Done well, philanthropic (community service) experiences and team building can leverage each other like nothing else. Done not so well and you risk diminishing the power of both with service burnout or team-building cynicism. Here are some steps to ensure you create a relevant, meaningful and charitable experience.

  1. Be sure there is a facilitative process that helps participants recognize the experience/deed as a metaphor for work and connects to who they are, what they do and where they are going. Your aim is to help them connect to the WHY of their work. Effective philanthropic team building does this purposefully.

  2. Turn it into a business simulation so they have to manage results, process (time, tools, expertise) and relationships (balancing collaborative and silo orientation—deliberately). Be sure to get them talking about each of these before, during and after the event.

  3. Look at your team/organizational values. Which of these do you want them to practice, demonstrate, discuss?

  4. Weigh the cost/benefit of the service project AND the team development component. If you are spending $100 per person to put $10 worth of supplies into a “care package,” you should expect that $90 can be justified in the team development component and facilitation experience. Otherwise, just donate the $100 and have the organization send 10 care packages per participant and get on with another meeting agenda topic.

  5. Don’t waste time by not giving it enough time. Too often, the box-checkers just want to get the service (CSR) component done to say they have a CSR program and do not carve the time for 1, 2 and 3 above. This will ruin it for those who come from a place of really caring about the connection between organizations, the people who work for them and the communities that use their wares.