The Field Guide to Community Service
“Life's most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’”
— Martin Luther King Jr.
Community activism captures a category of agencies that may not immediately come to mind when you think about volunteering. These are the groups that help other nonprofits function better, promote civic engagement and support leadership development.
HOW TO GET STARTED
When your city or community asks for your opinion, take the time to give it to them. It might be your city council representative seeking input on a specific issue or a city department asking you to complete a survey. Either way, let your voice be heard.
Give your employees the flexibility to do volunteer work or service projects – and consider rallying your team to serve together on a project
Check out One Brick, which offers fun opportunities for individuals to serve local nonprofits. It provides a calendar of volunteer and social events to help people get involved, make an impact and have fun, without long-term commitments.
Volunteer to package food for the homeless and less privileged at Sacred Heart Community Service.
Prusch Farm welcomes volunteers on Saturdays and Wednesdays from 10a-12p to work in Emma’s kitchen garden.
If you are passionate about technology and entrepreneurship, get involved with VLAB by volunteering at events or joining a committee.
Check out The Human Race, a nationwide community fundraising event for nonprofit organizations, schools and faith-based organizations. The Santa Cruz County Race features a six-week fundraising campaign that culminates in a five-mile walk and fun run along beautiful West Cliff Drive.
If you love to bake, make a cake for Cake4Kids, which bakes and delivers birthday cakes for underserved children. You just bake a cake at home, deliver it to one of Cake4Kids’ partner agencies that supports youth and you will have sweetened a child’s day.
Consider applying for Leadership San Jose or another community leadership program to increase your civic, political, philanthropic and/or community service engagement.
Check out CEN Leaders Institute, an annual, eight-month (September-April) intensive leadership development opportunity for nonprofit executive directors/chief executive officers in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Check out the Santa Cruz Volunteer Center, which offers a volunteer matching program to help you find the perfect opportunity to get involved and give back.
Abrahamic Alliance International
AAi unites Jews, Christians and Muslims for active peacebuilding and poverty relief. The organization is looking for brave synagogues, churches and mosques that are ready to rise above the political pressures and stereotypes that seek to divide us.
Addison-Penzak Jewish Community Center
The JCC welcomes people of all faiths. It works to enhance Jewish life by providing social, cultural, educational and recreational services for the entire community.
African American Community Service Agency
AACSA provides programs to strengthen African American identity, culture, values, traditions, knowledge and family life.
American Association of University Women
AAUW advances equity for women and girls through advocacy, education, philanthropy and research.
American Leadership Forum Silicon Valley
ALF is a network of regional leaders committed to serving the common good in Silicon Valley.
Asian Americans for Community Involvement
AACI serves the Asian American community by providing an array of services to improve the physical health, mental health and well-being of individuals.
Assistance League of San Jose puts caring and commitment into action through philanthropic programs. The organization provides school uniforms for children through Operation School Bell; reads to children through Readers Are Leaders; and makes baby layettes and caps for chemotherapy patients through Caring Hands, among other programs.
Association of Fundraising Professionals Silicon Valley
AFP advances philanthropy by enabling people and organizations to practice ethical and effective fund-raising.
Awesome Foundation San Jose awards $1,000 grants on a quarterly basis to individuals and organizations that need support to take a community-focused idea to the next level.
Beautiful Day is a yearly weekend event that provides volunteer opportunities to serve Santa Clara County through acts of compassion. Projects are carefully chosen and prepared over several months for the big weekend that happens only once a year and thousands of volunteers from all walks of life and skills participate to make a lasting impact in local communities. For those interested in serving monthly on a smaller scale/more personalized projects, they also have a bd365 program.
Boys Team Charity is committed to helping other nonprofits through volunteerism provided by young men in grades 7-12 and their parent(s). Silicon Valley chapters are in Almaden Valley, Los Gatos and Saratoga.
Provides free birthday cakes for foster children and at-risk youth in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Californians for Safety and Justice
CSJ works with Californians from all walks of life to replace prison and justice system waste with common sense solutions that create safe neighborhoods and save public dollars. Through policy advocacy, grassroots mobilization, public education, alliances and support for local best practices, we promote strategies to stop the cycle of crime, reduce reliance on incarceration and build healthy communities.
Catholic Community Foundation of Santa Clara County, The
The foundation develops, acquires and distributes funds that support parish, educational, religious, charitable and other organizations comprising the Catholic community.
