In my bouncing around from campus to campus I’ve noticed a growing trend. Many schools are now requiring that campus clubs and organizations perform community service. Some schools or Student Government Associations are even holding back funding unless clubs have a detailed community service plan. Student leaders of some clubs think this is a good idea while others are giving plenty of push back.
In some cases the requirements are for the club as a whole and some for individual club members. When it’s a club based requirement, even if 10 members show up to help the club only gets credit for one hour. In this case there usually not a large requirement and it’s set up this way so the larger organizations don’t dominate. But in a sense this is also unfair to the larger ones. However, often times if it’s done on a per member basis it becomes unwieldy requiring too much paperwork. Schools are looking for ways to strike a balance.
If your school or SGA is thinking about implementing such a requirement here are a few tips that might make the going smoother.
Make it easy. Community service projects like Habitat for Humanity or Relay for Life are great but they often can require a lot of time and resources. Something easy like reading to grade school kids or a Drive-by Service Project makes it easy even for the smaller clubs to meet the requirement. Everywhere I go more and more schools are asking me to help them set up Drive-by Projects whether I’m presenting a service program or not. They’re so easy to implement it’s a great way to infuse your students with the spirit of community service.
Make serving the school count. If an organization serves the university or Campus Activities office – say for example you’re having a speaker, a band, poetry night or some other event and they help with setup, cleanup etc. – make that count toward their service hours. This could be especially helpful if your school doesn’t have a large planning board. In addition, you could let the club set up a table for recruitment and make it a win-win for everyone involved. When you pull together on activities in this way students become more engaged and connected and that translates into retention.
The bottom line is that many schools are recognizing that they have to get students involved. The goal should be to make it easy, inexpensive, and altruistic. Whether you set it up by student or by organization the goal should be to seek ways that are unoffensive and look at service from a wide perspective ranging from advocacy, to social justice, to services to the needy, to helping the school.
Involving students in community service makes better citizens, enhances resumes, and creates a servant leader mindset that will help students go further in the world. All too often I run into the What’s In It For Me (WIIFM) mentality and people these days are engrossed in their latest toys as a way to disengage from the work of being a productive citizen. Community service forces us to put down our music player, cell phone, notebook or video game and pushes students to see their place in the world.
But remember, if your school or SGA is thinking about making community service a requirement – it easy to make the requirement, but it can be hard to implement. Hopefully these few helpful suggestions will make such a worthwhile effort easier.