What makes your company or events special? Feel like kicking it up a notch?

 Adding a Fund-Raising component to events has been steadily on the rise in recent years. VolunteerMatch has stated that companies incorporating volunteerism are “building brand awareness and affinity, strengthening trust and loyalty among consumers, enhancing corporate image and reputation, improving employee retention, increasing employee productivity and loyalty, and proving an effective vehicle to reach strategic goals.” It’s easy to understand why volunteerism/fund-raising should be a part of employee culture but how do you integrate that into your event?  I had the opportunity to meet with Rachel Hickok of CEAP (Community Emergency Assistance Programs) who was a fantastic resource on this subject. Below you’ll find some helpful tips and options that should at least get you started in the right direction.


Some easy ways to give back are to host a drive. Food drives are fun and easy ways to add to your event.  Offer a prize if guests bring a canned item for a local food shelf or bring school supplies for a local charity such as Common Hope. Toy drives during the holiday season are great ways to bring the holiday spirit to your event. You’ll just need to make sure it’s held in early December to allow the receiving organization plenty of time to sort and distribute the toys. Toys for Tots is just one of the many organizations that supply toys to children in need.


If you’d like your drive to be more specific, Rachel Hickok, Director of Development for CEAP, encouraged corporate clients to call her beforehand. She stated that sometimes they’re in need of hygiene supplies and baby food, while other times the need may be greater for school supplies or clothing. All donations are great, but I’m sure you want your event to have the best possible effect for the recipients. Having a conversation with the organization you’ll be donating to is very important when beginning this process. Many organizations such as CEAP will bring out barrels or boxes to help with your collections efforts. Having your event at the end of the drive is a great way to celebrate your accomplishments and showcase the donations that have been collected.


We recently hosted a fund-raising event at our Minneapolis Northwest office. Teams paid to participate and we used all funds raised to purchase high demand items. We showcased these items at our event and scheduled the pick-up with CEAP so that when the CEAP representative arrived he was able to talk about the organization, the impact on the recipients and thank everyone for their participation. It was a fantastic way to end the event.


Corporate team building service projects are also a great way to build team comradery all while acting for a good cause. Packaging meals is a simple and fun way to give back. Places such as Open Arms of Minnesota or Feed My Starving Children typically have these opportunities available for groups between 8-25 people. You could also host a Hygiene Kit packing event for Second Harvest Heartland. Amy Lewis of the Minneapolis Marriott Northwest stated that they’ve organized numerous team building volunteer opportunities in their property. She stated that building bikes, kites, or even dressers will not only supply families in need but are also great ways to work as a team and work on communication. At CEAP they supply area police officers with bags of supplies for when they encounter a circumstance where a family is in desperate need. Your organization could gather these high need items and have a packing party to create these kits that are so useful and appreciated.


The Greater Twin Cities United Way has great ideas for volunteer opportunities from creating mosaics to sorting donations to community produce distributions. These are just a few of the ways that you and your team could get involved.


Break Bread with Fund-Raising Recipients. Another great idea that Rachel Hickok of CEAP suggested was sponsoring an event, such as coming out to CEAP to grill and serve hot dogs to people in need. This would be a great alternative to the typical company picnic and would leave you and your employees feeling like they’ve done something great for their community. And they have.


There are many ongoing volunteer opportunities if the spirit of volunteerism has encouraged you to participate in something more long term. The Brooklyn Center Community Corner is consistently in need of tutors. There is also Reading Partners Twin Cities that offers the opportunity to assist/tutor a child in grades K through 5 in just one-hour increments.


Don’t forget the follow-up! Pictures will always be a great way to ensure your event is not easily forgotten. Whether your team has engaged in a service project, served meals or collected items, make sure there are pictures to show off their hard work. These photos are not only great to circulate after the event in the form of a thank you, but you can also use them in years to come to show what a great time your guests had and to increase participation each year. If your event did not include immediate contact with the recipients, I would suggest having the organization send you photos or possibly write a letter describing the impact of your teams’ efforts. The more you can do to show the fruits of their labor will only help to guarantee your guests found the activity worthy of their time and energy.


These options are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to volunteerism. There are numerous organizations and communities in need everywhere. When beginning this process try to think about what you’re looking to accomplish with the event and start researching organizations that may fall in line with that theme of giving. A great place to start is within your immediate community to find out their needs. Call a local high school and find out what their needs are. They may need help with things like band uniforms or cafeteria tables. Look to your local food shelves. You may be surprised to find that some of their biggest need items aren’t food. Whatever you decide to do and however you choose to incorporate that into your event, you cannot go wrong with volunteerism. Events are wonderful times for people to get together but when you can use that platform to give back to those in need, your event becomes inspirational.


I’d like to thank Rachel Hickok for her guidance when writing this article. CEAP is a wonderful organization that changes countless lives every day.


If you’re planning to host an event in the Minneapolis Northwest area, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me directly at jackie@mplsnw.com or 763-252-1420. I’d be happy to assist with venue information, accommodations, catering options, and especially finding a service project or volunteer opportunity that will fit your next meeting or event.



Above the story is a photo of CEAP's market. These photos show the baby supply section in the market and the Turning Leaf Thrift Store, all located within CEAP.