How to gather your friends to volunteer for a good cause

Our Giving Guide project has helped us try so many ways to give back, like guerrilla compliments, giving small, and choosing how to give. Some of our best experiences have been volunteer field trips to work alongside The Evergrey community for reader-recommended nonprofits. Together, we took on building tiny houses at Lake Union Village and feeding folks with Farestart, and we can’t wait to do more.

The Evergrey volunteer field trip
We partnered up with the Low Income Housing Institute and met up with a bunch of you to help put some finishing touches on tiny houses in Lake Union Village, Seattle’s 10th tiny home community. The village is expected to open to residents in October. (📸The Evergrey)

If you’re itching to get hands-on with your city, maybe it’s time for your crew to rock some community service too. We’re here to help you DIY your own volunteer field trip. Here are ten tips and tricks to help you get your group into giving back. (If you organize one, we’d love it if you tagged #theevergrey on Instagram and/or comment below to let us know how it goes.)

  1. You’re the boss, applesauce. Start with choosing when and how you want to get giving out in these streets. Feed the homeless? Clean up a park? Help build a house? Tend a trail? All great options, so you do you. Seattle Works, The World Is Fun, One Brick, and Volunteermatch.org are all great places to start searching. (Protip: We often highlight volunteer opportunities in The Evergrey’s daily newsletter. Subscribe here and keep an eye out.)
  2. Squad goals. If you’ve ever planned a bachelor or bachelorette bash, then you know how hard it can be to manage these beautiful weirdos you call friends. The more, the messier. We recommend limiting your first volunteer field trip to about 6 people (or 3 friends and their +1s) just to keep things chill and easier to plan. Pop in the group text and see who’s down for your date.
  3. Rock a reservation. When you’ve picked an awesome cause and have a rough idea of who’s in, call or email the charity to confirm that they need volunteers on the date you can lead your team. You want to be sure they can accommodate the size of group you plan to bring and you need to find what to tell your posse to expect on giving day. Plus, you’ll need the deets on where to be, what to wear and bring, and when to show up. Some orgs may ask that you sign liability waivers or photo release forms, and you may want to do that in advance too.
  4. Assemble the afterparty. If your crew’s gonna do a few hours of work, pick a nearby spot to grab food, drinks, and hang time afterward. Think big restaurants or bars that don’t require reservations. For full-day or very physical volunteering, we sometimes skip this because everyone’s tired, but it’s a fun way to end a great time together.
  5. Gather your givers. We’re a little type A around here, so we like to email our peeps to square up all the details. Want a shortcut? Here’s an email template for you to copy and modify. If you’re planning for a larger group, say 15 or more, you may want to make a form to keep everything more organized.
  6. Calendar up. Set up a calendar invite with the time, location and details of your volunteer field trip and send out invites. Set the calendar so that any invitee can add their plus one. (Yeah, we also have that one friend who “doesn’t do calendars.” Just send an email, we guess.)
  7. Treat yourself. A few days before you give, figure out how to thank your group for joining you. This doesn’t need to cost money, it’s just about your gratitude. Bring cookies. Draw a picture. Write a note. Make friendship bracelets. Make a playlist. Buy the first round. Find some small way to treat your friends right for treating your cause right.
  8. Be prepared. The day before your field trip, think about what your group might need during the day and pack a bag with few essentials like extra water bottles, snacks, hats or gloves, tools, or sunscreen.
  9. Early bird. As the leader, you should be the first on the scene for your team. Plan to get there at least 10 minutes before you told everyone else to arrive. Make sure the charity organizers know that they can count on you to lead your team.
  10. Make some intros. Ultimately, volunteering is about the people you’re serving. As your team get settled, make sure they say hey to the folks who work with the org you’re helping, and have a conversation about the cause you’re all here to boost. Get curious: What do you and your friends want to know more about around issues? Making those connections helps everyone stay plugged in even after the opportunity is over.
  11. Celebrate your crew. All that’s left after everyone’s on site is enjoying some work together. Volunteering is a lot of fun, so don’t forget to celebrate. Snap selfies. Get a little silly. And share the love on your social media accounts. These are your great people, doing great things with you. That’s worth oversharing. Plus, a little FOMO is a great way to inspire others to join you on your next volunteer field trip.

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Big thanks to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which made this project possible. For more stories and resources to help you give like you live here, check out the other posts in our Evergrey Giving Guide