It can be tough to figure out how to balance volunteering in the community with all the other responsibilities on campus. I know I’ve missed out on a lot of opportunities trying to keep up with my work-study job and my class work; it can be hard to find time to volunteer.
But if you’re like Rodney Smith, Jr., then you can create a opportunity to make a difference in your community. Smith, a senior at Alabama A&M, is the founder of Raising Men Lawn Care Service, which provides lawn care for people in need in the Huntsville, Alabama community.
Raising Men Lawn Care
Smith and his colleagues set out with a goal of mowing 40 lawns, but in two months, they had already mowed 200. “I want to restore the importance and understanding of giving back to the community,” Smith explained on the volunteer organization’s GoFundMe page, quoted in the April 28, 2016, Huffington Post profile by Yagana Shah, “Story of a 93-Year-Old And 2 Lawn Mowers Will Melt Your Heart.”
In order to support his venture, Smith started a GoFundMe page with the goal of raising $25,000, which will be used to buy lawn equipment and uniforms for the volunteers. The volunteers wear different t-shirt colors based on the number of lawns they’ve mowed; when they reach a certain level, they get a new rank and color. If you’re looking to start your own volunteering organization, starting a GoFundMe page is a great way to find funding for your supplies.
The nice thing about GoFundMe as opposed to Kickstarter is that you can leave it open ended, and any money that is donated to your group can be used toward your goals as soon as you get it, rather than waiting until a predetermined end date and goal. (Smith has raised his GoFundMe’s goal to $40k now, and he has raised over $34k toward that.)
Volunteer on campus
But if you’re thinking about volunteering on campus, you should definitely check with your student life office to see if the school has any money set aside to support volunteer initiatives. Even if it’s an on-campus cleanup day, where you and a group of friends hit the quad and pick up any litter that people have left behind, there might be some way the college can help with supplies or funding. You can also use a lot of your college’s resources to join up with already established volunteer opportunities.
For starting your own volunteer initiative, you can pick up some tips from Idealist.org‘s “Do It Yourself (DIY) volunteering” page:
- First, figure out what you want to do. Are you thinking about doing an environmental activity? I’ve definitely targeted beach litter as a problem in my area where I like to help volunteer. Or are you thinking about doing something that will help people directly? This could be using your skills and equipment to help with lawn care, like Smith, or volunteering at your local soup kitchen or homeless shelter.
- Next, define what you’re going to do and what the responsibilities are. Answer all the relevant questions: Where will you do this? What do you need? Who do you need involved? How long will your project take? Why are you doing this particular job?
- Last, develop a structure and make partnerships in your community. Not everyone is going to leap on board with your idea, so be ready to approach a number of potential partners. Make sure when you present your idea, you have all the details worked out.
In whatever way you decide to volunteer, know that what you’re doing can make a difference in your community. And check in again with student life or academic affairs–you might be able to leverage your volunteer project for credits!