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Ideas for Leadership Volunteering Activities
OR
Ideas for Creating Your Own Large-Scale Volunteering Activity
This page is for those seeking ideas for the Girl Scouts Gold Award
(or any Journey award related to community service, awareness or advocacy),
the Duke of Edinburgh's Award (U.K.), a mitzvah project, or ANY leadership project
that will lead to a sustainable, lasting benefit to a community or cause.

This page is updated at least monthly!
credits and disclaimer

This page is not an official Girl Scouts, Duke of Edinburgh, or any other nonprofit's page.
This page is one person's entirely individual, voluntary opinion.
You must get approval from your Girl Scout council liaison for a Gold Award idea
.

These ideas are for anyone seeking ways to create or lead a sustainable, lasting benefit to a community, to have a leadership role as a volunteer. All of these projects require you to involve members of the community as volunteers and collaborators to help with the project. Most would require partnerships with other organizations - schools, school groups, civic associations, government programs, nonprofits and others. Completing any of these activities would demonstrate your skills in problem-solving, research, networking, persuasive speaking and consensus-building.

Each activity, as a whole, would require at least 80 hours of work on your part, if done correctly. Many could also be broken down or scaled back into smaller activities. Many of these ideas could become regular yearly events.

These ideas cover activities relating to the arts (theater, dance, photography, painting, music), the environment (including dogs, cats, and other animals/pets), children and youth, seniors / the elderly, low-income people, at-risk people, women, other countries, poverty and more!

These are projects that would meet the new requirements of the Girl Scouts Gold Award and many of the Journey Awards (those related to community service, awareness or advocacy). These projects require the planning and implementation an individual "Take Action" project that reaches beyond the Girl Scout organization and provides a sustainable, lasting benefit to the girl's larger community.

These projects also meet the requirements of the Duke of Edinburgh's Award (U.K.), or a mitzvah project. Successfully undertaking any of these projects would meet the nomination requirements for a state governor's volunteer awards or, perhaps, a nomination for one of the Jefferson Awards for Public Service, such as "Greatest Public Service by an Individual 35 Years or Under."

Successfully undertaking any of these leadership projects would get the attention of a university's admissions office, or, perhaps, a scholarship committee.

These projects are also good for people who are unemployed and looking for a way to engage in volunteering that might lead to employment; any of these projects would get you networking with people representing a variety of professions, and would look great on your résumé. Successfully undertaking such a project would most definitely get the attention of potential employers!

Note: The Girl Scout Advocate Award is earned by Girl Scout Ambassadors who choose to complete the eight Steps to Advocacy as they explore an issue that they find intriguing and exciting, engage community partners and advocate for change. Whether or not their advocacy effort succeeds, girls will have taken steps to make the world a better place! Many of the projects below could be reduced down in order for this Journey award, then built on later for the Girl Scouts Gold Award.

Introduction

Assistance to people and communities can be put into two categories:

  1. relief/aid/comfort, such as giving food, providing emergency shelter, providing emergency medical aid, putting on a show for sick kids to cheer them up, making blankets for children in cancer wards, collecting food for a food bank, etc.)
     
  2. development, such as educating people about HIV/AIDS, educating people about organic farming, providing preventative medical care, educating people about the importance of spaying and neutering pets, creating a community garden that provides food, educates about food production and builds community, etc.).
#1 usually doesn't change anything long-term, nor create a widespread or sustainable change -- it helps just in an immediate moment. Not that that's bad - sometimes, that's exactly what's needed! #2 changes things long-term; it changes people's behavior or changes how people think about something or helps people to not need emergency aid any more or helps create a service or program that can be mobilized quickly to help in emergency situations, as needed. One kind of assistance isn't necessarily better than the other. Some situations call for approach #1, and some call for approach #2.

But don't think that there are strict borders between these two kinds of volunteering; if you volunteered to lead the creation of a program that trains volunteers to help in disaster relief, you would be engaging in BOTH kinds of volunteering. If you created a permanent food bank so people could donate food and others in need could receive it, you would be engaging in BOTH kinds of volunteering. This page is focused on the #2 kind of assistance, but that can mean activities that create relief/aid/comfort on an ongoing basis, not just at one feel-good event.

At the end of this very long list of activities are ideas for how to show your project's impact, how to evaluate the project's effectiveness, how to show what changes your project lead to, etc.

  1. Create a display/presentation or an online video/documentary, and a web site, that helps students at area high schools and junior high schools, Girl Scouts in your area, or the community in general to understand one global human rights issue, such as the fight against female genital mutilation, or the fight for education for girls and why the education and prosperity of girls and women benefits and entire community or country, or child labor, or the global slave trade, etc. Or pick ONE country to focus on regarding the human rights of women and girls. Don't just gather and present statistics; present stories of individual girls or women who have been affected by this issue (you can find profiles on various web sites of NGOs addressing these issues). Put faces to the issue. There may be experts in your area that have experience regarding these issues (Returned Peace Corps Volunteers, former Foreign Service Officers, refugees from a country, etc.) who could be resources for you. Once you have gathered information and testimonials about whatever global human rights issue you want to focus on, identify and emphasize what students or the general public in your area can do to address this issues (writing letters to their congressional representatives and the President expressing their concern, having a fundraiser for a nonprofit that addresses the issue, using their FaceBook status updates to point their network to organizations addressing the issue, staying informed about what's happening, etc.). You could do your customized presentation for communities of faith, civic groups and professional associations, to educate adults about the issues. You could tie your presentation to a full day of activities that would help Girl Scouts get a particular badge. You could blog about your experience as you research whatever issue you choose, and encourage your friends, family and, as applicable, Girl Scouts in your area, to read it, or use your FaceBook status updates to talk about what you are discovering as you research whatever issue you choose, to further educate your friends, family and others about such.

  2. Start a club at your high school that will exist for at least one full year to help students, teachers, administrators and parents understand the importance of empowering girls all over the world, and how girls all over the world are held back because of lack of education, lack of health care, lack of safety and lack of choices. For instance, you could support CARE International, the largest organization in the world supporting women and girls specifically. For girls in the USA only, your club could support Girl Up, a campaign of the United Nations Foundation for girls in the USA. For girls in Canada: your club could support Because I'm a Girl, a Canadian-based campaign to harness "the incredible power that girls and women have... to change the future." There's also the Girl Effect, a nonprofit affiliated with the Nike Foundation to empower girls all over the world, including in developing countries. All of these sites include presentation templates and guidance, mobilization guides and other resources. As a part of your support for any of these campaigns, you could organize an awareness fair where attendees have to engage in activities to get a sense of what life is like for girls living in poverty in developing countries, such as carrying water or firewood a certain distance.

