local shelters. Most organizations rely on volunteers to help feed, walk, play, and socialize with the animals. Many organizations also need help with events and fundraising campaigns.

40. Making enrichment items 

Shelters always need enrichment items like beds, toys, and blankets. School and community groups can make or purchase these items or collect donations from community members and drop them off at local shelters.

Real World Case Study

Community service team for #YesSheCanCampaign

#YesSheCanCampaign addresses the need to prepare young people for college readiness and career development support. Zaniya Lewis founded a nonprofit that has raised money to help over 3,000 US students already.

As part of a military family, she faced many hardships in applying for college and finding enough money to attend full-time. Her #YesSheCanCampaign has held continuous peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns to limit these difficulties for other kids. Students who intern with the organization learn how to write grants and participate in day-to-day operations.

Zaniya switched from GoFundMe to Zeffy because of the 100% free fundraising services. Today, #YesSheCanCampaign has raised over $100,000 in monetary donations and grants.

10 Steps for Organizing Successful Community Service Projects 

1. Identify a cause

Community service project ideas must address a specific need. Whether that's homelessness, job training, or support for the animals, you must be as detailed as possible to make it easy to transition to the next step.

2. Set Goals

Setting goals for your community service project relies on a solid understanding of your community's needs and an idea of how you can affect measurable change. Once again, be specific and look at ways to make a sustainable long-term change.

3. Form a Team

Never try to do this alone. Most community service project ideas require a team. The stronger the team, the more likely you are to succeed. Find team members with gifts and access to resources outside your own, and allow each member to be responsible for part of the project.

4. Create a Plan

You must have a plan for your community service project, but it must also be flexible and adaptable to the many changes that will come your way. Create a SMART plan with specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound steps and goals.

5. Find Resources

Once you have your plan, it's time to find enough resources to carry it out. This is where your team comes in. Split responsibilities equally around and encourage team members to use personal and professional relationships whenever possible.

Start with small asks, but work towards building long-lasting partnerships with business and community members. Fiscal sponsors, like your local arts commission, can provide financial and administrative support.

6. Promote and Raise Awareness

Promoting your event is crucial. Social media and peer-to-peer campaigns can help spread the word and raise funds. Collaborations with other local organizations and businesses can help you too. Ask them to house your event and spread the word to their employees and customers in exchange for marketing opportunities with your community.

7. Train and Prepare Your Team

Before your community event or volunteer activity, you must prepare your team. Ensure you have quality speakers, mentors, and leaders to help run the event. Have enough volunteers in case something changes at the last minute.

8. Hold the Event or Activity

Community service projects can be one-day, annual, or regular events. Each type has different requirements, but with a trained team and detailed plans, you'll have a successful event and happy attendees.

9. Evaluate and Reflect

After your project, it's time to evaluate what went well and where things can improve. Be honest with yourself, and don't shy away from difficult conversations. Take and add notes to your database so you can use them later. Also, send a survey to project participants via email or social media to ask for their opinions.

10. Thank All Volunteers and Supporters

Finally, remember to thank all team members, volunteers, sponsors, event attendees, and donors. This was a group effort, and everyone should be proud of the difference they made!

Ready to Host Your Next Fundraiser? 

Community service projects take collaboration and solid relationships to make a difference.

As you plan to make a difference in your community, look for a team to support your efforts and bring their own skills and expertise. Zeffy has partnered with over 10,000 nonprofit organizations to help with fundraising events and campaigns.

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