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Organizing a community event

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Lessons learned from Hamilton Township Clean-up Day

Organizing a community event becomes easier when you live in a community that is populated with people who are aware of the importance of community service and are involved in their community.

My community of Hamilton Township, NJ is flush with volunterism. You can see evidence of this in the outpouring of support for Ryan’s Quest, RWJ Hamilton, Hamilton YMCA, Sunshine Foundation, Tender Hearts – just to name a few. Proud to be a Hamiltonian!

So, when it came to organzing a clean-up day in one of Hamilton’s neighborhoods the challenge of garnering support and volunteers was greatly minimized.

If you are not prepared to direct your volunteers, then having recruited enough volunteers wll become a problem for you. As an organizer, it is important for you to make sure that your volunteers see a well planned event and that they will not be spending most of their time idle. Otherwise, volunteers will walk out on your event, your event will get bad mouthed and worse is that the event does not achieve its goal.

Here are a few items that we learned . You you can apply these lessons learned to your own community event. By no means is this a complete list and for some who read this they may find these suggestions obvious. But to others these may not be obvious.

So, here is a list of some tibbits that we applied and were extremely beneficial. I also include some items that I wish we had considered prior to the event and as a result will incorporate in our next event.

1) Do not try to do it all yourself or with a group of 4 people. It is too much and you will miss many things.

2) Get active people in the community to be on your organizing committee and designate them to be “crew leaders”

3) Crew leaders “own” a task and they are responsible for a group of volunteers, Make this clear to them and empower them.

4) Identify the projects that you want to complete and then estimate:

a) scout and get pictures of the areas you are targeting in your event (good for the before and after)

b) the types and amounts of supplies

c) the number of volunteers needed

d) do you need more “crew leaders”?

Now you now know what the projects are, what materials you need, how many crew leaders needed and how many volunteers that are needed.

5) Create a flyer with your standard What, When, Where, Why and How.

6) With your fyer in hand, approach local businesses to donate the supplies (which includes bottled water and food) and get committments

7) With your flyer in hand, approach your local government for support from the Park, Public Works or other department. Tell them what the project is and

8) With your flyer in hand, approach High Schools and Service Organizations that require students and members to perform community service. Tell them the purpose of the event, how many projects you have and the number of volunteers that you are recruiting.

9) With your flyer in hand, approach neighborhood church groups for volunteers. Tell them the purpose of the event, how many projects you have and the number of volunteers that you are recruiting.

10) Market your event. Write a Press Release and send it to every single news outlet that you can think of. Then hand deliver it. You may get interviewed right on the spot. Quote a local resident and business owner who can coment on what and why they donated something as well as why they are participating in the event.

11) Invite local elected officials to attend. This will attract more volunteers and bring the media attention that you want for your event.

12) On the day of, have a group of people to handle registration of volunteers as they arrive.

a) have a sign up sheet for each project and list the Crew Leaders’ names

b) assign volunteers to the projects and introduce them to the Crew Leader. Unless the volunteer tells you that they have a needed skill, do not allow them to select the project. You must assign it.

c) make your Crew Leader rsponsible for making sure that they hav gathered their team by ther side

13) Make your “Crew Leaders” responsible for organizing the donated supplies to hand out to the volunteers.

14) Have the local elected officials say a few words of thanks and then you need to take the microphone and tell your volunteers how the day is organized.

15) Feed your volunteers at the outset. For lunch get donated boxed lunches and deliver them the meals directly to the project site.



  1. stacey lytle says:

    So, how do I sign up to volunteer?

    • dankeelan says:

      Hi, Stacey. Thak you for contacting me. I am at the early stage of organizing another event. So, since the successful event in Bromley was done and over on April 21st, I do not have anything to sign up for at the moment.

  2. stacey lytle says:

    For any future events of the cleanups since earth day has passed, count me in!…

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