  3. Create a volunteer ambassador program that helps people understand the importance of having their pets spayed or neutered, discourages ownership of exotic pets, counters myths about overpopulation, shows what happens to most animals given to your area animal shelters (most are NOT adopted), warns people to never leave animals in cars EVER, warns people to never leave pets tied up in the yard EVER, and explains what to do if you have a problem pet (obedience classes to take, what NOT to do, etc.). This could include presentations, demonstrations, videos, etc. You could recruit friends, family members and neighbors to volunteer for your program. You would ned to work with local animal shelters and breed rescue organizations, pet fostering programs, etc. to create your activities. Blog about your experience as you research the issue, and encourage your friends, family and, as applicable, Girl Scouts in your area, to subscribe, or use your FaceBook status updates to talk about what you are discovering as you research this issue, to further educate your friends, family and others.

  4. Create a volunteer corps through your local Humane Society, ASPCA, animal shelter, senior center or another existing organization that would help elderly people to be able to keep their pets. It would offer elderly people volunteers to walk their dogs, pet sit for these people when they are hospitalized, provide extra help if the person is bed-ridden, etc. Your sponsoring organization would have to help with your screening process (how will elderly people apply for assistance for this program?) and you will have to identify all possible costs for such a program. You would need to work with Meals on Wheels, your local hospice, and senior services to help identify people who might need this service, and a way to get a volunteer immediately to a person in need. You would also need to create a way to screen volunteers (you should do this through the volunteering program of an existing nonprofit organization, such as your local Humane Society).

  5. Create a pet food pantry, similar to a regular food pantry (for people). Your local food pantry may be interested in hosting such. It would provide pet food for dogs, cats, rabbits and birds for people who cannot afford such. You would need to secure a space for storage of the food, create a policy for distribution, educate your community about how to make donations (just as with human food, pet food would have to be in never-opened packaging, and not be expired), and work with your local Humane Society or ASPCA to create ways to educate pantry users about the importance of spaying and neutering pets, where to find low-cost spaying and neutering clinics, where to find help with pet behavior problems, and other activities that discourage people from taking their pets to animal shelters or neglecting their pets' needs.

  6. Create a volunteer corps that provides new pet owner kits and pet education classes, through your local animal shelter. This is a great opportunity to partner with high school clubs, local civic groups, communities of faith and ethical societies, senior centers and others.

  7. Interview local nonprofit organizations to find information to create a web site that lists at least 25 community service ideas for youth under 16 in your specific city/county/region, allows youth to blog about their experience as volunteers, etc. Do interviews with young people to talk about why and how they would like to volunteer, what challenges they face in trying to volunteer, etc., and post the results of your interviews on this web site. Contact all nonprofits in your area (you can find these at Guidestar.org, in the USA) and let them know about this web site you are building and encourage them to share information on how youth can volunteer with them.

  8. Interview local nonprofit organizations to find information to create a web site that lists at least 20 community service ideas for families with young children to do in your specific city/county/region. Do interviews with parents to talk about why and how they would like to volunteer as a family, what challenges they face in trying to volunteer as a family, etc., and post the results of your interviews on this web site. Contact all nonprofits in your area (you can find these at Guidestar.org, in the USA) and let them know about this web site you are building and encourage them to share information on how families, particularly those with children under 16, can volunteer with them.

  9. Set up a cyber cafe in a retirement home and recruit and train volunteers to help new users connect with information and their loved ones. Interview residents before and after the project to see how Internet access and computer use affects their lives. Volunteers will have to be screened by either the retirement home or a nonprofit organization, to ensure the safety of participants in the program.

  10. Set up a Wii system at a retirement home and recruit and train the residents on how to use Wii for fitness and to maintain mental agility. Recruit other volunteers to help and to lead activities. Volunteers will have to be screened by either the retirement home or a nonprofit organization, to ensure the safety of participants in the program. Interview residents before and after the project to see how playing with Wii games affects their lives (you might want to video tape these interviews and create a video as well to share on YouTube!.

  11. Coordinate with at least three organizations (the high school cheerleading squad, members of a local Tai Chi club, a nursing association, etc.) to create a series of movement classes using music and art at local senior centers lead by volunteers for an entire season (an entire year would be better!). Music has been shown to have a profound impact on seniors, including those with dementia. There is research that says that, after listening to music of personal meaning to them for 10 months, seniors with dementia improved their cognitive skills. Take videos of these classes and of interviews with seniors/elders about their experience in these classes and create a video you share online that shows what the impact is of having such classes for seniors/elders on both them and the volunteers helping them.

  12. Start a bat education program for area youth clubs or schools, and help youth learn both about the importance of bats and how to set up bat boxes. Let your county extension office and any environmental groups in your area know about your activities. Track how many boxes are built.

  13. Create a program for educating parents on the dangers of lead poisoning and present it at community events, communities of faith, civic clubs, your area Girl Scouts Service Unit meeting for leaders, etc. Research about lead poisoning in your community specifically, as well as in general. Blog about your experience as you research the issue, and encourage your friends, family and other Girl Scouts to subscribe, or use your FaceBook status updates to talk about what you are discovering as you research this issue, to further educate your friends, family and other Girl Scouts.

  14. Create a pedestrian safety or bicycle awareness campaign targeted at car and truck drivers, and present it at community events, communities of faith, civic clubs, etc. Research issues relating to pedestrians and bicycle use in your area. Get interviewed for at least one newspaper article and on at least one radio or TV show or newscast. Blog about your experience as you research the issue, and encourage your friends, family and other Girl Scouts to subscribe, or use your FaceBook status updates to talk about what you are discovering as you research this issue, to further educate your friends, family and other Girl Scouts.

  15. Host a bicycle rodeo / fair (your local police department will probably be happy to help!) and a weekly bike train, where students and their parents gather in an agreed-to starting point and bike to school (and are joined by other student riders along the way). Blog about your experience as you research the issue, and encourage your friends, family and other Girl Scouts to subscribe, or use your FaceBook status updates to talk about what you are discovering as you research this issue, to further educate your friends, family and other Girl Scouts.

