How Our Program Works
Sometimes, it is easy to see where needs are being unmet in a community. All too often, we tell ourselves that we are not qualified to meet those needs. The truth is, by just recognizing another’s needs, you are already showing your capacity to do something. You do not need to be a politician or activist to instill positive change, only a desire to do so. As we read in the Doctrine and Covenants “Therefore, if ye have desires to serve God ye are called to the work” (D&C 4:3).
In following BYU’s commitment to go forth to serve, we have every bit of confidence in your ability to make big things happen. Remember that a large event is not what qualifies as “big” but the impact you make in the lives of those you serve does. As you strive to do so, the Education Society will help you. The change your community needs starts with you!
Making A Difference
We hope you are just as excited as we are to serve your communities! David O. McKay once said, “If you would be happy, render a kind service, make somebody else happy.” Few things compare to the genuine joy that accompanies selfless service. While you strive to find ways to serve in your community, it is easy to become overwhelmed with the ever-growing checklist of tasks needed to complete a project. It is our goal to help guide you in your efforts, and to provide support wherever necessary.
Where To Begin
You may be wondering what your first steps should be. First and foremost, what is your end goal? For example, the BYU Education Society has a goal to aid in children’s literacy across the country. Some ideas for an end goal could be offering a selection of books to the children in your school district, creating a space for parents and children to learn together, or helping students who are behind in their education to catch up. The possibilities are endless.
The next question you should ask yourself is how. How will you achieve this end goal? The following section about choosing a project idea can help you. A good place to start is to identify needs around you. You have probably heard a tired parent (or maybe yourself!) say something along the lines of ‘I just wish there were more hours in the day’. Identifying a need starts by exploring statements like this. Why do you wish there were more hours? What would you do with those extra hours, and what is preventing you from doing those things? In your school district, look for the areas where you feel students lack sufficient material.
Another place to search for needs is recalling your own experiences. What resources do you wish had been accessible when you were at X stage in your life?
How To Choose a Project Idea
Once you have identified a need, you can begin to look into solutions. Try researching other service projects that have been done in your area. List them and rank them in order of importance to you. It is important that you are passionate about your project. There are countless articles online documenting other people’s projects, see what made those ideas succeed or fail.
Something to keep in mind when looking at possible options is how big of an impact will each idea leave. Make sure your idea is feasible, and give yourself plenty of time to accomplish it. While researching, you may come across opportunities with close deadlines. Relieve yourself of unnecessary stress by allowing a generous timeline.
While the BYU Education Society has been a part of several local projects that could be used as a model, an even greater source of inspiration is BYU Connect. If you have not already created an account, BYU Connect is a platform that allows alumni to communicate with one another, both reconnecting with old friends and networking with new ones. The Education Society is just one of many alumni- based programs at BYU and seeing what others have done for their own communities can be a great source of inspiration as well as offering you counsel on your own project.
Finding a need and a project go hand in hand. Service is meant to uplift and support those around us. If you know of people in your circle who have an unmet need, you should cater your project to those needs. There is no need to feel pressure to exactly match someone else’s idea, or follow some kind of template. Each of your ideas is unique and should be modified to meet the needs of your local environment.
How To Organize Yourself
Handling all of the logistics involved with service projects alone can easily become overwhelming. Being part of the Education Society means that you are not alone in any of your endeavors, but it is important to seek out contacts in your local area as well. Some people find networking uncomfortable, but it is a crucial skill to build both in your personal life and career.
Tools like BYU Connect or your local ward directory are great places to find people who can help. Do not simply seek to utilize your connections’ skills, but try to build lasting relationships with everyone involved. Sometimes service is just as much about the people serving as those being served. Indeed, as you strive to build relationships through your service, you will come to recognize the joy of ministering!
Other areas to look at could be coworkers from past or present jobs, friends from book clubs or other social activities, or even people you met from other service projects you have been a part of. Initiating a conversation could be as easy as telling them about your idea and asking if they have any advice or input. Not only could their contributions help grow your own ideas, they may take interest and want to help out! You may be surprised at how willing people are to get behind a good cause.
It's a good idea to at least have a few people helping to plan the project. Delegate tasks that are better suited for someone else’s skillset. Meet regularly with your colleagues to review progress made and tasks needed. This will significantly speed up the amount of time it takes to pull something together. It will also help to keep you accountable to your personal goals.
The Best Way to Spread the Word
Now that you have a project and people to help you, it's time to raise awareness! The Education Society is ready to help with marketing materials developed by current BYU students specifically for you. Feel free to use these materials however you see fit.
Some ideas for places to look for help are local FaceBook groups, HOA meetings, school district meetings, your local congregation, or workplace. These gathering places are not simply for handing out flyers, however. Tell people who you are, what you are doing, and why. What makes your project different from others? Who are you serving?
A sometimes lesser-used, but extremely valuable communication tool is local business and government. Especially when education is involved, speaking with business owners can be as easy as making a quick call and setting up a time to talk about a service project in the community that you are coordinating. Try reaching out to local newspapers or news stations to help get the word out further.
As was said before, do not feel obligated to create some grandiose event. Some of the most effective service projects only involve a handful of volunteers. If you are in need of a smaller group of helpers, your own personal circle can be a great place to look.
Where To Look for Funding
If your project requires funding, there are many ways to find it. Just as connecting with local businesses and government can be effective for gaining awareness, these same organizations are a great source of donations. Setting up a time to meet with a local city representative is a wonderful way of looking at options. Even if your city cannot help financially, they can often direct you towards someone who can.
While contacting small local businesses can also be an effective means of getting funding, an even more productive use of time may be contacting your local branch of the Better Business Bureau. Many mom and pop shops are accredited patrons of the BBB and can be contacted en masse through a simple newsletter.
Not all contributions must be financial either. Food Trucks are often happy to show up for a quick snack on the day of the event, if you have a project in a specific location. Offices may take a day off of work to come and help you out. Never underestimate the impact you alone can have. Oftentimes, the tasks that seem daunting upfront can be eliminated quickly through a simple phone call or meeting.
How the Education Society Can Help You
You are not alone in your efforts to make a change. The Education Society is here to stand by you, and offer help in any way possible. Below are some of the general resources available:
Marketing Materials ~ The McKay School has a team of dedicated students capable of generating top-notch marketing materials for your project. Posters, flyers, or newsletters are all available. Simply reach out through the Education Society's home page to get in touch!
Networking ~ BYU Connect is used by a vast network of alumni. We encourage you to use this valuable tool when looking for help. The McKay School is also in contact with it’s own graduates and can help you find alumni near you!
SEEL ~ Is a renowned learning tool for early readers. With its capacity to teach both at home and school using a unique co-op teaching method, parents and teachers alike can grow closer with their young readers through fun games and activities. The Education Society provides free training online to help show this powerful tool and how it can be implemented. SEEL is completely free and we encourage you to use it!
Booklist ~ The McKay School’s distinguished literacy department has partnered with the Education Society to generate a list of essential children’s books. Based on current research, these books are a joy not only for children, but also for the adults reading with them. Many of the books on this list are being incorporated into SEEL’s lesson plans and are accessible through the Education Society’s resources page.