More and more associations are hosting community service days for their members and conference attendees, including NTEN, Association Forum, ASAE and FSAE.
Community service events provide an opportunity for members and staff to give time and resources to people and organizations that need help. They also offer a membership experience that’s more rewarding and memorable than the usual association experience of networking, meetings and education. You can give your members and staff a transformational experience that perhaps they’re not getting anywhere else.
Here’s a closer look at events held recently by two organizations: an association experimenting for the first time with community service at a conference and a communications firm whose staff organizes and participates in an annual week of community service.
ACC Gives Back!
The Association of Corporate Counsel held their first ACC Gives Back! event for 50 attendees of the Corporate Counsel University (CCU). They spent an afternoon alongside New Orleans residents planting a community garden in a neighborhood still recovering from Hurricane Katrina.
ACC members and staff wanted to find a way to give back to a rebuilding city while offering an “out of office” way for members to network. About six months out ACC staffers Maggie Baccinelli and Meredith King began planning the event with the help of the Louisiana chapter president. Projects with Purpose and a local nonprofit, Beacon of Hope, helped them find an appropriate activity, made arrangements with the neighborhood association and provided services to help pull off the event.
The participant feedback “was overwhelmingly positive” and potentially long-lasting: the participating members asked ACC to share their contact info with each other so they could stay in touch. ACC plans to make it an annual event.
I asked Meredith and Maggie to share some tips for associations considering a community service project:
- Delegate. You don’t have to plan everything. Local nonprofits that specialize in working with corporations can help you organize the event.
- Get local support from the community. Enlist local chapters, if you have them, to help promote the event.
- Just do it! Stop worrying it’ll be too much work. Make it happen. You’ll be glad you did.
Capstrat Boomerang Week
Why not bring community service into the office? And why stop at a day of service? Communications firm Capstrat just held their 10th annual Boomerang Week.
I asked this year’s Masters of Ceremonies, Jon Weiner and Kendall Jones, about the week’s name. “Just like throwing a boomerang, when you give, you always get something back. You may learn a new skill like shingling a roof, sleep better at night knowing you helped put shoes on someone’s feet or figure out that your co-worker is really good at Rock Band.”
They start planning two months before the big week by lining up charities and activities for each day. They enlist help from across departments to raise awareness and produce creative work, including posters for each day’s event.
They’ve found that “employees are more energized by supporting a charity they care about or something their co-workers have a vested interest in.” This year’s lineup:
- Rock Band Tournament with proceeds going to the winners’ charity of choice.
- Collection of small appliances and cleaning supplies for victims of April’s tornados.
- Shoes collection to benefit Share Our Shoes.
- Building a house for Habitat for Humanity.
- Corn hole tournament to benefit the local Food Bank, a Boomerang Week tradition.
What’s their secret to 100% employee participation?
- Let employees take charge to make it a great team-building experience.
- Contact charities as soon as possible. Many are volunteer-run so it takes time to get a response and figure out how to get them what they need.
- Have fun and keep it loose! If there’s a way to add a competitive element, people will really get behind a good idea.
Like the ACC staff said, “Just do it!” Here are a few nonprofit organizations that can help you get started:
Do you have any tips or resources for organizing a community service event?
Deirdre Reid, CAE is a freelance writer who hadn’t even heard of corn hole until moving to North Carolina.
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