Team Building: 12 Ways to Give Back to the Community

While I have previously written Incentive Travel: It’s time to Re-engineer the Sales Incentive Trip, I’ve never thought of devoting a post to charity team building. I have never thought of it as being separate from the services my company offers. It’s always been  part of what we do.

You see long before Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) became a buzzword, long before I was involved in team building, I was a professional counsellor and social worker. Many people don’t know this about me but it’s true. After getting my BSW at McGill University, I graduated with an MSW from the Jane Addams Graduate School of Social Work at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. I was a social worker for 7 1/2 years in Jamaica and Toronto. By then I had completed my MBA and transitioned to business.

When I started offering team building, building a charity component into it was intuitive. It never occurred to me do do anything else. Fast forward many years and people started using terms like CSR and Corporate Social Responsibility and I have had to make a conscious effort to use those terms too.

So how can companies design team building that delivers tangible business results and makes a contribution to the community?

  • Set clear business objectives for each team building initiative.
  • Select your destination and venue.
  • Reach out and identify specific opportunities to give back at home (if your team building will be local) or abroad, based on the needs at your destination.
  • Organize your initiative.
  • Set the context in terms of how the skills and tools the teams use to successfully complete the initiative translate to the challenges they face at work.
  • Facilitate exercises to give the teams the skills and teals they will need to execute their projects.
  • Give the teams an opportunity to complete their projects.
  • Debrief the experience thoroughly for specific applications to your business.

The last 2 steps are what differentiates team building from a charity event.

Your contribution can be simple or complex. It can involve fundraising or a project that involves teams directly with the communities they are helping. It can take minimal time or you can weave a full business team building simulation around giving back to the community.

12 Ways to Give Back to the Community Through Team Building

Here are 12 ways to give back to the community for your next team building session. These are organized from simple to complex, inexpensive to more expensive:

  1. Ask each participant to bring an non-perishable food item. Donate the contributions to the local food bankAsk each participant to bring an unwrapped toy. Donate it contributions to a local shelter, church, synagogue, mosque or media outlet with a toy hamper or charity basket initiative.
  2. Arrange for organizations that collect surplus food to pick up any perishable food that you don’t consume daily for you team building session.

In the USA, Feeding America and Forgotten Harvest collect surplus food for distribution to the hungry. The Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act, signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1996, protects companies from liability if they donate food.

Canada’s Second Harvest fulfils the same role and the 1994 Donation of Food Act offers protection from liability.

  1. Donate unused soap, shampoo, and other hotel amenities to Clean the World to cleanse, re-cycle and give to shelters and those in need.
    Groups can also get supplies from Clean the World to assemble hygiene kits.

  1. Organize your group into team, give each team a budget and the challenge of filling as many shoeboxes as they can for Operation Christmas Child by Samaritan’s Purse:

National Collection Week for 2014 is November 17-24, 2014. Churches and community centres in many cities in the USA and Canada.

You may send completed boxes year-round to their headquarters:

Operation Christmas Child
Samaritan’s Purse
P.O. Box 3000
801 Bamboo Road
Boone, NC 28607

  1. Use a toy or bike build team building as the basis for a CSR initiative.
  2. Organize your group into teams and have them fill backpacks with school supplies.
    Donate them to Children’s Aid or a school in a low income area at home or abroad.
  3. Use cooking team building to prepare meals for charity.
    Donate what you prepare to Meals on Wheels, a soup kitchen, or shelter. You can even obtain reusable lunch boxes for a school in a low income area and fill them with sandwiches, a drink, and other lunch items.
  4. Use Apprentice inspired Visexecutaries team building or an Inc. Inc.: Breaking Down Silos team building to complete a philanthropic project in teams.
    There are many things you can do like collecting gently used clothing and toys that employees no longer need, doing a fundraiser to raise money to buy food and pulling all of this together to create a pop-up free store in a low income neighbourhood.

Some of our clients have added charity components to business related projects or donated the funds they have raised to worthwhile causes including the National Kidney Foundation in Malaysia and Save the Train and other initiatives in North America. We have permission to share the video footage with prospective clients making inquiries.

For Visexecutaries, 2 teams of sales professionals developed a business strategy for 2 small business owners with stalls in a bazaar in Egypt and coached them to improve their merchandising, display, sales skills….and profits.

This can be replicated in a souk anywhere in the Middle East or a market in Jamaica and other parts of the Caribbean.

  1. Participate in a construction project to build or re-model low income housing or a school.
    It’s a great way to convey or reinforce project management skills. Sure my company always loves to get new business but I also applaud other companies that are making a positive contribution. If we each do our part, the world will be a better place.

  1. Provide food for a village or community during an overseas team building retreat.
    One of our clients did that during their mountain team building in Oman simulation. They also donated money and the items they had collected in a souk during their simulation to the community.
  2. If your retreat must be relocated because of a natural disaster, send a team to help with the clean up or donate food, clothing or building supplies.
    It doesn’t have to cost much. Whatever you manufacture, that is what you can donate. Pharma companies can donate medicine, IT firms can donate computers or software.
  3. Get “off-the-beaten-track” using bikes, motorcycles or buses at your destination. Visit a school, spend time with the children. Donate school supplies, books, and/or uniforms….and treats.

I wanted to send a special thank you ……. for the motorcycle tour hosted by Angela.

Not a day goes by that I don’t rave about what I saw and learned about the Jamaica during the motorcycle tour. Angela was fantastic, and I got a real feel for the people and life on the island.

My time at the resort was relaxing and awesome too. But clearly, that’s not the real Jamaica. 🙂

I’m saddened by the impact of Hurricane Sandy on the island; I hope that the people that I’ve come to respect and admire recover quickly.

Dave Cole, Solutions Architect, Scalar Decisions

Remember it is the context setting, debriefing and business applications exercises that transform a charity event into a full fledged team building simulation. If you have internal facilitators with the skills to do this, by all means use them. Otherwise, don’t hesitate to use our services.

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