How To Start a Project


Arizona Project provides all the information you need to start a community action project. This information will help you find a cause, teach you how to establish a plan and purpose for your project, and show you the steps to create a plan. Use this to get your project off the ground and running!

Think you have what it takes to change the world?

SEE IT: What is the problem?

Find something you think needs to change in your community (i.e. your school, your town, the global community, etc.) and come up with a way to make it better. First you need to identify a problem and a community you would like to help. Next you need to figure out what your solution is going to be.

BELIEVE IT: Why is it important?

Changing the world can be tough work. If you believe in yourself and have a firm grasp on how your passion will pay off for yourself and your community, it’ll be so much easier to keep going. It’s important to not only pick a cause or an issue that you believe in 100%, but it’s also important that the community, especially the people you are trying to help, believe in your project as well. It is important to understand the problem you are trying to solve and be able to communicate the need and goals of your project to others.

BUILD IT: What is the plan?

Nothing happens with an easy snap of the fingers. You have identified the problem and come up with an idea, now it’s time to BUILD your project and come up with action steps. The first step is setting up goals for your project. Your long term goal may be to end poverty, help the homeless, or use the power of music to help sick children, but if you think about your project in terms of measurable short term goals, you’ll have an easier time making change. Remember numbers speak louder than words alone.

DO IT: Put your plan into action.

Go out there and get moving! Keep your plan in mind, but stay flexible. Unplanned things are bound to happen.

REFLECT: What happened? And what’s next?

Here is where you think about the goals you set up in the BELIEVE IT step. Did you reach your goals? What would you do differently going forward or next time? Did you achieve so much success that you want to repeat the project again or keep it going? Even if you decide to keep growing your project past your original goals, it’s important to regularly stop and reflect on your goals, celebrate your accomplishments and set new ones. If you don’t reach all your goals, don’t worry, that’s what “next time” is all about.

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SEE IT: What is your vision for a better community?

Below are some ideas and tips to help you come up with your vision and turn it into a project idea:

  • Define your community. What is your community? Is it your neighborhood? Your school? Your city? A community abroad?
  • What do you want to change? Some ideas for brainstorming issues:
    • Map the strengths and weaknesses of your community. Take a walk around your community and observe good things as well as things that you would like to change. For example: Does every place seem safe? Are there things, places, or services that are missing? Are there any tensions between different kinds of people in the community? List all the things you observed.
    • Conduct a survey of students at your school or through a local community center (i.e. YMCAs, Boys and Girls Clubs, religious centers, etc). What issues do your community and peers care about?
    • Watch the news and read the newspaper (local and/or national). What stories make you feel angry or anxious?
    • Read up on nearly any cause you can think about on our site, Something is bound to peak your interest.
  • How are you going to change it? Some ideas and tips for brainstorming project ideas:
    • Research the issue! Use the internet, libraries, newspapers, documentaries, etc. to find out all you can. The more you know, the better prepared you’ll be to face this problem head-on and to educate others.
    • Research how other people are tackling the same issue. What programs and resources already exist? Chances are that other people have noticed the same problems that you have. What are community organizations and other non-for-profit organizations doing to address the issue? Browse through the projects section of the Do Something site to see how other teens are tackling the same issue.
    • Ask the people or community you are hoping to help. This may seem obvious, but people often forget to ask the people they are trying to help for their ideas. This dialogue can take the form of an informal discussion or a more formal survey.
    • Ask your friends and neighbors for their ideas. Since you may need their help latter on, it’s not a bad idea to get their input now. The earlier they get involved the more likely they are to help later on.
    • Think outside the box: Crazy ideas are good for getting the creative juices flowing. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box.

Start Your Project now

9655441-start-button[1]Click the start button to begin your Own project

BELIEVE IT: Why is it Important?

Why do you think the need you identified has to be addressed? Remember it’s not only important that you believe in your project 100%, but that others do, too. If you are filling a real need and can talk about that need and your solution with passion, knowledge and clarity, it will be a lot easier to get people to believe in your project. Remember numbers speak louder than words alone.

