For the kazillionth time in the past two months, Iâ€™ve run into questions or requests from associations and nonprofits interested in exploring or organizing a â€œCommunity Day of Service.â€ Hereâ€™s the short version of my answers:
Yes, loads of associations are now doing thisâ€”and many have been doing them for years.
Yes, some do not spend a whole day on the event. You can always start with a half-day of service or even, as one association does, an â€œhour of powerâ€ (members sign up to donate at least one hour per month of free phone counseling).
Yes, many days of service are scheduled next to annual meetings, conferences, or events. Attendees and local host cities do a wide range of volunteering on such days, everything from mentoring local students to improving public facilities to bagging food for the hungry. New Orleans, in particular, appears to be the focus of the most service days and legacy gifts from organizations meeting there.
Yes, examples abound. Here are a few:
- NTEN: The Nonprofit Technology Network, an organization of nonprofit technology professionals, organized a Day of Service in March 2008 that included free strategy consulting services for 27 nonprofits, as well as installing a wireless network at a community center. See how they set it up here.
- Volunteers of Americaâ€™s Day of Service in June 2008 involved restoring a local high school and church with its 350 volunteers â€œto help rebuild parts of St. Bernard Parish that remain devastated by Hurricane Katrina.â€
- Myriad state legal associations host community service days targeting everyone from immigrants to needy senior citizens to nonprofit organizations.
- Many athletic, health, and fitness associations have long histories of a Day of Service. For instance, this year, more than 2,500 people in the National Basketball Association united in June to build houses and playgrounds, and to clean up schools and neighborhoods in New Orleans. Youâ€™ll find more info and some cool videos here.
For advice on organizing and partnering for a Day of Service, visit http://www.nationalserviceresources.org/node/17140 and read past the Martin Luther King Day of Service sections to the bulleted lists of tips.
Yes, information is out there about ways to identify and reduce possible legal liabilities associated with â€œdoing good.â€ Tyra Hilliard, CMP, an assistant professor in the Event and Meeting Management Program at The George Washington University, spoke at ASAE & The Centerâ€™s 2008 Springtime about this topic, as she has at several other association meetings. This good article summarizes her recent MPI presentation, including her plea not to back away from community service projects and her description of laws and measures that reduce potential legal risks associated with such activities.
Yes, an ever-growing list of corporations, from Wal-Mart to Marriott International, have conducted a Day of Service that involves thousands, even tens of thousands, of employees with great success and results. In the latest issue of the Journal of Association Leadership (summer 2008), which just mailed, I describe how three corporationsâ€”United Parcel Service (UPS), Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, and Motorolaâ€”use social responsibility as major drivers within their businesses. One element of that strategy? An international Day of Service for employees. Check it out, especially the one by UPS. Sorry, itâ€™s not online yet, but it will be shortly, and Iâ€™ll include the link then for non-subscribers.