Thursday, July 31, 2014

How to Organize Fun Team-Building Activities

A big role in every team leader’s responsibilities is to develop relationships among his or her team. Relationships among team members or employees need to be built beyond assignments or projects, and separate from the daily work environment. By using the following three tips, you can ensure that your team has a positive, enjoyable experience.

Partner with another organization

By partnering with a similar organization in your community, your team will be able to get the most out of the experience. Not only will they be interacting with their own team, but will be able to meet other like-minded individuals who are working towards a similar goal. This creates a sense of community and is also a good networking opportunity.
Image Credit: My Team Triumph 

For example, HuTerra recently partnered with My Team Triumph – Wisconsin Chapter for the Packers 5K. My Team Triumph is a national organization that pairs handicapped adults and children (Captains) with adults (Angels) in the community to accomplish a physical goal, such as a race. My Team Triumph approached HuTerra through the re:find program, which partners area businesses to run as Angels with the Captains to promote team-building. One of our participants said that meeting people from other businesses was one of her favorite aspects of the activity. 

How do I find the right kind of activities for my team?

The first and most important thing to look for when planning team-building activities is to make sure it will be something your employees will actually take interest in. Partnering with My Team Triumph for this race was a natural fit for our employees, as many of them are Packers fans who also appreciate physical activities such as distance running. This race was also an activity that our team could truly get something out of and left our participants feeling very appreciative. One team member said “You don’t recognize what you have until you work with people who can’t do the same things you can physically and/or mentally.”

If you are partnering with another organization, it is crucial to pick an organization that will be both professional and easy to work with. Look for companies that are well-known in your community, well organized, and can effectively communicate with you. The better the communication lines are, the easier it will be for you.

Get Feedback from your team

To gauge the effectiveness of your activities, it is important for you to find out how your team felt about them. Reach out to your employees for their honest opinions. The only way to get accurate feedback is to openly engage with them. Really listen to what they say and encourage them to be honest, whether their experience was favorable or not. Using this feedback, you will be able to determine what direction to take for further team-building.

After the Packers 5K, one of the participants said he enjoyed working with My Team Triumph and would again in the future because it was well-organized, information was easily accessible, it helped him get into shape and pushed him outside his comfort zone.

What experiences have you had organizing team-building efforts? Share your ideas with us in the comments below!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Charitable Champion: Abby Habeck

This college student is making a big impact in her community. 

Abby Habeck is a summer intern with Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin who is working towards some positive changes within the organization.

Feeding America is a national food bank that also raises money, all of which goes to pantries across the country. Feeding America also consists of regional branches, including the Eastern Wisconsin chapter. Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin distributes more than 20 million pounds of food to 330,000 people in 27 counties.

Abby’s role with Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin is fundraising for their campaign to get a new food distribution center in the town of Little Chute. This distribution center will provide Northeastern Wisconsin residents in need access to more food and resources. Most of Abby’s fundraising work is in the form of grant writing, but she has also participated in two fundraising events: the Packers Softball Game Homerun Derby and Street Music Week. These two events raised more than $5,500 towards Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin’s ultimate goal of $5,000,000. Abby says that while this amount may seem small in comparison to the end-goal, “it is great to see the community taking action and spreading awareness of the work Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin does.”

Abby’s favorite part of her internship is when she sees her work pay off in the form of donations or mobile food pantries. “Not only does it show the work I have done, but the end result is something that benefits a good cause, which is a very rewarding experience.”

If you know someone who donates, volunteers or otherwise supports charitable causes, nominate them as a Charitable Champion.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

How to Plan a Charity 5K

We recently posted about the work involved in planning a charity picnic. Kicking off the start of the Suamico Firefighters Volunteer Association picnic was a charity run: the Stop, Drop and Run 5K. Using our experience from planning the 5K, we have some tips to help you plan a successful charity run. 

The first and most important thing to cross off your to-do list is to get full cooperation from the city. You will need to get the city’s approval and a parade permit in order to close off any roads that your run will go through. Without having traffic blocked, your participants will not be able to run in a safe and protected environment, so make sure this detail is taken care of right away. Because charity runs are becoming popular in the fundraising world, this first step of planning should take place about six months to one year in advance so your event is not competing with other area fundraisers. This time frame also allows for the proper amount of planning time.

Once your event is cleared by the city, your next focus should be promoting it. The channels of promotion that gained the most attention for the Stop, Drop and Run 5K were radio advertising and paid Facebook ads. After the run started gaining some traction, we found many people also found out from friends and family, so make sure your volunteers and event staff spread the word!

Two things to make sure to have for the participants are t-shirts and water. People like to have t-shirts as a fun souvenir of something participated in and completed. If your run is paired with a bigger event, such as a picnic, you can sell any extra shirts to other attendees for additional profit. T-shirts are also a good way to advertise your sponsors by listing them on the back. Providing water stations for your runners is the best way you can ensure they stay properly hydrated. Remember, it is better to have too many water bottles than to have your participants experiencing dehydration. 
One of the runners crossing the finish line
If you are looking for a way to get more involvement, we suggest including a Kids Run. Parents are always looking for fun and inexpensive activities to keep their children healthy and active. Including a Kids Run is a great way for parents and their children to have an experience together, whether the parent runs alongside their child or separately in the 5K. A children’s portion is also a fun way to make your event stand out from other events. Our children’s run featured firefighters running with the kids, fire trucks and a mascot dog greeting the runners at the end of the race. Parents and children alike loved the interaction and it provided some good photo opportunities.