    • Why is your project important?
      • Explain “Why You”?: People invest in people, not just ideas. Illustrate your commitment, knowledge, and expertise. How many years have you been at this? How has your life experience prepared you for this endeavor? What additional research have you done? Show the audience that you are real, genuine, and passion-driven.
      • Don’t Over-Describe the Problem: Most people are aware of the overwhelming problems out there. Unless you’ve identified a completely overlooked problem don’t devote more than 90 seconds (1 Power Point slide) of a conversation to this topic. Targeted is better- e.g. “youth poverty” versus “18-25 year olds in urban communities with untapped talent and potential who have limited access to job opportunities.”
      • Find the Emotional Hook: People act based on emotion and then justify through logic. How will you get your audience to identify with your message? What can they personally relate to? In order to find the emotional hook, begin with basic ego needs - who benefits from a transaction with your solution? Does it include any intangible benefits such as, “feeling good”, or “belonging to something meaningful”?
      • Justify Your Model of Change: You’ve got to justify how your idea will generate change and help others. Get specific. How will launching an after school mentoring program really alleviate education inequalities? What kind of social return on investment is generated - and can you substantiate it?
      • Make it Real: Describe how this is more than just an “idea”. Present evidence that the need exists and that there is a demand for your solution. Give 1 or 2 powerful statistics to support the need for your project.
      • Understand Your Audience: Everyone you speak to will have diverse perspectives, needs, and potential roles in your project. Understand specifically who it is that you’re talking to, what they do and don’t need to hear, what words will speak to them most clearly, what is your ultimate ask. Fine-tune your approach for each listener.
      • How are you going to measure you success?
        • How big is the problem?
          • 300 homeless people in your city?
          • 250 non-CFL bulbs in your school?
          • 20,000 US Army troops without letters?
        • How much can you change it?
          • Collect 350 pairs of jeans for homeless teens?
          • Change ½ the non-CFL bulbs?
          • Send 15,000 emails to service men and women?
      • How are you going to talk about your project? Now it’s time to take the tips above and craft your project’s messaging.

        • “Music classes are being cut from schools across the country. Music education isn’t just fun and creative, it results in higher test scores, graduation rates, and job readiness. We’re taking the lead by launching a letter writing campaign to urge our school district to Save Our Music. We’re holding a battle of the bands to get hundreds of community members involved.”
        • “1/3 of US homeless are under the age of 18. The first thing they ask for when they arrive at homeless shelters is a pair of jeans. We’re holding a Teens for Jeans drive at our school. Our goal is to collect over 400 pairs by adding a denim donation to the ticket price of our winter formal.”

Start Your Project now

9655441-start-button[1]Click the start button to begin your Own project

BUILD IT: What is the plan?

Any long-term project is going to have many steps. Logistics can be a pain! But once you break it down to steps, everything will seem much more manageable. Use the three steps below for building out the details of your project.

    • Set up Goals.
      Your long term goal may be to end poverty, help the homeless, or use the power of music to help sick children, but if you think about your project in terms of measurable short term goals, you’ll have an easier time making change. You should have 3-5 measurable short term goals. Each goal should have a specific “metric”, so you can easily measure your success.
    • Goal: To directly help 20 people.
    • Goal: To raise $1000 in donated goods and services towards my project.
    • Goal: To raise community awareness by getting the local news to do a story on my project.
    • Goal: To inspire 50% of the school population to get involved.
  • Action Steps.
    After you have the parameters for your overall project fleshed out, the next step is to break the goals you came up with in the first step into action steps. For example:

    • Goal: Get the local news to do a story on my project
      • Invite someone, like a local politician, who is likely to draw a crowd and the media to an event you’re holding.
      • Make a list of all your local news outlets and research the best person to contact at each.
      • Write a press release and send it out to all the outlets on your list.
      • Create a packet of materials on your project (a Media Kit) that you can give to any media that attends your event.
  • Map It Out.Give your project some structure.
    • Timeline for the project
    • Resources you will need and where you will obtain them.
    • Challenges you may face

Other important things to think about in the BUILD IT stage:

  • Creating a Budget
  • Creating a Marketing and PR Plan- Make a plan to get the word out about your project.
  • Recording your progress-Keep all your papers, flyers, and letters, so that you can write a summary at the end of the event.

DO IT: Put your plan into action

Go out there and get moving! Keep your plan in mind, but stay flexible. Unplanned things are bound to happen.

REFLECT: What happened? And what’s next?

Reflecting is all about asking questions.

Some key questions you should answer at the end of any project are:

  • What went well? Why?
  • What could have gone better? How could you have improved it?
  • Did you achieve your goals? Both in terms of the community and for yourself?
  • What are your next steps? What else can you do?

Ideas on ways to gather reflections and feedbacks from participants:

  • If you are holding an event, find someone to video record interviews with the guests for their feedback.
  • Have all the participants in your project take a survey.

Let your funders and partners know of your successes.
Send all the people who helped you with your project a short update about all the awesome things your project accomplished (make sure to include pictures). Next time you come to them for help they are more likely to lend a hand.

Start Your Project now

9655441-start-button[1]Click the start button to begin your Own project