Learning Series | Returning to In-Person Volunteering

May 12, 2022


Bringing groups together for a team event? We bring together Ben and Andy to discuss important reminders when planning in-person volunteering and team events.

Looking for more insights and conversations around all things social impact? Check out WeHero Learn for more videos and blogs. https://www.wehero.co/learnWeHero designs and executes social impact programs through strategic partnerships, CSR & ESG program design and execution, and engaging volunteer programs. Our team works day in and day out to develop new solutions to create better cultures, better brands, and a greater social return. Our mission: To build innovative solutions that empower organizations and individuals around the world to maximize social impact.

Interview Transcript

Andy: Ben. It's great to have you back on the, WeHero learn podcast. It's been a little bit.
Ben: We took a little hiatus, little break, um, call it a spring break for us, but we're back.
Andy: I think we can call it just an earth month break is what I would call it.
Ben: Everybody should get a earth month break, you know, you know, in Europe to take these six week vacations. I think we just, you know, cross globe should have an earth month rest.
Andy: I agree. The sustainability world should have all of April.
Ben: Yep. Reset. I agree.
Andy: Agree. Well excited. I mean, for the last five to six episodes we've had outside guests on and so excited to bring it back and just have the two of us the way we started.
Ben: Yeah. Let's do it.
Andy: Yeah. Well, today I wanted to pick your brain on in person team building events. I think we've started to see COVID slowdown in the us, which has allowed companies to plan team gatherings. It's been years since teams have gotten together and more than ever. We're seeing people want to bring in volunteering to these team events, whether they're two to three day off sites. And so I'd be curious if you are seeing the same trend and what is unique about these in person gatherings that maybe we didn't see pre COVID?
Ben: Yeah, no. Um, it's great to see people getting face to face again, that human connection's really special. So we're definitely seeing that trend. And we're seeing a lot of people in very large groups, you know, averaging 200 to like 300 people in most cases, um, at these gatherings. And to your point, most of these gatherings that we're seeing their offsite, maybe it's the sales offsite are just getting the company together for a quarterly retreat. Um, we're seeing a lot of people getting together and you're right, that people are trying to add a volunteer experience to these get togethers. Um, we hear this thing all the time. We want to leave this city that we're visiting better than we found it, which I think is like a really great thing to do. Um, and so we're noticing that I think, um, a few things that I like to point out that are folks are running into in regard to challenges is that we have a lot of these large groups that want to get offsite that want to be onsite at a nonprofit location.
Ben: Um, and I think they're having a huge gap in challenge there. And we always like to share with folks, you know, most nonprofits, at least in the us probably globally don't have the capacity to take on 200 or 300 guests at the location. On average, what we notice for like an on onsite nonprofit visit is thirties, usually the cap on average. And so for these folks that are looking to have that volunteer aspect through an onsite visit like that, it's just not feasible. It's really, really challenging. You're best to use the venue that you've already selected for this offsite, for this get together for this event and bring the volunteering to you. That's what we really recommend right now. I think the other thing that we're noticing right now as a trend is, um, people are trying to build out these very long team building engagements.
Ben: So what I mean by that is that they'll have two to three days to your point. And one of those days they want to have like a three to four hour volunteer slash team building event. And what we'll start doing with prospects and folks that are looking to do this is walking through what a proposed agenda would actually look like and helping them realize you actually want to need like two hours. Um, the same amount of impact will be made in that one to two hour timeframe. People won't be exhausted from having spent like four hours in the same room, having different conversations. Um, and people just have a more, a better time. So, um, we don't want people to drag through the experience. We don't want to try to stretch for four hours. Um, so those are two things I've, I've noticed a lot recently come up as, as challenges and, and some ways we've been helping companies, but I would love to hear you too, Andy, just what you're noticing out there. And, and especially as we see more and more companies try to get back to these in person formats,
Andy: I would agree. I think, you know, ever since we started, we hear the constant challenge has been why can't we take 400 people to a local nonprofit. And it's just really hard to do that. Uh, as I'm sure you can imagine nonprofits are so under resourced all around the country, around the world, and this is a massive burden that takes them off of their entire day of work. And so what I like to say, unless you're willing to make a very meaningful donation to that nonprofit, it's far better to add the impact on top of what they do on a daily basis and do it at your location and deliver the impact to them in an alternative way. Ultimately it's higher impact. It's better for the nonprofit and frankly, it's just better for you as well. I think as we've done a lot of these in-person events at nonprofits and not at nonprofits, moving big groups of people around is extremely challenging and it increases the distraction of what you're doing.
