Social Impact

The Team Building Activity That Makes a Difference


Ah yes, team building.

Do a Google search right now and you’ll get millions of search results for different activities companies can do to build team camaraderie.

Everything from rope courses to happy hours to bowling. Even the good old trust fall.

But there’s one team building activity that doesn’t get the spotlight it deserves. In fact, I would argue it’s one of the more effective ones. And it actually makes a difference.

I’m talking about volunteering.

But first, a quick story

The year is 2013.

I found myself at a hot new tech startup in San Francisco that was on the brink of becoming a house-hold name in its industry.

As a young professional, I was fired up to be part of a company that had a great product, mission, and so much promise.

There I was, my first day on the job. I remember it like it was yesterday.

I walk into the office and got the grand tour — knowing where the kitchen is is very important. Out of the corner of my eye I see bean bag chair that I planned on getting a lot of use out of, but I digress.

I make my rounds and meet several of my new colleagues, and do the normal things you would do as a new employee.

My onboarding week had officially started.

But there was something different about this onboarding process. Something I didn’t expect nor experience at previous companies.

As I sat in the main conference room with several new hires, the in-house recruiter comes in and mentions that the entire company will be volunteering that week.

A couple days later, we were out in the fresh air of San Francisco on a sunny day giving back to our community.

It didn’t take me long to realize just how powerful volunteering is as a team building activity. There’s something about a shared experience that enables a deeper connection to form between colleagues.

Why volunteering is a powerful team building activity

Skydiving, scuba diving, mud runs. We as humans gravitate towards experiences.

Why? Because of the stories.

As a team building activity, volunteering enables you to see the world from a different perspective. It’s this experience, combined with sharing it with others, that makes it the perfect vehicle to create a story that can’t be replicated at a bowling alley or happy hour.

Be honest…When’s the last time you told the story of your company’s last team building happy hour? Don’t worry, I’ll wait. Unless Johnny drank too much and made a full of himself.

Theme park trips are all well and good, but if you really want to create an experience that sticks in the minds of your employees and brings them closer together, volunteering is absolutely the best thing you can do. This I know from experience.

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Founder of Startups Give Back and Changemaker Studios, a parent organization that builds and manages a portfolio of impact brands including Social Impact World. Board of Directors: Seahugger. Angel investor.

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