Thoughts on how to serve your community.

As I mentioned in my previous post, serving your community can be some of the most rewarding work we can do as artists. Here are some thoughts about ways you can roll up your sleeves and serve your community.

What to do……..

  • If you want to serve but don’t have the time — This is the biggest reason people don’t serve a cause they care about. Here are three quick suggestions to help you carve out time to get involved:
    1. Incorporate work that you’re already doing into an initiative. For example, if you perform in a chamber music series, consider donating all proceeds for a specific performance to a local charity.
    2. Block off time in your calendar to serve — Instead of thinking about your service as an ongoing thing, commit to two weeks a year of intensive work for an organization, let them know your intent to serve, and show up. The trick is to schedule it ahead of time and keep the time sacred.
    3. Consider other types of service to an organization — The clearest substitution to giving of your time is giving of your money. Donating to an organization can create a huge impact on the cause because, in doing so, you raise awareness about the organization. A donation at ANY level helps and is money most causes/non-profits don’t expect. Don’t be shy about giving.
  • If you want to launch a service based program in your community — For those of you seeking to launch your own service based program/organization for a cause in your community, thank you! You are about to, and in may cases already are, providing an incredible service to your community. Three bits of advice:
    1. Start Small — Whatever cause you endeavor to serve, make certain you start small. Many service organizations start out of one person’s passion to make the world a better place. That same person often ends up doing the work of 3-5 people in the early years. If you over stretch yourself by developing programs that are too big for you to run, you will burn out and not be able to achieve the change that drove you to do the work in the first place.
    2. Be Flexible — Because you are engaging with a community that is likely not your own, your original idea to help will likely need to change over the first months and years of your program. If you are open to that change, you’ll have a much bigger shot at success in the long run.
    3. Look for partners — One of the biggest things I see overlooked when someone launches a new initiative is that they fail to identify partners that are doing similar work.  Don’t feel like you need to do this work on your own and take the time to see if you can possibly connect with another service provider before you launch your own initiative. When answering the call to serve, it’s about the cause, not about the individual.

I hope these suggestions help and please share your thoughts about how to launch a successful arts service organization below.


Published by Nate Zeisler

Nate Zeisler is the Dean for Community Initiatives at the Colburn School in Los Angeles. He envisions a world where students majoring in the arts have a clear path to a sustainable career, where creative minds are empowered and inspired to rule the workforce, and where access to the arts is not just for the privileged few, but for all.

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