Charity Team Building | Ideas and Keys to Success

The search term “charity team building” is a popular one. Teams want be part of something meaningful beyond themselves and here at Summit, we want that too. How we facilitate and provide a “charity team building” experience is as important, if not more important that the fact that we do offer charity team building. To consider the how question, we look at the difference between charity and solidarity.
Charity is something you give to others ‘less fortunate than yourself’. Charity work is often based on the premise that one group of people have something to offer another group of people, often marginalized people, who are viewed to have some sort of deficit.

Those who work in solidarity, on the other hand, work to come alongside those experiencing marginalization, recognizing that privilege maintained without systemic change won’t contribute to lasting change. While it is impossible to create lasting systemic change in a 90min team building challenge, we can choose to participate in charity team building that has a give back focus that is authentic and relies on the expertise of those who focus on best practices in the field.

Many organizations have a mandate to be charitable and it is often stated in their company values. Your company can combine team building and giving back at the same time. What better way to grow as a team, feel good about who you are, and serve your company values at the same time.

Giving back is a core value here at Summit and we enjoy working with organizations that give back directly through adventure excursions and six unique team building activities.

Adventure Excursions: Everest, Antarctica & the North Pole!

Summit President Scott Kress has been working for several years as a guide for the True Patriot Love expeditions that are designed for Canadian Military Veterans experiencing illness and injury. This program provides Canadian veterans with a well-deserved once-in-a-lifetime adventure experience, a personal growth opportunity, and a mentor to help them in their transition from military service to the civilian work world.

In 2013 the True Patriot Love Veterans Expedition hiked to Everest base camp and climbed Island Peak as part of a CBC documentary called March to the Top.

In another expedition, Scott skied to the North Pole with a group of veterans experiencing illness and injuries as part of a Shaw documentary called March to the Pole.

In, 2016, Scott and the True Patriot Love team had a very successful expedition to Mount Vinson in Antarctica. Over a three-week period the True Patriot Love Team made their way to Antarctica and battled extreme weather to summit the highest peak in Antarctica. This was the largest expedition ever to attempt Mount Vinson and in the end a record number of 31 team members made it to the summit.

True Patriot Love has raised over 20 million dollars to date to help those who served our country.

Charity Team Building Activities that You Can Implement

Summit offers many different give back team building activities you can implement during a conference or as a standalone initiative. Check them out!

  • Teams play for a deserving entrepreneur in the developing world through our Play it Forward program.  Go on scavenger hunt and use creative problem solving to develop strategies that lead to high performance and earn money used towards a Kiva loan.
  • Participate in Putt-ing People First program. Design a challenging themed mini-putt course and golf tournament while identifying and practicing skills needed for team success. Design a challenging themed mini-putt course and golf tournament by using non-perishable food items while identifying and practicing skills needed for team success.
  • In our Step-Up program work together with your team to earn parts and assemble a prosthetic leg that will enable someone in the emerging world to provide for themselves by walking again. Summit partners with a local clinic who provides training and supplies to clinics around the world. Encourage social responsibility by giving back to the global community.
  • Give the gift of Futbol to kids living in harsh conditions via our Survive or Thrive team building program. Identify key team skills that are needed to thrive in reality, while building stronger team relationships and morale.
  • Equip budding artists with key supplies when participating in our Art of Team program. Re-ignite your group’s creative spark and see your team’s “Big Picture” from a new perspective.
  • Give the gift of play to help transform the lives of children through sport via our Jump Start Your Team program. 

Focus on These Key Objectives

As we’ve already mentioned, it isn’t surprising that companies have a charitable focused activity during their offsite conferences. It allows companies to meet two key objectives that are imperative to organizations today:

  • Provide employees with a chance to network and build relationships with those in their company
  • Fulfil employees expectations and CSR mandates for the company to give back

We just want to make sure that we are facilitating give back components as responsibly as we can. CSR expectations are especially important to Millennial employees – according to the Cone Communications Millennial Employee Engagement Study, more than 2 out of 3 Millennials won’t take a job if a potential employer doesn’t have strong CSR policies and practices.

But, Don’t Let This Happen at Your Event

Speaking of responsibly offering charity or give back team building, be careful and avoid unintended consequences.
I was once told a story of a company who decided to invest in having a build-a-bike themed charity team building program as the closing event of their two-day retreat.

The team had fun, got to know other members of their organization throughout the program, and ultimately ended up building a bike together that they were all quite proud of.

But towards the end of the event, the company delivering the program ended up inviting a family in need to the event to receive the bike from their company. They asked them to give a speech to thank the company, and it was clear that they were uncomfortable and embarrassed to be put in this situation.

Although nobody said anything at the time, it became clear to the team that the event organizers had brought this family out to parade them in front of the team in order to showcase the “success” of the event.

After the event, the unspoken consensus among the team was that the company should never invest in these programs again.

Unfortunately, these horror stories are all too common, and have given charity team building programs a bad reputation. Part of the reason for this is that numerous event management companies have recognized an opportunity to profit from these programs, and have consequently decided to offer numerous, low quality programs in order to take advantage of this trend.


Related: Kiva Loans: Team Building AND Giving Back | Summit Giving Back History


These Three Keys to Success Should Help

Based on our experience in the team building industry over the past two decades, we’ve learned that genuinely successful team building programs have three key criteria. 

1. Authentic Give Back

These programs should result in giving-back to those in need with no strings attached. I hope that we can all agree that those in need who benefit from these programs should not need to be paraded in front of the participants in order to demonstrate the success of the program. It should be a genuine win-win for both the participants and those who benefit.

2. Partnerships With Organizations That Have Expertise

Team building companies are experts in exactly that – team building. We are not experts in the giving back component, and it’s important for companies in our industry to realize this. We need the support of organizations that do have expertise in giving back when designing and delivering these programs. This is why we tremendously value our partnerships with organizations such as Kiva and Community Care and others.

3. Experience and Trustworthiness of the Organization

Many companies out there offer charitable team building programs, but significantly fewer have enough experience and expertise with developing and delivering these programs. Failures like the one described in the story above often result from ignorance and the lack of experience. There’s much more to delivering a successful program than what you can see. For instance, would the event be appropriate to the venue, organization, and team? How do you engage the team in the program without having the program come off as tacky or embarrassing? Who exactly will benefit from the charity team building program? These are all questions that the organization delivering your program should be able to answer. Look for well-established companies who have at least several years of experience.

Charity team building programs have the power to be hugely impactful experiences for employees and organizations – but only if they’re done right. We recommend considering these three criteria when deciding which program to invest in for your next offsite. At the end of the day, go with a team building company that you can trust.

We’re Here to Help!

For your next conference or meeting contact us and we’ll take into consideration your team building and CSR goals and give you some fun-draising options you’ll enjoy and remember. Not only will you build your team, but you will help make the world a better place.