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Service Projects

Activity Overview: Service is something that every group should get involved in. If we're going to say we're good without god, we better do some good to back it up. Additionally, service projects build group solidarity, improve the image of freethinkers on and off campus, and make you eligible for awards from your school and the SSA. While this doesn't cover every kind of service project, it's intended as a generic guide to the important steps.

Planning timeframe: Before your semester starts, take a look at the school calendar. The farther you plan in advance, the higher your chance of success, and the better your 'claim' to the date and the idea. Your choice of date will be affected by a number of factors, but be sure to ask yourself what timeframe you want for the project: will it be a fixed length of time (e.g. a fundraiser for Doctors Without Borders), or something ongoing, perhaps regular (e.g. cleaning up a highway)?

Furthermore, if your project is complex or controversial, planning far in advance is essential; it will allow you to work out problems, and prevent a hostile administration from shutting it down.

Coordinating: A successful project must build off of the cohesion and skills already present in your group. You'll also need to assess the number of members who will commit to the project. The fewer who can or will, the more work for the rest, the more you have to scale it back, or the more likely you'll need to abandon it altogether. Don't embark on something too big and complex!

Material requirements: Of course, this will vary widely on the project you pick, but in general you'll need a banner to advertise your group, as well as literature to explain the project, your group, or freethought more generally. If you're collecting money, see if you can borrow a cashbox from your student union.

Cooperating Organizations: Most universities have service-oriented groups that are always looking for volunteers; consider assisting in one of their projects, especially if you have a small or new group. In any case, you should look at them and their activities to make sure you aren't duplicating their mission!

A long list of secular issues groups, as well as non-religious, non-proselytizing charities, can be found under Non-Religious Charities & Non-Profits section. For any organization you work for, be sure beforehand that they need your help. That is, you want to make sure that the organization exists, that it needs help, and that what you donate will go to the cause itself. You can investigate charities and how they spend money here.

Finally, talk to local freethought groups, both off-campus and at other schools. They may be able to support you materially, physically, or organizationally.

Suggested Walkthrough:

  1. Your first goal is to choose a message and goal. What impact, big or small, should your project have on the campus/community/region/country? Think about recent events and capitalize on them. Your goal should be realistic, based on the size of your membership and their commitment.
    1. Keep in mind that, as a freethought group, you may be judged differently from others, and your project may have political consequences.
  2. Delegate tasks to members based on their skills, talents, and capacities. Members should take on tasks that they are competent and familiar with. Be realistic, but don't be afraid to let people take on a challenge; this may well encourage them to take on a leadership role in the future.
  3. Find out from your student activities department if there are restrictions on collecting money or supplies. Clear these before going further.
  4. Advertise your project to your campus. Let them know what you're doing and why; when doing so, think of your target audience in terms of your project's goals. Write a press release to gain media attention. See your Group Running Guide for more specific tips and techniques.
    1. If your project is controversial, or intended to help an organization deemed objectionable by some (e.g., Planned Parenthood), be prepared to take criticism and respond to it. But don't get bogged down in defending yourself.
  5. If you're tabling, have information available about your project, your group, and freethought. A group leader should be around when tabling, or staffing an event.
  6. When your project is over, be sure to thank your volunteers, coordinators, donors and participants!
  7. After your project, make an inventory of the money or supplies you've collected. Did you reach your goal? If not, or if you were very successful, you may consider extending the length of your project.
  8. After getting the money and supplies you've collected, follow-up make sure that they get to the organization you're working for. If they sit around in storage, the project hasn't made any impact!
  9. Write a press release or an article about the project. It should include information on how successful it was, and should highlight that it was organized by a freethought group.
    1. Let your student activities department know about your project - some give recognition to outstanding service projects by campus groups.
  10. Contact the SSA's campus organizer, and let her know about your project. With her, you can work out what and why the event was successful, and how to make it better in the future. You can also apply for a Best Award, which can nab you a plaque and check!
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