Andy: And I think it's ultimately worse for the nonprofit as well. Um, so, so that's one major takeaway I think I would have, apart from that, I think the other thing we are seeing in the market is still needing to bring in hybrid members of the workforce. So we, you know, have seen so many VP of sales trying to bring together their sales team, but there's still 25 to 30 people out of 200 that aren't going to be able to be there. And so they are challenged with how do we engage these people in the right way? And I think the team building aspect of volunteering, which is such a large part of the events that we run can be done virtually. And it's one of the very few things of these offsites that can be done really virtually you. Can't, it's really hard to go to a cocktail hour <laugh> or, you know, have dinner with a virtual colleague when you're with all these in person colleagues.
Andy: And so finding the best way to engage those groups is essential. And what we like to say is we typically have breakout rooms, whether virtually or in person, and it's awesome to be able to combine the in person and the remote employees into the same breakout rooms to discuss the challenges of being blind or what it's like living with a disability, or, you know, what you value relationships with elders and things of that nature. And so leveraging what someone would view as a disadvantage using team building as an advantage to build those relationships failure in person or remote, I think is one of the, one of the huge advantages of this digital world that we live in, that we should continue to maintain.
Ben: Yeah. On that team piece. I think you highlighted such a great point and you and I have talked about before, how, you know, a lot of folks, they, they do this volunteer experience and they go, oh, how do we add a team building event onto that? And we're really quick to remind folks that, you know, you know, when you think about volunteering as a team, um, there's so much team building that's going on, you're uniting all of your employees around a very common cause and making a huge amount of impact. And that builds a huge amount of unity and empathy and team, um, aspects, uh, for all these folks that are participating. And so we always remind folks like, Hey, team buildings already, part of the inner workings of the experience, you talked about what we do at, we hear that's a huge aspect of everything that we do, you can absolutely add on and bolt onto that. Like, if you want to make it competitive, if you want to have fun aspects that happen after the experience and how people can continue making impact as a team after the event takes place. I think that's another critical thing as well. But I think we always remind folks like team buildings already, part of it, your team's going to really combine around a singular cost and make a huge amount of impact
Andy: Hundred percent. I love the analogy. I don't know who said this, but it was a, an event manager was trying to build this big event for his group. And he was like, yeah, it's hard to understand that everyone would want to do wine tasting. There's a lot of people who one don't drink two, you know, may not appreciate wine enough to spend an hour, hour and a half doing it. And then there's just people who aren't interested. It's like the likelihood of someone not being interested in changing the world or helping an individual is so low. And if they really don't want to help someone, they probably shouldn't be on the team. And so that, that's the type of energy that we want there. And I think it's a great reminder of the power of team building through volunteering.
Ben: This is where we're going into our HR recommendations, who should be on our team, who shouldn't just kidding. We're not going to do that.
Andy: No, we're, we're not going to do that. But I think it's, it's an important reminder of just how volunteering is team building at its core.
Ben: Mm-hmm
Andy: That's a great way to do it with your team.
Ben: Yeah, no, I, I absolutely agree with that. Um, are there any other things that you're noticing that are just could be helpful for folks planning these large in-person events or even the small ones too? I know the small ones, but they still come up. We still help a lot of groups that are, you know, around 30 people get together and volunteer and impactful away. But any other things you're noticing on your end?
Andy: I think just the increased time it takes to plan these, I think pre-covid there was so much supply in the event world from locations to vendors, to planners. Um, and I don't think there's as much capacity anymore. We had two really hard years in this industry and a lot of people and places are no longer operating in it. Mm-hmm <affirmative>. And so I would encourage everyone to start extremely early and plan early in advance for what they want to do. Uh, it's really hard to pull one of these off in under 30 to 60 days.
Ben: That's a great point. Just lack of partners now in the ecosystem. Also, we continue to struggle with supply chain issues. Um, and so just getting materials needed to make sure these experiences are successful. Um, there's a lot of lag there, so yeah. Agree with you, Andy, just, we need to plan way in advance, give yourself the time to make sure, um, we set these up for success.
Andy: Yeah, likewise, but I think on a whole it's so exciting to have these big groups of people coming together to deliver, you know, really meaningful amounts of impact to the world and, uh, doing it together as a company is really exciting.
Ben: Yeah. I love that. And for folks that need help with this stuff, we're here to help. Like this gets really complicated, really fast, and we do a lot of the,, so we're happy to help a Andy's leaving tomorrow to go do one himself.
Andy: Absolutely any final thoughts, Ben?
Ben: No, just again, to our points, like, you know, think about those team building components, how they're already built in with the volunteerism plan far in advance. You're working with many cases, big teams, big groups of people. Um, so make sure you're set yourself up for success. And again, like, don't worry so much about going on site for these volunteer efforts, bring the volunteering to you, these nonprofits, these experiences, they can come to you at your venue. And oftentimes that's much, much easier for both your employees and for the partner nonprofits that you're looking to support. So consider that when you're doing these planning efforts and again, reach out to us for help.
Andy: Awesome. Well, thanks Ben, look forward to the next one of these. It won't be a few months away. We'll do it in a week or two.
Ben: Yep. Looking forward to it.

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