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Community service programs
It appears that the heyday of the community service programs has arrived; not just because they can be incredibly successful and bond a community together, but also because they may be our only available resource when faced with financial constraints.Public sector employees are especially aware of the need for community support, both in deed and dollars. To turn that need into change requires mobilizing a group of individuals, businesses or grantors to assist in meeting a common goal using both a creative and analytical approach.

Try following a few of these ideas to successfully launch and implement a community service program:

Define the need and the population you will serve.
It often only takes a visit to case managers, receptionists or community outreach departments to determine what groups of people have needs that aren’t being met by current programs. These are your “frontline” folks and it’s likely that they are bombarded daily by requests for assistance they can’t fulfill. They will appreciate your sincere interest in the frustrations they are facing, and your willingness to hear their ideas about how to close the shortfalls in the system.

With identified groups and their un-met needs in mind, the research to formalize a plan and build consensus can begin. Many communities or community foundations sponsor “life studies,” or “quality of life surveys” that pinpoint current and emerging needs in your area. These reports are a great resource because the information contained within is likely to already be on the radar of your community’s leaders and ambassadors—they’ll be a receptive audience when you are ready to implement your programs.

Now that you’ve defined the un-met need and the persons who are affected, you’re ready to step into action.

Implementing and promoting a community service program
A creative and powerful case statement is instrumental in galvanizing your supporters, both internally and in the community. The same can be said for slogans and logos. Seek the support of those who share your passion for your program. Ask for their input and honest analysis of your efforts. When you’ve nailed it, it’s time to share it with the world. A great way to do this is to create program awareness banners and place them in strategic locations.

If your program could benefit from the partnership of a group of community leaders or business people, consider creating an advisory board or committee. This group’s role is to advise your organization and offer support in many of the same ways a board of directors would; however, an advisory committee does not have any legal responsibilities.

Jan Masaoka, Editor of Blue Avocado, suggests the following guidelines when establishing an advisory board:

  • Provide advisory board members with a written description of your expectations and their role within your community service program.
  • Consider appointing an “Advisory Committee Chair” who can fulfill the role of spokesperson for your organization within the community.
  • Be prepared to allocate the time required. Your committee will look to you to steer them in the right direction and you don’t want them to feel ignored.

Let your advisory committee members carry the program’s message with them everywhere they go with professional imprinted padfolios.

Keep the momentum going!
Introduce your program to the media, including newspapers, television stations, radio stations, websites and social media sites. You can accomplish this by sending or posting press releases. If you have an advisory committee or volunteers, provide them with copies and ask them for help spreading the word on their personal social networking sites.

Host or attend events whose audience is a strong match for your message. Be prepared to market your program by handing out novelty items, such as push-action key lights or banner pens.

Recruit volunteers to help you manage basic tasks, such as keeping brochures stocked or fulfillment of mailings. Find special ways to say thank you, like a magnetic photo frame that says thank you with your company’s logo on it.

While building a successful community service program may be intensely time-consuming, the results of your hard work can be long-lasting, often affecting multiple generations in positive ways. Consider parenting programs, smoking cessation campaigns or recycling awareness projects as examples of the impact that has been made by community service programs.

In today’s world, whether your work is in the public or private sector, one thing is certain: The combination of being tasked to do more with less time and money will require you to think outside of the box. A community service program can provide a collaborative and inclusive solution to some of the deficits you are facing.
Board Café, August 23, 2010, by Jan Masaoka.

Best of the Board Café, Second Edition by Jan Masaoka.

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