January 20, 2018

Setting the Table for Community Service at Orientation

Dave Kelly with Boo-Boo Bunnies

Dave Kelly – “The Boo-Boo Bunny Guy!”

Getting students involved in community service and instilling the energy of servant leadership on your campus during orientation is a great idea. Especially if your clubs and organizations have a requirement for community service, there’s no better time than orientation to get everybody thinking about serving right from the start. However, coordinating a single project that gets hundreds and even thousands of students involved at one time is a challenge. You want to ensure everyone participates and gets their hands “dirty,” but how do you engage that many people at one time?

Here’s a question I received from and orientation coordinator that gets right to the heart of the matter. You may find the suggested solutions  interesting and helpful.

“What ideas do you have for a service project during New Student Orientation that would work with 1,200 or more students in a rural community and on a tight budget?”

Tough question indeed, I have some possible solutions. There are a variety of projects and activities that get everyone involved at once and on the same day. Doing it all on one day like at orientation or during a campus-wide Day of Service will give you a better chance of confirming that everyone participates.

Drive-by Service Projects

The first – and actually really easy – idea is to set up a number of what I call “Drive-by Service Project stations” at the main orientation site that allow students to get immediately involved. Each station should include explanations about what the project is for, instructions, supplies and materials as well as project mentors to get them started. For instance, you could set up stations that include everything students need to: make cards out of construction paper for kids in the hospital, troops overseas or residents of nursing homes; make Play-Doh or silly putty for kids in head start and daycares, make flowers for hospital trays and assembling snack bags for the USO; or make Boo-Boo-Bunnies. Get more details and ideas for setting up Drive-by Service Projects by clicking here.

A Day of Service

That will get some of your students involved, but not all. Other stations could sign up new students to involve them in a Day of Service with local elderly or otherwise physically unable members of the community. You can “advertise” that you will have students available on a given day to do yard work, clean out garages, etc., anything other than climbing on roofs (I have seen that happen!). This gives you an opportunity to involve students outdoors in a number of activities and connect the school to the local community.

Another idea along those lines is to check with various agencies, such as the Boys and Girls Club, and see if they need some outdoor work done or even if the city has some “eyesore” properties they would like to clean up. Check with other local governmental, civic groups, homeless shelters, non-profits, etc. to see what types of needs your students could meet.

You can arrange for your Day of Service – or multiple days – to occur on set days in the future or to happen right then and there where students possibly sign up in the morning and perform service in the afternoon. Have a station set up for each potential project so students can understand what they are getting into.

An Orientation Service Fair

Finally, you could set up a Service Fair as part of orientation and invite representatives from local organizations to set up, explain their function and recruit students during orientation. This can give students many opportunities to find a service projects that fits what they want to do and introduces them to opportunities they’d never thought of. See more about setting up a Day of Service by clicking here.

Having a variety of activities available will be your best course of action as opposed to trying and get everyone doing a singular activity. The most I have ever gotten involved on a single day is 225 students with 15 to 20 different activities and projects. It took some serious coordination, but everyone got involved and had the opportunity to be of service. Get some strong student coordinators and let this be a leadership development opportunity for them. Well done, it’s guaranteed to be a positive experience for everyone.

About the Author: Dave "Gonzo" Kelly (64 Posts)

Dave Kelly is the leading authority on student leadership and community service on college campuses today. As a professional trainer, motivator, and servant leader, Dave is an expert on all aspects of running and leading campus organizations and developing the character of a servant leader. Dave has 20+ years training leaders and advisors from student government associations, campus activities boards and campus clubs of every kind on organizational leadership and community service projects. He has trained students and advisors at more than 150 different colleges and universities and is the national coordinator for the APCA Serves! Initiative by the Association for the Promotion of Campus Activities.


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