Center for Excellence in Nonprofits
CEN is a source of information and support for nonprofit emerging leaders, executive directors and board members seeking to maximize the effectiveness of their organizations.
Christmas in the Park is a free annual holiday tradition in downtown San Jose that transforms Plaza De Cesar Chavez into a holiday fantasy with decorated trees, animated exhibits, and performances by local music and dance groups.
CompassPoint Nonprofit Services
CompassPoint intensifies the impact of fellow nonprofit leaders, organizations and networks to achieve social equity together.
CreaTV is a member-based, nonprofit media center that works to inspire, educate and connect San Jose communities, using media to foster civic engagement.
Dream Corps closes prison doors and opens doors of opportunity by bringing people together across racial, social, and partisan lines to create a future with freedom and dignity for all.
Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Silicon Valley
HCCSV works to maximize Hispanic business and economic development by serving as an advocate and resource for Hispanic and minority businesses.
Hispanic Foundation of Silicon Valley
The Hispanic Foundation is dedicated to inspiring community philanthropy and engaging people to improve the quality of life for Latinos in the Silicon Valley region.
Italian American Heritage Foundation
IAHF is dedicated to preserving and promoting the spirit and passion of Italian heritage and culture.
Japanese American Citizens League San Jose
JACL secures and maintains the civil rights of Japanese Americans and all others who are victimized by injustice and prejudice.
Joint Venture brings together established and emerging leaders – from business, government, academia, labor and the broader community – to spotlight issues and work toward innovative solutions.
The Junior League is committed to developing the potential of women, improving the community, and promoting volunteerism through the effective action and leadership of trained volunteers.
KQED includes television, radio, digital media and educational services that aim to change lives for the better and help individuals and communities achieve their full potential.
Kiwanis is a volunteer-led international service club that believes by working together, members achieve what one person cannot accomplish alone.
Leadership San Jose identifies emerging leaders within San Jose and exposes them to a broad range of issues that impact the region’s economic prosperity and quality of life.
Lions Clubs empower volunteers to serve their communities, meet humanitarian needs, encourage peace and promote international understanding.
Little Italy promotes historic renovation and redevelopment of San Jose’s Little Italy neighborhood and preservation of Italian culture through murals and other projects.
Accepts hair donations to return a sense of self, confidence and normalcy to children suffering from hair loss. Organization uses donated ponytails to provide the highest quality hairpiece to financially disadvantaged children free of charge.
Los Gatos-Monte Sereno Police Foundation
The foundation is committed to supporting the community by providing funding for public safety tools and educational outreach programs for the police department.
NCL fosters the mother-daughter relationship through community service, leadership development and cultural experiences.
One Brick creates a community of volunteers by offering fun opportunities for individuals to serve local nonprofits. It provides a calendar of volunteer and social events to help people get involved, make an impact and have fun without long-term commitments.
100 Black Men of America is a men's civic organization and service club whose stated goal is to educate and empower African-American children and teens. The Bay Area chapter focuses on mentoring, education, economic empowerment and health and wellness.
Pars acts as a catalyst for social, cultural and economic integration of Iranians, and Persian speaking communities, into mainstream American society.
PACT: People Acting in community Together
PACT is a multi-faith, grassroots organization that provides leadership training and experience to community members of many different ethnic, religious and socio-economic backgrounds.
Preservation Action Council of San Jose
PAC preserves San Jose’s architectural heritage through education, advocacy and events.
Prusch Farm Park Foundation works with the City of San Jose to maintain Emma Prusch Farm as an agricultural preserve. They believe in promoting and demonstrating historic, contemporary and culturally relevant agricultural practices.
Rainbow Chamber of Commerce Silicon Valley
The chamber works to create a vibrant LGBT-supportive business community through development, facilitation, promotion and advocacy.
Rotaract Club of Silicon Valley
The Rotaract Club is a group of young professionals who are dedicated to making an impact in the community through service, social and networking events.
Rotary engages San Jose leaders in meaningful service within our community and humanitarian projects around the world.
Sacred Heart Community Service
Sacred Heart works to build a community free from poverty by creating hope, opportunity and action. It provides essential services to individuals and families in need.
SCORE provides free mentoring from experienced industry leaders and consultants to help small businesses grow.
San Jose Downtown Association represents business and property owners working to enhance downtown’s vitality and livability.
