10 Steps to a
Community-wide MLK Day Event

Step One: Determine all your needs

Determine all your needs to carry out a successful MLK Day event. Don’t focus on what you think is possible; just develop a list of needs.

Step Two: Conduct a community-wide assessment

Conduct a community-wide assessment of all resources that could be used to carry out your event successfully – think outside the box into the world of possibilities!

Step Three: Enlist support

Enlist support from your most prominent volunteer leader(s) or champion(s) to help brainstorm how to secure the resources you need to be successful.

Step Four: Publicize what you are doing

Publicize what you are doing by getting support from the local media. Use your volunteer leadership to make the link with the media if one does not already exist.

Step Five: Use existing volunteer and service structures.

Enlist the support of high school students, college sororities and fraternities, student government, alumni organizations, religious groups, city/county workers, businesses, or non-profit organizations. If you don’t have an existing connection to a particular volunteer group, identify one or more prominent, well-respected individuals who can help you make a new relationship.

Step Six: Ask companies for help with financial and human resources.

Financial resources are not the only type of assistance that local businesses can provide. They also have people power and expertise that may prove even more valuable than money. Consider reaching out to accountants, advertisers, graphic designers, writers, organizers, cooks, drivers, store owners, and educators. They have useful knowledge, skills, and networks that can be utilized in planning and implementing community activities, and they may have the ability to make a financial donation too.

Step Seven: Utilize influential people when making an “ask.”

Identify champions for your MLK Day initiative among community influencers. These people may be formal or informal leaders. Make sure that they have very good knowledge of your organization and the MLK Day initiative; then, put them to work on outreach in the areas where they have the greatest influence, be it among religious groups, businesses, educators, or others.

Step Eight: Hold a fundraising event

Hold a fundraising event that involves most of the community. Events should be simple, with tasks that are easy to delegate to volunteers, and raise enough money to offset the costs of the event, while also recruiting and acknowledging volunteers.

Step Nine: Consider community events that include children

Consider community events that include children as well as adults. Some ideas include:

  • All Male Cook Off - men and boys cook together to prepare food to feed the hungry
  • Area Clean Up - youth and adults work together to clean up a messy area of the community
  • Spelling Bee or Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader contest - children and adults compete against each other in a contest that focuses on words or questions that relate to Dr. King or the civil rights movement
  • Elder Day - children visit elderly in nursing homes
  • Sporting Event - local celebrities and athletes compete against parents in a sporting event
  • Singing/Dancing/Painting/Poetry Contest - children express their creativity through various art forms; the theme could relate to Dr. King’s teachings or events from the civil rights movement

Step Ten: Create T-shirts

Have T-shirts as a way of identifying the volunteers and commemorating the day. The T-shirt will serve as an ongoing reminder to volunteers of their service long after event day and may encourage volunteers to return. The T-shirts can be an in-kind donation from a print shop or other local business.


Make sure you gather the email addresses of the volunteers so that you can thank them no more than one week after the event. Also, remember to communicate with them throughout the year to keep them informed and involved with your activities in preparation for next year’s event.

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Tell us how we're doing: MLKDay@cns.gov

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