  16. Explore challenges to people using more mass / public transit and/or bicycles for transportation in your community, and explore ways to address one or more of those challenges. Your city probably has a citizens committee or commission on mass transit or on bicycle use, for instance; attend the meetings of the appropriate committee, look through the reports it has published. Do they have youth representation on the committee, or a subcommittee of youth? Could you start such a committee? Could you recruit other Girl Scouts/other youth/other people to survey riders, bicyclists, neighbors, friends, etc., regarding challenges to using mass transit and/or bicycles for transportation in your community? Could you lead this group to creating a project that addresses a specific challenge, or a series of challenges, to more people using mass transit and/or bicycles for transportation in your community?

  17. Organize a public services fair, if your town or neighborhood doesn't already have such. It would feature displays and activities by the fire department, the police department, your water and sanitation department, companies that provide public utilities and more regarding fire safety, personal safety, water conservation, recycling, call-before-you-dig awareness, etc. Make sure information will be provided in multiple languages, if your community has a significant population that speaks another language. You would also be in charge of marketing the event to the public. Recruit volunteers to help, and create a notebook that details all that needed to be done to create this event, so that it can be used in the future by others, to make the event annual.

  18. Create a series of activities, and even a film/video, that shows why a skate park or BMX track/park contributes to your community, to counter those who say it leads to graffiti, trash and petty crime. Recruiter skaters or bikers to engage in a series of volunteering projects that help the community, and make sure your local newspaper, radio and TV stations know about such. Mobilize skaters or bikers and their parents to clean up the park every week, including recycling bottles and other trash as appropriate. Contact Girl Scouts and other groups to see if you could conduct an "open house" or workshop for their members to learn about safe biking and safe skating. Film people volunteering to do these activities and post these videos on YouTube. Interview city officials, police representatives, neighbors of the park and various people before you begin activities, and then a few months after they start, and see if you have changed perceptions. NOTE: DofE participants won an award in 2011 for their skatepark film.

  19. If your local Goodwill doesn't have such already, help create a program, or even more than one, that can recycle, resell and properly dispose of electronic waste in your community. You would need to identify potential partner organizations who will volunteer their expertise and resources, knowledgeable people willing to donate their service as volunteers, and volunteers willing to help with non-technology issues, to:

    • Help a Goodwill retail store to house donated computers, where they can be de-manufactured, memories can be wiped clean, and either these are resold or parts can be recycled; revenues generated from the sale of these items would help fund Goodwill mission.

    • Help create a residential computer recycling program that offers people in your city an easy, convenient and responsible way to recycle used computer equipment, allowing them to drop off any brand of used equipment at the local Goodwill donation center, and allowing any components that can't be resold or recycled to be properly disposed of.

    • Help a Goodwill retail store have a section of its store specifically for recycled, working computers and other electronics, used software and older software user guides where these items are presented in an appealing manner like at a for-profit store (like BestBuy, for instance) and where knowledgeable volunteers are on hand (that you help recruit) to help customers with computer and electronics questions.

    • Help the store hold classes for its clients to learn how to recycle and refurbish older computers, preload them with free software like the Ubuntu operating system and the free OpenOffice or NeoOffice suites (word processing, spreadsheet, slide show and database)

    • Track how many computers, software, books and other related items come in as a result of your outreach efforts regarding this program, how many people donate, how many items are refurbished, how many items are sold and how much money that raises for the organization; and (4) blog about your experience, and encourage your friends, family and other Girl Scouts to subscribe, and/or use your FaceBook status updates to talk about what you are discovering as you work on this project, to further educate your friends, family and other Girl Scouts. You would also need to document everything, so that someone can easily take over when you are ready to move on.

  20. Work with your local Goodwill store to create a bicycle-refurbishing program, where people bring in used bicycles and they are refurbished by volunteers and those being trained by Goodwill to re-enter the workforce; or seek another nonprofit organization willing to partner with you for this project. You would need to (1) recruit highly-skilled people willing to donate many hours to refurbishing bicycles and willing to train others in how to do this; (2) publicize a particular day and time when bicycles could be dropped off, and where; (3) track how many bicycles come in, how many people donate, how many items are refurbished, how many items are sold and how much money that raises for the organization; and (4) blog about your experience, and encourage your friends, family and other Girl Scouts to subscribe, and/or use your FaceBook status updates to talk about what you are discovering as you work on this project, to further educate your friends, family and other Girl Scouts. You would also need to document everything, so that someone can easily take over when you are ready to move on.

  21. Develop or greatly expand a sports league for girls (or all children) in an under-served area, or even just a week-long sports clinic for girls or for all children. It could be for soccer, skateboarding, golf, basketball - whatever you could generate interest in both for participants and potential supporters.   

  22. Develop an awareness program about breast cancer, cervical cancer, heart disease or other serious, preventable medical condition that affects large numbers of people and present it at community events, communities of faith, civic clubs, etc. Blog about your experience as you research the issue, and encourage your friends, family and other Girl Scouts to subscribe, or use your FaceBook status updates to talk about what you are discovering as you research this issue, to further educate your friends, family and other Girl Scouts.

  23. Do a photography project with young people from a low-income housing project, youth from a high-poverty community, seniors/elders living alone or in a retirement home, people learning to re-enter the workplace, or some other special-needs group, where you teach them to take and present photos about their lives and how they experience the world. You would need to get digital cameras for everyone (what an easy thing to do - a community drive for people to donate their old digital cameras!), teach participants how to take photos and how to take care of the cameras, how to crop photos on a computer, how to present photos on a photo-sharing site like Flickr, how to get permission from people they take photos of, how to label photos properly online, etc. Students could look at each other's photos and talk about what they like of each other's work. You could organize a field trip to a public park or other public place for your students to take photos. You could film the students talking about their experience during the project, learning to use the cameras, using the cameras, etc., and then splice the film together as a video, showing the impact your project had on participants. You could have a virtual photography opening, inviting the press, family members of participants, and city officials to look and comment on the photos.

