LEXINGTON, KY – In select college towns from Iowa City to New Haven, the community service umbrella organization United Way has implemented an incentive for volunteerism that speaks to college students more effectively than terms like “build your resume” and “better your community” often do: volunteer for 10 hours and get a free concert.
The campaign has generated more than 100,000 of hours of volunteer service in various communities in Wisconsin, Iowa and Connecticut. Now Lexington and United Way of the Bluegrass, can join the short list of cities that have implemented the program since it started in 2002. The UWBG 10K Hours Show, which will take place at Applebee’s Park in April 2010, originally started as a Leadership Lexington class project.
“We wanted to do something that would help get out the word about what volunteer opportunities there are in Lexington,” said Erik Carlson, one of the Leadership Lexington organizers of the event, adding that many people in the area may not be aware that information for nearly 300 community service opportunities is readily available by calling UWBG’s hotline number, 211. After meeting with Jessica Pasley, Community Engagement and Donor Relations Manager of UWBG, the seeds for the 10K Hours show were sown. All volunteers who register 10 hours of community service in the region on the United Way’s Web site between now and April 2010 will be eligible to attend the concert.
“They had been doing this 10,000 Hours Show in several different cities,” said Mandy Schott another Leadership Lexington organizers. “It started in Iowa by somebody who was just in college, and had this idea to reward college students who are volunteering by giving them a free concert.”
Of course, the first question people tend to ask when one mentions a free concert is “Who’s playing?” With the show being seven months out, however, the band or artist won’t be announced until December or January. The Music and Venue committee hopes to book an act that will widely appeal to college students and young professionals alike (although no one who has completed and registered their 10 hours of volunteer service with UWBG will be denied entry to the show). Artists who have performed at 10K Hours shows in other communities include college-friendly bands Ben Folds, Guster, Girl Talk and Cake.
The Central Kentucky event is actually the first of all 10,000 Hours Shows to be open to young professionals and other non-college students. The organizers felt this was important in a town like Lexington, which has been plagued with recruitment and retainment issues with this demographic – the hope is that the campaign will help foster a connection between young adults and their city.
“When you’re a volunteer, you start to feel a more vested stake in the community that you live in,” Carlson said. “We want people to have a feeling that they are needed here in Lexington, that they have accomplished something being here.”
Mixing the college and post-college demographics together in volunteer settings also encourages networking between college students and young professionals, Carlson added. By the time they have graduated, the students will have worked in a professional atmosphere with people who can help find them jobs, and hopefully encourage them to stay in Lexington.
The organizers, most of whom are professionals putting in their own volunteer hours to plan, promote and execute the event, have widely reached out to area college campuses in the past few weeks, and to great success so far – over 1,300 volunteers have registered on the United Way’s Web site as a result of the campaign.
“People have heard about it; word is starting to trickle out,” Schott said, who added that promoting the event to young professionals is a bit more tricky. “(They’re) like a moving target,” she said.