Two of Suamico's fire trucks 
Rocket congratulates a runner as she crosses the finish line.

Running next to a firefighter was a huge hit!

Kids loved getting their picture taken with Rocket!

What successes have you had in planning a charity run? Share your tips or experiences below in the comments!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Incorporating Your Community into Activity Planning: A Guide for Nonprofits

Whether you are a mentor to one person or running a group program, thinking up new and engaging activities can be tiresome. It’s also easy to find yourself in a rut, planning the same activities over and over if you’ve already had success with them. A great way to find new activities is to immerse yourself in your community. Instead of waiting for community events to find you or your nonprofit, make the initiative to look for them yourself! By using the following three ideas, you are sure to find new activities to enjoy.

Find new establishments in your area

By looking up recently-opened establishments such as restaurants or entertainment venues, you can find new places to frequent. The best way to find out to new places is through word of mouth, so ask around! Chances are someone you know can refer you to their new favorite place or warn you about any poor experiences they’ve had. If you’re not finding much from those around you, head to the Internet. Google can be your best friend when trying to find new places in your community, but also check out city websites and platforms like UrbanSpoon for restaurants. Make sure to check out the company website and reviews first if you’re headed somewhere with children to make sure it will be age appropriate.

Find upcoming events

Through finding new establishments, you may come across events they sponsor or are hosting. These are usually free or low-cost events that you can take your group or mentee to. These are great ways to support any organizations you find that you have an interest in or are relevant to what you do. These events are also a good way for you to learn more about what the company has to offer. If you are having trouble finding events through your new favorite establishments, look up event calendars through your city, local news outlets, libraries, museums, and sports teams.

Odd national holidays

Google “odd national holidays,” and you will be surprised at the amount of holidays that come up. When you find days that appeal to you and your group, use them for your outings. It’s even better if you can incorporate these quirky days into one of the other activities you found. For example, one of our HuTerrians Monica took her Little Sister, matched through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northeastern Wisconsin, to a local ice cream shop that opened last month to celebrate July as National Ice Cream Month.

Do you have any good ideas for planning activities for your nonprofit? Share your experiences below in the comments!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Planning a Successful Charity Picnic

A successful charity picnic requires a significant amount of prior planning. By using these planning tips, we can help your event run smoothly.

Your first step is to have a pre-planning session in which you develop a purpose for your event, plan for the demographic of your attendees and set a budget. Once you have your purpose, or event “wish list,” set and a proposed budget, you will need to seek sponsorships. The money you spend on your picnic should come from these sponsorships.

While planning a community picnic, an essential thing to keep in mind is providing entertainment throughout the whole day. This event should be family-friendly, with a focus on providing children-centric activities, while still catering to the adult crowd.

Recently, HuTerra Foundation partnered with the Suamico Firefighters Volunteer Association for their annual picnic. For the children, we provided firefighter-themed games, a bounce house, face painting and temporary tattoos. It is important to have games and activities for different age groups and skill levels. For example, we had a Ducky Dip game for younger children to enjoy by choosing a rubber duck in a pool and their prize was determined by the color on the bottom of the duck. Older children really enjoyed a Spray Away game, which consisted of shooting extinguisher-shaped squirt guns at ping pong balls to knock them off their pegs.

One of our guests picking a prize after playing Ducky Dip

Do you think you could knock off the whole row?

The bounce house was a huge hit with the kids
A children’s run is also a great way to engage your youth guests. Our picnic started off with a children’s run in which the children could run alongside firefighters and were met at the finish line by a mascot fire dog. We also included two game tickets in each runner’s post-race bag to encourage them to stay and enjoy our other activities.

Parents and children alike loved running next to the firefighters

Runners were congratulated by Rocket upon completion of the race

When planning entertainment for adults, it is important to appeal to those attending with and without children. We booked several local bands to perform throughout the day, offered raffles and advertised affordable beverage prices as strong draws to our adult crowd.

The Cougars during their performance

Some of our staff members taking a break to catch a few songs by The Cougars
While planning your picnic, you may find that you are stretching yourself thin amongst everyone reporting to you. One way to ease some day-of stress is to send out instructions to all of your volunteers prior to the event. This way, your volunteers will know what they are responsible for and where to report to upon arrival without searching for you first. This will also relieve some responsibilities for you day of so you can focus on other aspects of coordination. It is also important to know who your volunteer audience is so you can prepare how to most efficiently communicate with them.

Another key thing to remember is your “thank yous.” After your picnic is completed, make sure to send a personalized thank you to each of your sponsors. This personal connection will create a lasting impression and your sponsors will be more likely to sponsor future events. You will also want to make sure you genuinely thank your volunteers for their time and effort. Building a strong relationship with your volunteers makes them feel connected to your organization. When they feel they are a part of your cause, they are more likely to volunteer again.

If we could leave you with one lasting piece of advice, it is to always stay calm and to go with whatever comes your way. Anything that can go wrong, probably will. You can’t always plan for which difficulties will arise, but your event’s success will be determined by your reactions. You can find a solution to any hurdle you come across, as long as you’re willing to work through it and you have a strong team backing you.

What tips and tricks do you have for planning events like a charity picnic? Share your ideas below in the comments!