  24. Create a summer-long/season-long, weekly, all-day sewing event, like what this man does that was profiled on CBS This Morning: he takes a manual sewing machine out onto the poorest section of San Francisco and offers to sew anything for free. Many people that are homeless or barely getting by have things that are ripped or torn and that need sewing: clothes, backpacks, blankets, etc. Yes, they could probably sift through a donation bin and get replacements, but often, just like with anyone, they have an item they prize, and they don't want to throw it away - they want to keep it. Offer coffee, juice and small food items to people while they wait for their items to be sewed. Blog about your efforts every week, describing what you, or your sewing group volunteers, are learning and experiencing through this effort. Talk to a Goodwill store or agency that serves the homeless or people experiencing severe poverty before setting up your table, to discuss appropriate behavior, safety precautions, etc.

  25. Create a historical walking tour or community display for a public space (such as your local court house) or a video regarding something in your community's history that most people don't know about. It could be about the earliest people who lived and hunted in the area, the lives of slaves in the area in the 1800s, the lives of immigrants who came to the area in the early 1900s, what the area experienced during the Great Depression, what the community experienced during the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, a neighborhood that does not exist anymore, a civic movement that swept the area at one time, etc. Focus not just on the era, but the consequences of the area. Have a book or bulletin board where people can write down what they experienced as they took the walking tour or viewed your display.

  26. Interview seniors/elders to create a community display for a public space (such as your local court house), or a web site or an online video regarding something in your community's history: what the area experienced during the Great Depression, what the community experienced during the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, a neighborhood that does not exist anymore, a civic movement that swept the area at one time, etc.

  27. Create a year-long photographic survey of one historic site in your area, and share your work via a web site and with your local historic society. You could host a gallery show of the photos you take and information you gather, and work with the historic society to put on an exhibition of such - perhaps even as a fundraiser for the historic site. For instance, two Girl Scouts in New York City created such for NYC's Franklin Square for their Gold Award: the girls took more than 5,000 photographs around the community of the square: of people, parades, street fairs, houses of worship, architecture, businesses and civic organizations. On Jan. 10, 2010 - which represents the town’s zip code, 11010 - they spent nearly 12 hours, taking more than 2,000 photos throughout the day. They also collected several artifacts, including menus, newspapers and church bulletins on that day. The girls organized all of their photos and artifacts and presented them to the local historical society. Their work may even lead to the publishing a historic book on the subject.

  28. Help a senior residential center set up a pet therapy program where, once a week or twice a month, trained volunteers bring pre-screened dogs and cats to the center to interact with patients. You cannot simply call some people and have them bring their pets; you must look into liability insurance, training for the volunteers, a screening program for pets, etc.

  29. Establish an American Red Cross Club at your high school. Members would go through the volunteer orientation for your local chapter of the Red Cross, and each member would agree to donate a certain number of hours every month to a Red Cross activity, and members would promote volunteering opportunities with the Red Cross to everyone at your high school and their families. Each chapter of the Red Cross involves volunteers in a variety of ways. Many chapters are looking for volunteers to help with warming centers in the winter, for instance, for the overflow from homeless shelters on days and nights that are at or below freezing (and unlike most homeless shelters, these often allow the homeless to bring their pets). Some of your group's members could volunteer in the office just a few hours a month or help at a Red Cross special event. Some of your members could be volunteers that are on call to help people who have lost their home to a fire. You could train to become a CPR/First Aid trainer. Some of your members could be a volunteer driver, taking people with mobility issues to medical appointments. Find your local chapter of the American Red Cross and look at their web site for information about volunteering. Each member of your club will have to attend an onsite orientation and, depending on the assignment, some training.

  30. Be inspired by the example of Enerys Pagan, Gold Award Recipient in Puerto Rico: she launched Jóvenes Científicos por Puerto Rico, partnering with 20 institutions, including three of Puerto Rico’s top universities, to provide her peers with resources needed to fully develop their STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) potential. Students who have participated in her STEM seminars and workshops have qualified for top awards in science competitions, as well as had their research published in a scientific magazine. Additionally, through her Facebook page, which has more than 875 followers, students have found a meeting place, where they can present their questions and receive answers and other support.

  31. Be inspired by the example of Gold Award recipient Julie Averbach of New Jersey, who wrote, edited, and published Adventures From My World (AFMW), a comic book to support siblings of individuals with special needs. Specifically, AFMW helps siblings to express their emotions and recognize they are not alone in the hardships and joys they encounter. More than 8,000 copies are currently being distributed through hospitals, community support organizations, sibling support groups, schools, and psychology practices in 18 states as well as in Canada, Brazil, England, and Australia. The Rutgers University Social Skills Program has not only adopted Adventures From My World for its support groups but has collaborated with Julie to offer interactive workshops..

  32. Be inspired by the example of Gold Award recipient Sadhana Anantha of North Carolina. During the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa, Sadhana realized that most kids are unaware of how science is related to global issues around the world. To give students a chance to explore certain topics not taught in school and see how they apply to the real world, she partnered with the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences to create a mock Ebola testing lab simulation. The lab introduced many students to clinical science, as well as methods used to combat diseases such as the Zika virus. One of Sadhana’s middle school students placed second at the North Carolina Science and Engineering Fair. Sadhana’s simulation is successful as a current recurring exhibit in the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences’ micro lab.

  33. Be inspired by the example of Gold Award recipient Ayana Watkins of California, who organized a symposium in her hometown of Sacramento, “Education Matters in Black Lives,” to address the need for African American students to pursue excellence in education. The symposium provided more than 200 underserved students in grades 7–12 and their parents with direct exposure to college professors, admission officers, community activists, and current college students of color. Students were able to walk away with the feeling that attending college is not just a dream, but a necessity in combating the ills of poverty and social injustice.

  34. Be inspired by the example of Gold Award recipient Hannah Gadd of Kentucky, who created a documentary titled “Heroin: Drug of Sorrow,” targeting 12- to 20-year-olds. After losing an uncle to a heroin overdose, Hannah aimed to educate and raise awareness about the drug epidemic in her community, while providing educational resources for teachers and community organizations to use in the fight against addiction. Hannah’s project was approved to be added to her school district’s video library; and through a community viewing party, which included school board members and local state representatives, it played an integral role in the proposal of a bill addressing the need for additional drug education in all Kentucky schools.

