Planning with purpose: Six ways to incorporate community service into an event

Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) organized a sock drive for a Nashville-based center helping young people with a variety of crisis services.
Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) organized a sock drive for a Nashville-based center helping young people with a variety of crisis services.


As more groups finally get back together face to face, now is a great time for planners to put volunteer opportunities on the agenda. Especially in larger cities, the opportunities to volunteer are practically endless.

1. Find a food bank

Donating to food banks is an easy way for attendees of all ages—from school-aged students to senior adults—to participate in community service. Most major metro areas, and even many smaller cities, have a food bank, and there are a variety of ways to help them. Communications can be sent to attendees ahead of time to bring non-perishable food items to the event, and a table can be set up for all donations. For a more hands-on approach, the group could team with the food bank to pack up boxes and even deliver the items to community members in need.

2. Clean up

Over the last year, many coastal communities have experienced significant destruction from hurricanes, while many inland cities and towns have experienced events like tornadoes and floods. Planners can organize groups to go out into the community and help however they can, whether picking up tree limbs or rolling up their sleeves for the rebuilding effort.

3. Shop for a cause

An easy way to help a community without ever having attendees leave the meeting site—or adding time onto an agenda—is by setting up a shop at the event where attendees can purchase items whose proceeds go toward a local organization. Alternatively, as the FCCLA did at its annual event this year in Nashville, with every purchase made, have the same item donated to a local charity.

FCCLA, a student organization, organized a sock drive for a Nashville-based center helping young people with a variety of crisis services. They set up a sock shop at their event, and for every pack of socks purchased, one pair was donated to the charity. “We ended up selling right around 1,500 pairs of socks, so the local organization received about 700 pairs,” said FCCLA executive director Sandy Spavone. “It meant a lot to our group to be able to donate so many pairs of needed socks. We also received a certain percentage for every pair of socks sold, so we also raised enough money to provide a club foot repair procedure for a student in need.”


4. Give to the animals

Groups can plan toy drives for local animal shelters, bringing all sorts of dog or cat toys to be donated. Attendees can even get in on the action by making dog toys while onsite. FCCLA had some old t-shirts that they repurposed into braided dog toys, which were then donated to a local dog shelter in Nashville.

5. Bring hope to the homeless

Toiletries and basic hygiene items are always needed items at homeless shelters, and they are especially easy to have attendees bring to an event to donate. Planners can set up areas where attendees can drop their donations and set aside a time for attendees to come help box them up before donating. Some groups even have attendees attach kind notes of hope and words of encouragement to help brighten the recipients’ day.

6. Sprint for service

A 5K is always a great addition to an event. Participants can have fun with friends while also knowing their entry fee will make a positive impact on their host city. It doesn’t have to be restricted to the days of the in-person event, either. Thanks to the wonders of modern tech, participants can complete a 5K on their own time and still be part of the group.

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