Kids engaged in a trash clean-up effort
These are proven ways to connect to others, build community, and make positive change! Some topics also promote connecting to the Earth. This page includes ideas for starting a project and an overview of the modern service landscape.

Comparing Project Types

VOLUNTEERINGSERVICE-LEARNING
Focus is community benefit, usually working with a non-profitFocus includes academic learning (working with an educator) and community benefit
Can stand alone or be used to prepare for S-L projects Has more academic rigor and usually a longer time commitment vs. volunteering alone
Often for a grad requirement but not class credit May be used for a graduation requirement and/or course credit (with approval)
E.G. Assisting with a Special Olympics eventE.G. Fundraising for a voting rights group and presenting on it for social studies credit
For more ideas see below and the volunteering pageFind more ideas below plus additional information on the service-learning page

General Approaches

Here are four possibilities:
Joining an effort, replicating something that's been done, tweaking an idea, or creating something new

Picking a Starting Point

Note: Examples of organizations working in given areas are in parentheses. Not all have volunteer opportunities, but their websites (and possibly staff) may be of use in exploring options.

TYPE OF ACTIVITY

Consider what you might be into DOING.

Homes (Habitat for Humanity)
Trails (Portland Trails, Teens to Trails)
Bird or bat houses (Maine Audubon)
A resource
Trees (Eden Projects)
School or community gardens
An organic farm (Wolfe's Neck Farm, Scatter Good Farm )
Pollinator-friendly landscapes (National Pollinator Garden Network)
Trash (Rubbish - Portland)
Graffiti (Learning Works Graffiti Busters)
Snow, leaves
Clothes, food, shoes, or glasses for disaster relief (United Way)
Disaster relief or other needs Cultivating Community)
Food (Wayside Food Programs)
Petition or letter-writing drive (Amnesty International)
Registration drive to increase voting access (Rock the Vote, Represent.us, NAEYC)
Marketing to get the word out about an organization's activities or resources
Organizing or helping with an event to inform the public about an issue (Environment Maine, The Sunrise Movement)
Writing/seeking grant funding
Race, workout, or yoga or dance (Zumba, other) class
Concert or other performance
Car wash
Dinner or party
Silent auction
Raffle

GROUP OF PEOPLE

Consider WHO you might want to work with or otherwise support.

Supporting year-round physical activity (Winterkids, Girls on the Run)
Children with serious illnesses (Camp Sunshine)
Potentially at-risk teens (Preble Street Teen Center)
Youth benefiting from mentors (Big Brothers Big Sisters)
Adaptive sports (Maine Adaptive)
Special Olympics (Special Olympics)
Ex-offenders reentering society (Maine Prisoner Advocacy Coalition)
Homeless (Preble Street)
Indigenous people (National Indigenous Women's Resource Center)
LGBTQ (Equality Maine, GLAD Maine)
Victims of trafficking, assault, or abuse (SARSSM/Sexual Assault Response Services of Southern Maine)
Current or potential voters (Represent.us)
People impacted by a flood, fire, shooting, or other tragic event (United Way)
Recovering addicts (Portland Recovery Community Center)
Animals/pets (Animal Refuge League, Humane Society)

TOPIC

Consider an AREA of personal interest.

Climate disruption (Sunrise Movement, 350.org, Environment Maine)
Habitat protection, management, or restoration
Sustainable energy production, storage, conservation, or use (Environment Maine)
Water (clean-up, reducing, stopping, or avoiding pollution)
  • Lakes and ponds
  • Oceans (Greenpeace)
  • Rivers and streams

Soil (clean-up or regenerative agriculture) (Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association)
Wild animal protection and health (Maine Audubon, Environment Maine)
Reducing waste
Literacy or other adult ed programs (United Way, Maine Literacy Council, The Telling Room)
International education programs (Teachers Without Borders)
Organic farming in Maine (MOFGA, Wolfe's Neck Farm, Scatter Good Farm)
Farmer support (Farm Aid)
Disease prevention and treatment
Physical health and safety (Planned Parenthood, Partners in Health)
Mental and emotional health (The Opportunity Alliance)

OTHER WAYS TO START

Browse service opportunities and possibilities (each opens a new window)

Add a service component to an existing SCHOOL PROJECT (contact us for ideas)


The Current Service Landscape

Purpose: To be able to situate projects within other efforts to make the world a better place and feel part of something big

Groups and organizations
  • Independent non-profits (e.g., United Way, Habitat for Humanity)
    • Government-linked or run groups and offices
      • Religious groups

      Individual volunteers (on their own or partnering with a group)
      • Students (K-12, 4-year college, community college, or graduate; solo, in classes, or via clubs)
        • Professionals providing services free or at reduced costs (e.g., docs volunteering at free medical clinics)
          • Eagle Scout candidates
            • Mitzvah candidates
              • Other adults

              Funders
              • Individual or corporate donors (of money, goods, or other support)
                • Grant providers (government-based groups, private foundations, corporations, other) providing general funding to groups or specific initiatives

                Facilitators
                • Volunteer or service project advisors (religious, academic, volunteer, other)
                  • Groups pooling/sharing information across efforts
                    • Consortiums of schools or other groups sharing notes/best practices (e.g., Campus Compact between colleges)
                      • Statewide clearinghouses and databases (e.g., of volunteer opportunities)
                        • Other resource providers (e.g., 3Levels.org) to assist and amplify existing efforts and facilitate new ones

                      Consultants (e.g., service-learning program designers/implementers)
                      Educators
                      • College, training students to work for non-profits, government, other
                        • Staff development professionals teaching skills to facilitate S-L or other community/civic engagement at schools or in workplaces
                        Daily living assistance
                        • Food (obtaining, nutrition)
                        • Shelter (emergency, long-term)
                        • Clothing and other essentials
                        • Transportation

                        Professional services
                        • Medical screenings and care
                        • Legal support

                        Education and empowerment
                        • Literacy
                        • Leadership skills
                        • Job training and placement

                        Democratic representation and participation
                        • Voting access
                        • Registration
                        • Census completion

                        Human rights protection and advocacy
                        • Human trafficking
                        • Worker exploitation

                        Protection and health promotion
                        • At-risk communities
                        • Wild animals or pets
                        • Habitats

                        Technological innovation or engineering-based problem-solving efforts
                        Other ways to categorize efforts:
                        • Population(s) involved
                          • Kids, elderly, other ages
                          • Immigrants
                          • Homeless
                          • Ex cons
                          • Endangered species
                        • Topic
                        • Geographical scope/range
                          • Within a school
                          • Local/municipal
                          • County or state
                          • Regional or global)
                        • Duration of action
                          • One-time events
                          • Annual fundraisers/other activities
                          • Long-running and ongoing service provision
                        • Type of interaction
                          • Direct – working with people in a community
                          • Indirect – by supporting community organizations
                          • Advocacy – promoting actions in the public interest
                          • Research – finding and reporting information in the public interest
                        To connect
                        • To oneself and others
                        • To the natural word
                        • All three (why 3Levels.org exists)

                        To apply course work and build
                        • Knowledge and skills
                        • Connections and networks
                        • Portfolios
                        • Community and environmental health

                        To “pay it forward” (give others opportunities we’ve had)
                        To express
                        • Feeling part of society or a specific community
                        • Wanting to contribute to something bigger

                        To demonstrate faith-related values or responsibility
                        To fulfill a requirement
                        • For school graduation
                        • Completing a legal agreement

                        To increase the impact and personal meaning of a school project
                        To have a fulfilling career
                        • Working for a service organization
                        • Contributing to others’ lives

                        To emulate, continue, or share in the work of others engaged in service