  35. Be inspired by the example of Gold Award recipient Sarah Greichen of Colorado, who created Score A Friend, a nonprofit organization that supports Unified Clubs for kids, building inclusion in schools and communities. As her twin brother has an autism spectrum disorder, Sarah knows firsthand what it’s like for kids with disabilities to experience isolation from other students. With Score A Friend Clubs, and with support from Special Olympics, she aimed to connect schools with community providers and create opportunities for Unified Sports, Unified Friendships, and Unified Elective Courses. Currently Sarah has established four Score A Friend Clubs—two in her hometown of Denver, one at Louisiana State University, and one at Northern Arizona University. The Score A Friend website features information and materials to help others start clubs in their communities. With her project, Sarah has educated thousands of students, teachers, and administrators about inclusion issues kids with disabilities face, and innovative new approaches to building more inclusive programs..

  36. Organize a chapter of SADD and plan a campaign for safe graduation parties in your community with representatives from the different high schools.

  37. Start a community clothes closet for women seeking employment. You would need to find a place to host this, find organizations to refer women to the resource, recruit volunteers to staff the site and help women make appropriate clothing choices, etc.

  38. Create a tax clinic for low-income people. These high school students in Monticello High School in upstate New York did.

  39. Create a financial literacy program for low-income people, so they can understand how to save money, how to budget, how to stay out of debt, how to get out of debt, how to fund university education for their children, etc. Or for middle school and high school students regarding how to save money, how to budget, how to stay out of debt, how to save for college, how to save for retirement, etc. Volunteers from financial institutions, particularly credit unions, may have a financial literacy course already available, or may be willing to lead an existing financial literacy curriculum. There are lots of ready-to-use curricula, as well as nonprofits focused on this issue that you can partner with.

  40. Become a GoodGuides Youth Mentor through Goodwill, and promote the program at your school, within any youth groups you are a part of, and a community of faith, if you have one, to recruit even more volunteers. GoodGuides is a national mentoring program at 56 Goodwill agencies in 38 states serving young people between the ages of 12 and 17. These young people are matched with adults or peer mentors -- that means other young ages of 12 and 17 -- who help the youth realize their potential and prepare for their future.

  41. Train a guide dog for the blind or other population with disabilities and educate others about the project. Blog about your experience as you engage in this activity and encourage your friends, family and other Girl Scouts to subscribe, or use your FaceBook status updates to talk about what you are discovering as you engage in this activity, to further educate your friends, family and other Girl Scouts.

  42. Write, cast, and direct a play to promote community conflict resolution, and present it at community events, communities of faith, civic clubs, etc.

  43. Organize a large group of volunteers to remove invasive plants in a designated area, working with your county extension office or city or state parks officials. Volunteers should receive a briefing on why invasive plants are bad and what they can do after the event day to help keep invasive plants out of the community. Document this activity so that the park can sponsor this volunteering activity annually, even when you are no longer involved with such. Get press coverage and take lots of photos and share them on a site like Flickr, with links to information about invasive plants in your area.

  44. Plan, mark, clear and create a new hiking trail (or update an old one) in a city or state park. For instance, when I was at the Lewis and Clark Trail State Park in Washington state, I noticed an information panel behind the park's camping facilities, and on closer inspection, it turned out to be information for the start of a small hike to show the edible plants in the park. But the information was quite faded, and the information needed an update. What a great opportunity for a volunteer! And what about creating such a trail and display in a state park near YOU? Call or stop by your local state park and propose the idea. Blog about your experience as you engage in this activity and encourage your friends, family and other Girl Scouts to subscribe, or use your FaceBook status updates to talk about what you are discovering as you engage in this activity, to further educate your friends, family and other Girl Scouts.

  45. Work with your county extension office, your nearest state park, your local Sierra Club chapter and other environmental-focused groups to create an endangered specifics education program for the community, or even that would target specific groups (community groups, communities of faith and ethical societies, middle school students, seniors, etc.). Use lesson plans, curricula and presentations from other groups and create a web site that links all of these together, for access by anyone, any time.

  46. Help to save a city park, state park, state camp site or local historic site that is threatened with closing by budget cuts or lack of interest. So many of such sites are on the verge of closing because they don't have the money to continue - there's probably more than one such site in or near your neighborhood. Research these sites in and near your home. Talk to staff and volunteers at these sites about the threats they are facing. Look for newspaper articles that have been written about the sites in the last two years (your local library can help). Then pick one to support, and work with the staff to create an awareness campaign about why the site is important and to encourage volunteering and financial support for the site.

  47. Look at what is offered your state's Department of Fish and Wildlife in terms of public education programs about the outdoors, then look at the programs of other states; is there a program in another state that you wish was offered in your state? For instance: nest box building and monitoring, stream habitat restoration, workshops to teach introductory hunting, fishing or camping skills or safety (including to specific groups, like families, teens or women), aquatic conservation and stewardship, ethical conduct outdoors, or water safety? If so, find out the details for that specific program in another state - what activities are offered, how volunteers are involved, how many staff people administer the program, etc. - and explore how you, working with others, might be able to start this same program in your state, even with just a small pilot project.

  48. Help people address their problems with plastic waste. Mobilize a community to clean up plastic bottles, plastic bags and other plastic waste from their environment, and to reduce their use of such items in the future. You could do a demonstration project in conjunction with your awareness campaign, like building a structure out of discarded plastic bottles, or making highly-durable, fashionable bags out of discarded plastic bags. Here are photos of Peace Corps volunteers in Guatemala who used thousands of discarded plastic bottles to construct schools and community centers, and here are details about their project, including tips on how to do such a project yourself. And here are lots more ideas of DIY projects you could do using plastic bags or bottles to make items.

  49. Create a community garden targeting people living in apartments, people living in houses with no yard, seniors/elders, nonprofits needing activities for those they serve (people with disabilities, at-risk youth, people in recovery from addiction, etc.). Or, mobilize volunteers for a community garden from a variety of other organizations and groups and focus all of the food production on providing for your local food pantry.

  50. Create a community gleaning program, where volunteers go to the homes of people with fruit trees in the spring and pick all of their apples, pears, plums, and other fruit (with prior permission, of course!), and bring it to a central location to be donated to a local food bank.

  51. Be inspired by the example of Gold Award recipient Jayleigh Amstutz of Kentucky, who created Pantry to Table, a cookbook for a local food pantry based on food most often available in the pantries. She concentrated specifically on creating recipes including the food that may seem tricky or people don’t know how to cook. This helped the clients of the food bank try new, healthier options, and it helped the food bank have a higher turnover of those foods people were afraid to try. She also gave a demonstration of cooking the items for the clients.

