If you’ve ever left a poorly-run volunteer event ready to throw in the towel, you may be spending your sweat equity in the wrong place. Luckily, Community Bucket is giving young professionals a chance to connect, give back, and of course, have fun.
With 35 nonprofit partners, over 100 service projects, thousands of individual volunteers and 12,000 hours of service under their belt, Community Bucket is proving their “Service Made Social” model works. We can’t promise that you won’t leave out of breath after patrolling the exhilarating Little Five Points Parade or scrubbing dirt from your fingernails days after sprucing up a park, but we can guarantee you’ll have a damn good time.
How did Community Bucket get its start?
JG: I was working after college and was interested in doing more volunteer work to expand my interests and activities outside of my busy job. In college, it was always easy to find a volunteer opportunity, but I noticed that it was surprisingly difficult to find such opportunities that worked for someone like me. I wanted to volunteer without making a huge time commitment, ideally with other people my age, as a way to make friends.
JG: When I realized this didn’t exist, and some friends validated they had faced the same challenge, I teamed up with a friend from college and we hashed out the idea for Community Bucket. At first, we organized some small group projects with local organizations like House Proud and Trees Atlanta. We decided that every event should be part service, part social (hence our tagline) and we planned a volunteer event in August 2012 – seven projects in the morning, followed by a party at Red Brick Brewery immediately following. It sold out completely and many who attended were asking when the next event was, so this pretty much gave us the validation we needed that we had hit on a real need. From there, Community Bucket as it exists today was officially born.
What gap did you see in the volunteer community that impacted your decision to start CB?
JL: Nonprofits are constantly in need of volunteers, but the mismatch of supply and demand is often a struggle for smaller organizations. Community Bucket serves to radically increase the likelihood of young professionals (millennials) to volunteer and make a direct impact in their communities. We do this by shifting mindsets and behaviors about service. With the ability to socialize, meet people, and have fun outside of the volunteer events, people go from simply caring about causes to becoming active citizens who are part of a unique community.
By tapping into the diverse interests of this engaged community, we provide a reliable and attractive pool of volunteers that help these organizations further their missions. When young, passionate and skilled people make a habit of volunteering and enjoy doing it, and when nonprofits can use their collective strengths to achieve more, everyone wins.
SS: Another gap that Community Bucket addresses is for young professionals to meet like minded people in new and meaningful ways. Atlanta is a city of transplants, and it’s often hard to meet new people outside of your network. Volunteering is a great way to meet new people interested in similar causes and events, and it is almost always a natural ice breaker! It’s not always easy to find the right volunteer opportunity on your own, and Community Bucket provides an experience tailored to young professionals: organized, fun and simple.
How has the community responded to your approach on volunteering?
JL: For nonprofits, we continually hear back how excited they were to get so much done in one day. When you bring in a group of thirty members, so much gets done, and we often have nonprofits save big projects for when they have a group from Community Bucket. Our community isn’t being volun-told to be there. They show up fresh and ready to get their hands dirty. We often do a #transformation post after an event because of the dramatic before and after photos! We love how much our volunteers can get done in just a few hours.
JG: For volunteers, many people meet their friends through Community Bucket, and get to know people who they may not have met before. We’ve had volunteers meet their spouse at Community Bucket and found the dog they were going to adopt at an event. These connections have also lead to our volunteers joining the boards of nonprofits we work with or becoming more engaged civically.
SS: I moved here in 2013 without knowing a soul and a good 50% of my friends or more are from Community Bucket. It was a great way to meet people and get more involved because of that.
How has Community Bucket grown? What’s your impact on the Atlanta community?
SS: Community Bucket started off as one event with 75 volunteers in 2012. We have now reached over 12,000 hours of service, 2000 unique volunteers and over 100 events.
JG: We also have a committed host team that helps run the show behind the scenes. These “super-volunteers” lead events, help with promotion and getting the word out about Community Bucket. The host team started out with 8 members in 2013 and has now grown to more than 30.
JL, JG & SS: Many Community Bucket members have become more involved in the community as a result of volunteering or even met their partner through volunteering. A few of our favorites:
- At the 2nd Community Bucket event, Rob and Athena Henzler met at PAWS Atlanta. They started dating, took a year off to travel the world together, got engaged and had their wedding this past September.
- Volunteers have adopted dogs at PAWS Atlanta after volunteering there
- Nonprofits have changed the way they see millennial volunteers, and they’ve come to expect a lot from the young, active and committed citizens of Atlanta
- Nonprofits that are pretty bootstrapped and have a small staff can get off the ground because of the support of CB
Bucket seems to be conquering the volunteer space, but receptive to new ideas and opportunities. Why so?
JL: Community Bucket is a bit of an incubator for ideas for our volunteers. We have a passionate, excited group of volunteers interested in doing good, and when someone has an idea, they can run with it with the CB group.
An example of this is a spin off Community Bucket event, the Community Dinner Project, which brings together 50 Atlantans to discuss an issue important to one of our nonprofits, followed by a service project. Our last dinner project partnered with Concrete Jungle to look at how art could spur growth with the nonprofit, and at the end of dinner we painted signs for the crops on the farm.
What are your greatest needs right now?
SS: We would like to foster a stronger culture of service in Atlanta. One of the things that makes our city special is the spirit of community and love for our city (#weloveatl), and we’d like to build on this by helping people meet through doing good and supporting Atlanta’s organizations that need help.
Our 3 main needs for creating a culture of service:
- We would always love to grow our base of volunteers! People can sign up here for our email newsletter, or sign up directly for events here. New events are released on the first of each month and are scheduled for the 2nd and 3rd weekends of the month.
- Atlanta has some awesome homegrown companies – from Coca-Cola to startups in ATV, and we’re working to partner with them and include them in this experience of Service Made Social.
- We love working with local nonprofits, and always appreciate requests for our volunteer groups
Ready to dig into a new type of community service? Check out Bucket’s volunteer project with Trees Atlanta this Saturday, November 19 and their upcoming Holiday Gift Drive. They’re also a fun bunch so be sure to follow them on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.
Images are property of Community Bucket.