Elks is a fraternal and charitable organization that invests in its communities through programs that help children and veterans.
The San Jose Police Foundation is dedicated to improving community safety.
San Jose Search and Rescue is an emergency response team with more than 50 volunteers that has responded to hundreds of emergency requests, including locating downed aircraft, flood evacuations, searches for missing and kidnapped persons, technical rope rescues, evidence searches, body recoveries, medical support for special events and swift water rescues.
The San Jose Sports Authority strives to increase the city of San Jose’s economic development, visibility and civic pride through sports.
Santa Clara County FireSafe Council
SCC FireSafe hopes to mobilize the people of Santa Clara County to protect their homes, communities and environment from wildfires. They provide education and project assistance for homeowners and landowners in communities that are vulnerable to wildfire.
The Volunteer Center is a collective of dreamers, idealists, problem-solvers and trailblazers for good. Its mission is to transform our community and ourselves through volunteerism, empowering everyone to be the difference.
Silicon Valley Black Chamber of Commerce, The
The Silicon Valley Black Chamber of Commerce works to create, identify and/or expand economic development opportunities for African Americans and minorities in Silicon Valley.
Silicon Valley Community Foundation
SVCF advances innovative philanthropic solutions to challenging problems, engaging donors to make our region and the world a better place for all.
Silicon Valley Council of Nonprofits
Silicon Valley Council of Nonprofits represents the needs and concerns of its member agencies and the clients they serve.
SV Crime Stoppers works with law enforcement and the media to help make our community a safer place in which to live.
SV De-Bug is a media, community-organizing and entrepreneurial collective committed to social justice and the rights of youth, workers, immigrants and those impacted by the criminal justice system.
Silicon Valley FACES is committed to ending bias, bigotry and violence.
Silicon Valley Leadership Group
SVLG is a public policy business trade organization that represents hundreds of Silicon Valley employers on issues, including energy, transportation, education, housing, health care, tax policies, economic vitality and the environment.
Silicon Valley Organization, The
The Silicon Valley Organization (formerly the San Jose/Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce) is the region’s largest and oldest chamber of commerce. It attracts, uplifts and protects its members through networking, advocacy, community engagement, economic development and political action.
Step Up seeks to transform community awareness and generate the political will to create change that enables individuals and families to step up out of poverty in Santa Clara County.
Sunday Assembly Silicon Valley
Sunday Assembly is a secular congregation that celebrates life, there are 40 chapters worldwide. Their motto is Live Better, Help Often, Wonder More.
Sunday Friends empowers families to break the generational cycle of poverty by fostering positive development in children while educating and guiding parents to support their children's life success.
United States Power Squadrons, District 25
USPS is an educational organization dedicated to making boating safer and more enjoyable by teaching classes in seamanship, navigation and related subjects.
United Way activates individuals and organizations to break the cycle of poverty in the Bay Area by building financial capability among residents. It is fighting to remove barriers to success and improve lives.
VLAB connects Silicon Valley’s entrepreneurs, industry experts, venture capitalists, private investors and technologists to enable them to effectively grow high-tech ventures.
Valle Monte League is an all-volunteer group of women dedicated to raising funds that provide and promote better mental health in the community through mental health agencies.
VolunteerMatch works to strengthen communities by making it easier for good people and good causes to connect.
Young Nonprofit Professionals Network San Francisco Bay Area
YNPN connects emerging nonprofit leaders as a force for good. It empowers nonprofit professionals and creates opportunities to make meaningful connections.
Organize a block party.
Attend a city council meeting.
Host a neighborhood watch meeting.
Find out who your local elected officials are.
Subscribe to the local newspaper.
This Field Guide chapter was edited by Isabel Bennett.
Isabel is a student at Concordia University, studying psychology and will graduate in 2024.
When she is not editing the Field Guide, she likes to spend time reading books on climate change, staying up to date on global issues and surfing with her brother in Portugal. She also enjoys cooking, doing Bikram yoga with her mother and running with her brother. Isabel grew up involved in community service due to the nature of her mother’s work and now can’t imagine her life without serving her community.
For two years she had the opportunity to both lead and serve in her school's Sustainable Development Program, where they built, refurbished and painted dormitories for the Omuhaturua Primary School in Otjimanagombe Namibia. When her team was not able to physically go to Namibia during the Covid-19 health crisis, her team raised funds for local workers.