Give and Get: The Case for Volunteering at Corporate Retreats

12 May

Benecomms volunteers at Hope Reins
Photo courtesy of Sabine Ramsay

Last week a famous former NFL player taught me how to grow blueberries. He also taught me that muscadine grapes, native to North Carolina, contain more potentially cancer-fighting nutrients than many other fruits and vegetables, and have been the subject of several cancer studies.

On other days last week, I also learned:Screen Shot 2019-05-12 at 3.00.06 PM

- How to properly paint a fence. 
- That one of my clients used to work with rescued dolphins and was also a volunteer firefighter.
- More than 52,000 children in Wake County live below the poverty line, many cannot afford clothes. Of all the second-hand clothes donated, boys' are harder to come by than girls’ (maybe because boys’ clothing doesn’t survive long enough to be donated).
- When petting a horse, one should always present a closed fist because human fingers can look awfully like carrots.

All these things and more I learned during the Benecomms retreat, last week, in celebration of our organization’s first year anniversary. As well as meetings, dinner and a session on communications training, our team stepped out into the community and volunteered with three different not-for-profit groups on different days. We worked at:

A Note in the Pocket: This group was founded by a local teacher serving in an impoverished school. When winter came, she noticed many students did not have coats. Many also showed up for class day in and day out wearing the same, unwashed clothes. She founded a nonprofit to collect and distribute clothes, and today the organization delivers close to 100,000 items to kids in our county. 

First Fruits Farm: This rural NC farm was founded in 2012 by Jason Brown. A former, successful NFL player, Jason walked away from his career in 2012 after hearing a calling to feed the hungry. Screen Shot 2019-05-12 at 2.55.15 PM

Hope Reins: A 33-acre ranch for rescued and rehabilitated horses. The ranch trains the horses to work with children who are in a life crisis and help them to find healing. 

Retreats That Give Back: A Win-Win for Everyone

I have been to my fair share of corporate retreats. While these events were great ways to connect with colleagues, often working sessions included long, seated meetings offering little respite from all the other long, seated working days in front of the computer. As a result, it was a challenge to ensure attendees maintained their focus and retained information.

While new technologies are improving things (the use of virtual reality at retreats is rising, and innovative companies are offering, for example, bespoke scavenger hunts…anyone who knows me well knows how much I love both VR and scavenger hunts), for a small business, the costs associated with these offerings, or traditional retreats in general, are usually prohibitive.

According to the Amex Global Meetings Forecasta survey of more than 600 meetings and events professionalsthe average cost per attendee for corporate retreats ranges from $320 - $630, depending on the industry. Plus costs are edging up, with a projected rise of more than 2% this year. But one particularly interesting quote from this same report, below, is thought-provoking:

“From a global perspective, we are seeing a trend toward localization, with customers operating global programs that have an increasing recognition of the reality that business happens locally.”

Business happens locally. And in every local community, there is great need. Focusing your next corporate retreat on giving back to your community does more than just help your community. It helps your employees. It allows them to move (and movement significantly improves information retention), learn new things, laugh, and bond in a less stiff and starchy context than a traditional retreat.

Volunteering your time also helps your company; it can reduce retreat costs significantly. Plus, having your teams problem-solve in conditions outside of traditional contexts can nurture new ideas and better ways of thinking. 

Last week our team discussed client strategies, social media and marketing ideas while tending squash plants and painting fences. I’m enjoying the tan I got from this work, as well as the memories and ideas that we generated during this time together. We are going to make this a habit.

Tagged With: #adventuresinpr, #givingback, #corporateretreats, #socialinnovation, #volunteering

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