Give Back Events

By David Graves

Click image to enlargeGive BackGive Back Events not only give an association a chance to connect with the community, they also provide an opportunity for team building and leadership development.

Give Back Events—activities in which the end result is a donation of items to a charitable organization, community outreach program, or perhaps directly to individuals—are becoming more common in today's marketplace as organizations recognize their philanthropic importance. Not only do these types of events give the organization a rallying point and provide a means to better connect with the community, when structured correctly, they also provide an excellent opportunity for team building and leadership development. However, key to success is outlining objectives to ensure the link to your organization and the event is solid, and the experience is good for everyone.

Why It's Trending
Leadership and team development activities are being integrated into association, as well as corporate meetings and events as a way to spread a dynamic message and generate attendee engagement. Although they create an opportunity to give attendees a breather from endless speakers, their impact can be much more than a break, especially if the activity has a charitable or philanthropic purpose. The initial growth of these Give Back Events occurred during the onset of the economic downturn in 2007 as organizations were looking at a way to add purpose and justify holding events and programs. By incorporating a Give Back Event, they were able to accomplish the goal of having fun and networking, while at the same time show community involvement and helping those less fortunate.

Even though the economy has improved in most sectors, these events have continued to grow in popularity as organizations have received positive feedback from attendees. Many meeting planners are specifically seeking activities that challenge participants' abilities to take calculated risks, identify team roles, and allocate resources efficiently and effectively.

Click image to enlargeGive Back

The Big Picture
Essential to the success of a Give Back Event is planning early and not letting the activity be an afterthought to your program. The best Give Back Events are designed around the theme and concept of your meeting or convention, and not simply incorporated into a conference for the sake of having an activity (i.e., the meeting planner or the executive director feels it is the right thing to do, without considering how it will benefit the association or meeting itself). These events can have a dual goal of helping the community or a specific organization/charitable cause, while also building leadership qualities and allowing people to discover their potential through a team environment.

After identifying the objective, it is crucial to reach out to your desired charitable organization early in the planning process. Don't simply make assumptions about what the organization needs. Consider instead that they have to plan for logistics on their end as well, and they may have a need that is not easily identifiable. For example, your donation—however kind—may provide a tremendous strain on them in terms or storage or transportation. While bikes for kids are a great idea, maybe the greater need is for books or school supplies. Perhaps at your golf tournament, you can donate food items to a local pantry. Attendee teams might go back to class with fun challenges that result in them filling backpacks that are then donated. Or you might paint murals, donating the art supplies. Opportunities are endless and offer ways for your association to connect with the local community where your meeting is being held.

The nature of the activity also should be designed to fit the attendees and work within the limitations of the space and scheduled time. Early planning enables you to build a longer-term relationship with the organization and the power of the event for all attendees. If possible, invite someone from the organization to speak briefly at the event as it provides attendees with background on the group and how the donations will benefit the community.

Ensuring Success
For the most successful Give Back event, make sure that details are not overlooked. Be sure all attendees understand the goal and purpose of the activity, as it will aid in participation. Making connections for attendees will help them feel good about the time and money spent on attending your meeting or convention.

David Graves is President and CEO of metroConnections, providing conference, event, production, and transportation services for meetings. He can be reached at 952-767-1250,, or