  52. Recruit volunteers and lead an effort to create a dog park - even better, two parks, one large main one, and one smaller one for small and timid dogs. The dog park will need a place to park right next to it, and in the park, there will need to be a water source, a couple of picnic tables, and plenty of grass cover (and even bark chips). The effort to create Thatcher dog park in Forest Grove, Oregon was lead by a Boy Scout doing his Eagle Scout project.

  53. Recruit volunteers and lead an effort to create a sculpture or other public art project in your city that commemorates some historical event in your city, or that celebrates science. For instance, your city probably has lots of memorials for soldiers, but what about civil rights workers? Or slaves that built key buildings in your city? Or suffragettes? Or you could lead an effort to create a sun dial and/or a solar calendar, and encourage classes, community groups and others to help design it, submit tiles to decorate it, etc., and create a web site associated with the site that promotes science. Both of these projects would bring different groups in the community together and help educate the community about history or science.

  54. Create an aviary targeting people living in apartments, people living in houses with no yard, seniors/elders, nonprofits needing activities for those they serve (people with disabilities, at-risk youth, people in recovery from addiction, etc.). This shouldn't just be something nice to look at; it should involve those people in the building and sustaining of the aviary, and educate people about the needs of birds in captivity and in the wild.

  55. It takes more than just a willing group of volunteers to successfully pull off community improvement projects, from renovating homes for seniors to planting trees in parks. These groups also need tools - hammers, saws, rakes, shovels and more. You could create a community tool bank that makes these tools available to organizations and volunteers; there are such programs in Charlotte, North Carolina and Atlanta, Georgia.

  56. Create a community theater group or an entire theater festival with at least three performances and a central theme. It could be with just teen performers and be for the entire community or focused specifically on teens. Or it could be a company of only seniors/the elderly. Or it could be focused only on children - either children doing the performances or the performances being focused on children (author's note: I co-formed a theater company in my home town; it lasted two summers, and we got funding for play performance rights and costume rental from our city's arts council). Your goal is to create a theater group that doesn't just produce one or two performances; it would need to produce two or three plays in performance, or continue in even after you move on. The goal of your theater must be more than just to put on a show; it should be to introduce children to live theater, or to allow the community to come together and experience live performance together, or to give the community a new way of looking at seniors/elders or some other group, etc.

  57. Organize a one day conference to discuss dating safety and self defense, or online safety, with middle and high school girls. You would be in charge of recruiting and preparing the volunteers who would provide the training (and ensuring they had properly registered with Girl Scouts), finding a location for the event, publicity, getting permission from your Girl Scout service unit for the event, etc.

  58. Start a Senior Women's Basketball League, also known as a "Granny Basketball League," or create and carry out a plan to increase the number of players and fans for an existing league. Granny Basketball Leagues and similar groups are already scattered throughout the USA, including California, Connecticut, Iowa, Louisiana, New Mexico, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C.

  59. Create a voter-registration drive to reach people in your community who, traditionally, have not been registered to vote. Talk to your local newspaper and your local registrar of voters to ask what groups vote and what groups don't. People 18 - 30? People of certain neighborhoods? People of certain economic levels? Develop activities that will encourage under-represented groups to register to vote, and then to actually vote. This will involve surveying people about why they aren't registered to vote or do not vote, outreach activities, partnering with groups and organizations, and working with the registrar of voters to see how your efforts have impact.

  60. Develop an anti-bullying program that includes a drama component and peer counselors. Blog about your experience as you engage in this activity and encourage your friends, family and other Girl Scouts to subscribe, or use your FaceBook status updates to talk about what you are discovering as you engage in this activity, to further educate your friends, family and other Girl Scouts.

  61. Create a local teen chapter of PFLAG, or the Gay-Straight Alliance and use booths at community events and awareness programs at communities of faith, civic clubs, etc. to educate people about the issues faced by gay teens. Blog about your experience as you engage in this activity and encourage your friends, family and other Girl Scouts to subscribe, or use your FaceBook status updates to talk about what you are discovering as you engage in this activity, to further educate your friends, family and other Girl Scouts.

  62. Create a literacy program for a women's prison in your area. It would need to be well-documented and robust enough to survive you moving on eventually from the program.

  63. Organize classes for immigrants that want to learn English and how to navigate life in the USA. These classes need to meet at least twice weekly and provide childcare. You would need to find teachers, get grants to pay them or arrange for them to volunteer their services, find a place to hold the classes, market the classes to immigrant communities, and measure the success of the classes.

  64. Start regular bilingual conversation experiences between native English speakers and native speakers of another language. Survey people before and after to see what their language needs are and if those needs are being met, as well as their culturally-understanding before and after participation.

  65. Start a literacy program for expectant parents and those raising a child up to three years old, to help them with their reading skills and to encourage them to read to their children every day, which will prepare their children for kindergarten. You would organize partnerships, fundraising, and volunteers to make this happen.

  66. Create a summer reading program / book club designed to help young people maintain and expand their reading abilities and their interest in books outside of school.

  67. Create a campaign to create "little free libraries" throughout your community: enclosed boxes that often look like tiny houses with clear front doors, which people can open and take and leave books. Different "little free libraries" could have themes: one could be just for children's books, for instance. Another could be just for foreign-language books. Recruit businesses and home owners to build and put such libraries outside their businesses or homes - and lead by example by doing one yourself outside your own home. Recruit and train volunteers to regularly check on these "little free libraries" to ensure they are clean, haven't been vandalized, etc. Here's an example of this type of program.

  68. Organize a group of other Girl Scouts, your friends or other students to volunteer to support UNICEF. UNICEF's online Volunteer Center provides activity toolkits and speaker resources to help you conduct awareness-building and fundraising activities in your community.

  69. Find and create volunteering activities that can be done by, rather than for, children, young adults, women or other people who are in treatment for or recovering from cancer, and help these people access those volunteering activities. When someone is facing or has faced cancer, volunteering can help a person feel normal and valued parts of the community, with something to offer others beyond their sickness or recovery. The program would need to be well-documented and robust enough to survive you moving on eventually from the program.

  70. Create a day-long summit that brings together people of different faiths to engage in activities so that they both understand each other better and will want to collaborate together hold further such summits. Work with churches, mosques, temples and other faith-based communities to create this day-long event that promotes understanding and respect. You could also include people who are secular humanists and atheists, so that their non-based faith perspective is also represented, understood and respected.

