January 18, 2018

Creating a “Day of Service” on Your Campus

A Day of Service is an opportunity for students across the campus to come together in service. My favorite time to do that is on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr Day but it can be done on any holiday or any time during the year as community organizations are in need of help all year long. The people on campus who already serving are going to be the ones to help you plan this, but many people don’t serve because they don’t know how or don’t know how to get started. They often have an impression that their service has to be something huge – but it doesn’t have to be. They can serve in little ways that often lead to big ways. The goal of a Day of Service is to engage them in serving in whatever way they can.

Dave Kelly - Day of Service

A Day of Service is also a great way for clubs and organizations who have service requirements to get members engaged who might not otherwise participate. The whole club goes out together on the Day of Service and the members get to come along and participate without really having to think about it or plan anything. It will hopefully spark a commitment within them to continue to serve and maybe even come up with their own service project idea.

When I work with schools on their Day of Service I usually start with a 45-minute to 2-hour Building Leaders Through Service presentation where they learn all about performing service, its impact and its reward. I also like to arrange for everyone to participate in some small projects that I bring along with me called Drive-By Service Projects. They are quick-stop service projects that students, faculty and staff can do very simply and very quickly to give them the idea of the impact that they can have when a bunch of people come together.

Here’s a sample of what the agenda could look life for the entire day:

  1. Building Leaders Through Service to start the day. This gets everyone engaged and on the same page early in the day.
  2. Right before lunch is a great time to do Drive-By Service Projects. These easy-to-do table service projects can be set up by me, the school or the organizations that the day of service is supporting.  They include things like making dog toys out of old t-shirts; making boo-boo bunnies out of washcloths for small children at hospitals, daycares, elementary schools; writing letters to troops overseas; assembling portable trash bags to help clean up the campus; creating holiday-themed items to be given to people in nursing homes; and coloring in books marks for elementary school children to name a few.
  3. LUNCH
  4. Afternoon service project – This is usually some sort of a larger service project that everybody works on together or a series of smaller projects where participants get to pick and choose what works for them. It’s chance to work around the campus or around the community. For example, I did a project at the University of Tampa where half of the participants worked at a local food bank and the other half went to a thrift store and sorted clothes and other donations, put them on shelves and got it set up for a mission that uses that money to feed the homeless. In another example we did a project for Hurricane Sandy relief in Hoboken, NJ at a local community center. About 35 students painted steps and railings and moved furniture from storage back into offices that had gotten cleaned up from the flooding. There were also a lot of donations that had to be sorted and we went from there to a school and took toys and other donations that the community center had taken in but didn’t have the manpower to deliverthem. It can be simple things like going to senior citizens’ homes and raking their leaves, mowing lawns or finding areas in the community that need to be cleaned up that no one has paid attention to. You could even make it a big project like a Habitat For Humanity house. Bring a whole crew and paint the whole thing or do some trimming or whatever might need to be done at that point. It all matters.
  5. It’s a good idea to end the day with a celebration of some sort. I suggest you make the celebration really attractive and hire a band, set up inflatables (like a bouncy castle), have massage chairs, caricature artists, etc. The cost of entry into the celebration is that you have to have participated in the Day of Service. For those students, faculty and staff who didn’t participate in the service project but want join in the celebration, have some tables set up with the easy to perform Drive-by Service Projects and ask them to complete a couple of them as their entry fee to come into the party.

All of this – from education to service to celebration – makes for a great day of service that can really energize the whole campus community. It gives everyone a chance to serve and to network with people from other organizations as well as see the potential of the members they already have.

To really make an impact you can partner with local service organizations for your Day of Service or participation in the after-party. Have representatives from the community groups come in and explain what they do. You can even turn this into a Service Fair where they can set up tables during the service project, lunch or at the after-party. This will also allow students to sign up and participate with those agencies while you’ve got them excited about service.

“Anyone can be great because anyone can serve. All you need is a heart full of love and a soul full of grace.” – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr

With this quote, I think Dr. King is telling us that our greatness will be determined by our service and a single day of service can mean a lot for your campus, your community, the world, and for you in the way that you’ll grow and develop and from what you learn from engaging in that day of service. It’s a good chance for people to come together in big and small ways.

Good luck and let me know if you need any help!

Series NavigationThe 5 WHYs of Community Service >>
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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  1. […] your students to the community and the campus by having a New Student Day of Service at orientation or shortly after. Have them all come together, and interact with each other as the […]

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