Little orange signs are popping up all over the Triangle. In front yards, community gardens, window frames and more, the signs read as follows:
Change the World.
Alumna Amber Smith (Interdisciplinary Studies ’09; MPA ’12) says the simply worded message is one everybody can get behind. Smith helped create the sign campaign as part of her role as co-founder and executive director of Activate Good, a nonprofit volunteer center based in Raleigh.
Activate Good aims to boost volunteerism by helping connect people with charitable causes in the community. To accomplish that goal, Smith says the group looks to not only forge new partnerships but also foster an environment of kindness, unity and service. That’s where the signs come in.
“We work with a large group of volunteers who are from all walks of life, different religious backgrounds and different political backgrounds,” Smith says. “Whatever we’re volunteering for is bigger than any differences.”
At last count, Activate Good has sold and distributed more than 300 Signs for Good throughout the Triangle, the United States and beyond. You can request your own sign with a donation of at least $8, which goes to support Activate Good’s mission. Smaller window decals are also available.
Smith started Activate Good as an undergraduate at NC State. After her sophomore year, she and a friend, Heather Leah, took a break from college to explore their passion for volunteering on the road. They embarked on a two-and-a-half month road trip across the U.S., performing random acts of kindness in more than 20 states. Along the way, they met individuals who were passionate about volunteering, but didn’t know where to start. The experience inspired Smith and Leah to found a new volunteer center in Raleigh upon returning home.
Today, Activate Good has partnerships with more than 440 nonprofits in the area. Each nonprofit has a profile page on Activate Good’s website, where they can post their needs for services. Volunteers can then sign up with specific nonprofits or for community-wide days of service.
Smith says her time at NC State was instrumental to Activate Good’s founding and development. En route to her bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies, she minored in nonprofit studies. She also took a service-learning course called Nonprofit Leadership and Development, which requires students to volunteer with local organizations.
In graduate school, Smith focused her MPA on nonprofit management, earned an assistantship with the Institute for Nonprofits and helped advise students pursuing the nonprofit minor.
“Undergrad helped shape my leadership skills and interest in nonprofits,” Smith says. “Grad school helped with skill sets like accounting. You need both to work in this area.”
Since graduating, Smith’s connection to NC State has remained strong. Activate Good regularly hosts current students as interns and volunteers, some of whom have helped with the recent sign campaign.
On social media, photos with the hashtag #SignsForGood picture dozens of the orange signs as far away as Dubai. Each time a new one goes in the ground, Smith grows more confident in the underlying theory: there are things that connect us all.
“The exciting prospect is that maybe this can be a national or international message,” Smith says. “We’re all in this together.”
This post was originally published in College of Humanities and Social Sciences.