  71. Are their particular parts of your city or neighborhood's history that are under-represented? For instance, does the description on your city's official web site regarding your city's beginnings start with when Europeans or people of European-descent first arrived and settled there, rather than the native American tribes that once lived and hunted there? If there is a historic home in your community that gives tours, and there were African-American slaves that lived on that estate ever, are there descriptions of their lives and circumstances on the tour? Look at how the history of your community or neighborhood is portrayed, and look for ways that history could be presented by official text, by historical tours, even by a historical marker, so that a significant experience by a person from a minority community, or that entire minority community is not overlooked. You will need to do  research, reach out to scholars who have knowledge you need, talk with various civic groups (and probably religious groups), and gain support for your effort from a coalition of people.

  72. Create an Accessibility Internet Rally (AIR) in your area. An Accessibility Internet Rally is a web design competition that brings together volunteers and nonprofits, and increases their awareness -- as well as the general public's -- of the tools and techniques that make the Internet accessible to everyone - including people with disabilities. The primary goal of AIR is to both raise public awareness of disability issues and the importance of inclusion through accessible technology, and to turn web designers into advocates in their own companies and organizations for accessible technology. Holding AIR events means that accessibility will be incorporated into hundreds of corporate and nonprofit web sites in the future. You would have to raise money to be able to purchase the support of the nonprofit organization Knowbility in order to hold the event (they provide the training and the event model), secure a donated space with computers and Internet access to hold training and the one-day web-building event, and secure a partnership with a local nonprofit organization or business to sponsor the event, helping you to cultivate donations, volunteers, nonprofit participants and media interest, etc.

  73. Create an edit-a-thon, where you get a group of people together to edit Wikipedia to help improve particular content. For instance, look at how your city or neighborhood is represented on Wikipedia. Is there information lacking? If so, contact your local historical society and propose how you could organize a group of volunteers to help improve how your city or neighborhood is represented on Wikipedia. For instance, for the Wikipedia entry for my home town back in Kentucky, the history starts in the 18th century - yet, there were settlements here, of American Indians/Native Americans, prior to that. It's also lacking information about civil rights-related events in the city, which were substantial. Using the historical society resources and the local library, a group of volunteers could spend a few hours improving the entry for the town with this and more, through research, writing, and working with the historical society staff.

  74. Create an education program for your community about suicide prevention, about resources available for people contemplating suicide, about resources available for those who have lost a loved one or associate to suicide, and about how suicide affects your community.

  75. Create an education program for your community about suicide prevention, about resources available for people contemplating suicide, about resources available for those who have lost a loved one or associate to suicide, and about how suicide affects your community.

  76. Create a mock disaster drill, for response to a gas explosion at a high school, a massive earth quake, etc., with local Red Cross, police/fire/EMS and your local hospital. Have some student participants who are “injured” in gory makeup, students who pretend to speak only Spanish or ASL, etc. Then facilitate a full debrief/problem-solving meeting with the school administration and the emergency personnel. Note: this really was a Girl Scout Gold Award project, by @DrLaraCox, who said via an interview on Twitter, “The heads of all those orgs turned to us for input & took ours as seriously as their own. Made a huge impression on me. Both in terms of wanting to do things worthy of that kind of respect, & the importance of offering it to all others equally. Inspired me!”

  77. Create a group volunteering effort that mobilizes various people to transcribe the podcasts and online videos for a nonprofit organization that uses video and audio to train volunteers, educate the public, and/or build the capacities of a certain target audience. This will make the materials accessible for people with hearing impairments, as well as to people who prefer to read information rather than view it or listen to it, people who don't have time to listen or watch a program but do have time to read it, people who are in an environment where others would be disturbed by audio coming from their computer, etc. The volunteers you mobilize will need to be excellent listeners and typists, or will need to have speech-to-text software that they know how to use. You will also need for volunteers to check each other's work, to make sure transcriptions have been done correctly.

  78. Create a half day or all day group volunteering opportunity for 15 or more Girl Scouts under 13 years old, that could be easily organized every year after you are no longer involved in the activity. Most Girl Scout leaders struggle greatly to find community service activities for their troop members under 12. Work with your local United Way, your local arts organizations, your nearest state park or any nonprofit organization to create such an activity, or look through the list above and think about how some of the activities could be accessible for girls under 13. Survey the girls about their views about helping their communities both before and after the event, to see if the activity helps to inspire them to help again in the future, or if their views about the importance of community service changes for the better as a result of their participation. Also see this advice on group volunteering, and this resource on volunteering activities for young people.

  79. Create a multi-Badge Day for Junior Girl Scouts in your service unit, where Junior Girl Scouts could engage in activities in two-three hours in one location and earn at least two badges at the end of the day, where several people from the community -- even other clubs and organizations -- are involved in delivering the activities for the girls, and that somehow educates or addresses a community, human or environmental issue you care about and think others should know about as well. Go through an old Junior Badge book and pick two of the badges that you think you could create/co-create the necessary activities for, with the help of volunteers that you would recruit from among friends, family, troop leaders, Girl Scouts parents and the community (but note that any volunteers you recruit will have to be officially-registered Girl Scouts volunteers, complete with criminal background check). Remember that you must tie the badges/activities to somehow educating or addressing a community, human or environmental issue you care about and think others should know about as well. You would be in charge of picking the activities, recruiting and preparing the volunteers (and ensuring they had properly registered with Girl Scouts), finding a location for the event, publicity, and getting permission from your Girl Scout service unit for the event. Over the years, there have been more than 100 Junior badges -- that's more than 100 ideas for your Gold or Silver Award (with all the possible combinations of two or more badges); even as Girl Scouts of the USA transitions into its new "Journeys" program, many troops are still awarding badges - and older versions of the badge books are still great ideas for projects. No matter what your interest -- animals, photography, fashion, the environment -- you can find Girl Scout badges in older books relating to these activities - and you do NOT have to be a Girl Scout to adapt one for your big project. If you are a Girl Scout, document everything you do in a notebook, to share with other Girl Scouts and leaders who may decide they would like to do something similar. Even if you aren't a Girl Scout, blog about your experience as you put together this event, and encourage your friends, family and others to subscribe, and/or use your FaceBook status updates to talk about what you are discovering as you work on this project, to further educate your friends, family and others.

