Receiving the Presidential Service Award sounds really impressive, but the 100 hours required to earn the award can be intimidating. This past year, 388 of our volunteers took the challenge and far exceeded our expectations. Four honorees even served over 1,000 hours each.
With so many projects going on every month in more community centers, schools, and parks than you can imagine, getting beyond that 100-hour threshold isn't as hard as you think. Two volunteers shared with us how they upped their volunteer game last year to earn their service awards.
Set a clear goal: Reaching the 100-hour benchmark isn't that daunting if you have a plan in place. As her New Year's resolution, volunteer Barbara Gao wanted to serve 250 hours in one year. When she did the math, that came out to two or three projects a week. To make sure she stayed on track, she used the search filter on our website to help her find activities within walking distance of her office.
Fill up your calendar a month in advance: The planning might seem like overkill, but Barbara promises it works. "Commit your time to volunteering and you'll schedule the rest of your life around it naturally," she says. Over time, she noticed she saved money, too. "I went to fewer brunches on the weekend, and went to food pantry projects instead. Afterward, I'd get drinks with my friends, and my social life was not hampered in any way.
Volunteer after work: Volunteering is an affordable way to wind down after a day at the office. Volunteer Anthony Christiano banked 263 hours last year by turning projects into his escape. "I looked forward to seeing the other volunteers, to seeing different parts of the city, to interacting with the participants, and putting myself into a project where I thought I was improving the community," he says.
Get outside your comfort zone: With over 1,600 projects going on every month, there's no excuse to get bored. "My best piece of advice is to try a bunch of things, in your area and outside of your area, and see what you like," Anthony says. While it might not totally be your thing at first, but you could discover a new issue area that excites you.
Volunteer with friends: Just like starting a new diet or workout routine, you're always more effective if you have an accountability partner. When Barbara committed to her goal of 250 hours, she got her boyfriend on board too. "We would tell each other when our favorite projects were posted to the website," she says. For her birthday, she got a bunch of friends to volunteer at KEEN with her. "Being able to volunteer with my friends made it so much more fun."
Explore other neighborhoods: Projects in an unfamiliar borough are a great reason to get to know the city better. "There are so many different projects in all of the different boroughs that finding something you enjoy isn't hard at all," Anthony says. For Barbara, this is one of the greatest perks of volunteering. "I would make a trip out of going to the project and find something cool in the neighborhood to do after," she says. Who knows, you might find your new favorite restaurant or coffee shop while you're at it.
Take the challenge and boost your impact in the community. Learn more about the Presidential Service Award.