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What is community service?

Community service refers to unpaid work that a person performs for the benefit of society, particularly the immediate area in which he or she lives.

What counts as community service?

A few guidelines will help you determine whether an activity you choose on your own constitutes “community service” based on generally accepted definitions.

To qualify as community service, an activity must meet both of the following criteria:

  • The receiving organization is a nonprofit
  • You are not compensated monetarily for completing the activity

If the activity in question is for a religious organization, it must meet both of the above criteria and the following:

  • The activity serves the community (i.e., helps the homeless population) rather than assists in a religious aspect (i.e., worship service)

Note that service outside of your immediate community — such as alternative breaks and projects in support of needy individuals in other countries — benefits the global community and meets the definition and guidelines outlined above.

What community service is not.

Community service is not philanthropy. Contributing funds, even as part of a fundraiser in which you are participating, is not community service.

Do you have your own ideas about how to help your community?

Here are a few examples of unique ways to contribute your time and talent:

  • Tutor children at the local elementary school
  • Help out at your church’s soup kitchen
  • Give a few hours at the local animal shelter
  • Visit nearby nursing homes to read to those with impaired vision
  • Volunteer to entertain patients at a children’s hospital

Remember, if you have a particular talent — such as designing web sites, playing a musical instrument, photography, background as a counselor — you might find organizations in need of exactly what you can offer.