You can also try looking through the volunteering opportunities that are posted to all the major volunteer matching web sites. Look for opportunities for projects that would meet the requirements of a Girl Scouts Gold or Silver Awards or whatever leadership volunteering award you are trying to achieve:

    If you find a nonprofit you would like to help, but don't see a volunteering opportunity listed at that organization that would fit the requirements of the leadership volunteering award/experience you are pursuing, but you have an idea for such a project, or, call the organization directly and tell them what you would like to do as a volunteer. You can find every registered nonprofit in your zip code using Guidestar; if a nonprofit sounds interesting to you, type its name into Google, look at its web site or call the organization, and propose your volunteering idea. Tell them that your idea is in support of your Girl Scout Gold or Silver Award, the Duke of Edinburgh's Award, etc.

    Still not enough ideas for you? Really? Okay then: Texas, Oregon, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine and various other states have annual Governor's Volunteer Awards (in California, it's called the Governor and First Lady's Service Award), recognizing group and individual volunteer efforts. Look online for profiles of past winners, especially youth and teen winners and group winners. Look at their award-winning projects. Is there one that you could replicate or adapt in your community?

    STILL not enough ideas for you? The Girl Scouts of the USA blog profiled several recent Gold Awards. The projects included restoring a historical garden, creating a documentary film, a book drive/awareness day regarding the plight of women and children in Uganda, an awareness campaign regarding Alzheimer's disease using a family's personal experience with the disease, saving a historical structure, and a campaign to promote the importance of good nutrition. Here's another article about recent Girl Scout Gold Award winners meeting the President, and it includes descriptions of their projects.

    Still not enough ideas for you? Really? Seriously? Sigh.... Okay, look at the individual web sites for Girl Scouts of the USA council offices, Boy Scouts of America council offices, etc. Look at what other people have done for Gold Awards, Eagle Scout projects, etc. Look at those projects - is there one that you could replicate or adapt in your community?

    And if all of this still isn't enough to give you an idea... then maybe you need to re-evaluate whether or not you should do such a leadership project.

    What it means to lead

    For any activity you choose, you would be in charge of

    • gathering data to show that your project will address some kind of issue in your community or a community abroad (this can come from city, county, federal or UN-agency reports or data, from interviews with/testimonials from appropriate officials or experts, etc.; your local library can help you know where to look for data)
    • identifying all the tasks that need to be done to complete your project, from beginning to end
    • recruiting volunteers to help; this includes volunteers with particular expertise, depending on the project
    • preparing the volunteers who will be involved and ensuring they have properly registered with Girl Scouts if they are going to come in contact with any Girl Scouts other than yourself, or that they have been screened and background checked if they will work with anyone other than yourself (you can do this by asking them to become registered Girl Scout volunteers, or asking them to register as volunteers through a nonprofit organization that you will partner with for your project - but only if this nonprofit organization does background checks on volunteers, because not all do!)
    • approaching organizations to partner with (nonprofits, civic clubs, government agencies, communities of faith and secular societies, etc.) in developing and delivering the activities
    • finding a location for any event you plan
    • publicity
    • getting all necessary permissions from your Girl Scout service unit, council office, partner organizations, etc. IN WRITING

    You have to show impact for your project. How do you do that?:

    • Blog about your experience as you engage in whatever activity you choose for your Gold award, mitzvah project, DoE award, etc., and encourage your friends, family and other Girl Scouts to subscribe to your blog. Or, use your FaceBook status updates to talk about what you are discovering as you engage in the activity. Talk about challenges you face, what you accomplish, how you have to change your plans as you go along, etc. This documents your activities for many years to come, increases awareness about whatever cause you are focusing on, and helps to create greater impact for your efforts.

    • Identify and employ methods to evaluate the impact of your project. For instance, do interviews with participants -- both those being served and volunteers -- to understand how their attitudes evolve and their knowledge about a particular issue is built as they participate in your project. Interview them before AND after the project - otherwise, you won't be able to show how their perceptions have changed! You could even ask participants to take a survey before and after the project, to see if you changed any minds or behaviors. Present the results of these interviews in written form (for instance, on your blog, or in a report you publish online) or through an edited video that you share online.

    • Think about ways to sustain the project after you have moved on. Will the organizations and volunteers you involved in your project continue the activities after you have finished your involvement? Will the organizations and volunteers you involved in your project incorporate any of the activities into their own activities or work? Will any videos or reports or blogs you have produced stay available online for anyone to read or watch and learn from for at least a year?

    • If your project is completed successfully, and you feel it's particularly outstanding, you can talk to your adult liaison/advisor about nominating you or your group for a governor's volunteer award - or, if you are an adult, nominating yourself! Texas, Oregon, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine and various other states have annual Governor's Volunteer Awards (in California, it's called the Governor and First Lady's Service Award), recognizing group and individual volunteer efforts. Look online for profiles of past winners, especially youth and teen winners and group winners. Look at their award-winning projects. Is your project as outstanding?

    • In the USA, if any of the organizations you help as a volunteer are registered with the President's Volunteer Service Award, you can look into getting such an award for your service. However, you can only use volunteering at one organization for the award. Also, the President's Volunteer Service Award web site is SUPER hard to use -- good luck with it.

    NOTE: New guidelines have been developed for the Girl Scouts Gold Award. See the official Girl Scouts of the USA web site for more information.

    If you found this page helpful, let others know:

    Also see

    If you use my page to create a program or event, please contact me after you have finished the event or program and let me know how it turned out, what program you picked, the address of your blog, etc.. This will help me improve the page.

    The page you are reading now is not an official Girl Scouts page.
    This page is one person's entirely individual, voluntary opinion.
    You must get approval from your Girl Scout council liaison for your Gold or Silver Award Idea
    .

 


 The Last Virtual Volunteering Guidebook,  available for purchase as a paperback and an ebook from Energize, Inc.
or as a paperback from Amazon or as a Kindle book from Amazon.
This book is for both organizations new to virtual volunteering, as well as for organizations already involving online volunteers who want to improve or expand their programs.
The last chapter of the book is especially for online volunteers themselves.
 

Also see:
 
Exploring Leadership: For College Students Who Want to Make a Difference  
 

The Most Good You Can Do


Doing Good Better: How Effective Altruism  



 
Also see


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