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How to Take Your Volunteer Team Building to the Next Level

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We have an inherent need to help others. Nearly 25% of Americans formally volunteered with organizations in 2021, working a combined 4.1 billion hours and creating an economic benefit of $122 billion in that time alone. 

But that process almost never happens in isolation. Volunteers tend to work in groups, and those groups are much more loosely defined or connected than full-time employees working for the same organization would be. That makes volunteer team building a core consideration for any organization looking to stand up a sustainable program.

Getting there takes time, but it's well worth the effort. Learn more about the core benefits of building your volunteer team, then read about some creative volunteer team-building exercises designed to help your participants come together.

The Benefits of Team Building for Volunteer Engagement

Creating a volunteer engagement strategy is no easy feat. It requires many moving parts but as you work on those parts, don't underestimate the role team-building volunteer activities can play as well. 

Building your volunteer team helps to break the ice. It introduces participants to each other and makes them feel more comfortable around each other. It can also bridge the gap between employees and volunteers, creating a more cohesive group.

In a well-functioning team, competition will make way for collaboration. Members will help each other and lift each other up. That, in turn, leads to more communication, higher engagement, better satisfaction rates, and improved retention rates.

Team-building activities for volunteers also bring together volunteer leaders with the groups they supervise. The structure becomes less hierarchical, with everyone pulling together toward a common goal.

Finally, volunteer team-building exercises can bring together the various age groups and demographics working on your behalf. From engaging teen volunteers to retirees, participating in the same activities makes everyone closer and bridges gaps.

5 Team Building Volunteer Activities to Bring Your Group Together

Of course, the general benefits of volunteer team-building exercises only matter if they translate into specific exercises your groups can participate in. These team-building volunteer ideas can help you get started.

1. The Beach Ball Game

The idea: If your volunteer team doesn't know each other well yet, this game is perfect. It leads everyone in the group to introduce themselves with a fact the others won't soon forget about them.  

Budget required: Just a beach ball, which costs less than $10 at your most common eCommerce retailers.

Benefits: After the game, everyone walks away with a good understanding of how they're working with. And because it's random, everyone participates without much performance anxiety.

How to implement it: Pick someone to start with the beach ball. That person introduces themselves to the group and mentions one fact most people don't know about them. After that, the ball is thrown into the air, and the next person who catches it keeps going.

2. Pipeline

The idea: The perfect game to get everyone working together. The activity is simple and nearly self-explanatory, but the game can be played and repeated multiple times as needed.

Budget required: $25 to $75 for u-shaped marble tubing.

Benefits: The team engages in an activity with a common goal, learning to community and adjusting on the fly in the process. As a result, volunteers can build trust and learn how to overcome challenges.

How to implement it: Choose a spacious room without tables or chairs. Divide your volunteers into a few smaller groups, then give each group some tube halves and explain the goal and rules:

  • The ball cannot touch the ground
  • Once the ball is in play, no one can touch it.
  • Every person has to be involved in moving the ball.
  • Any rule violation means the ball starts at the beginning.

With these rules, each team has five minutes to plan a way across the room. Playing more than once helps teams build on their previous learnings to improve their teamwork over time.

3. Partner Stories

The idea: It's just talking. But it's talking in a structured form that helps guide even the most introverted members of the volunteer group to open up.

Budget required: None

Benefits: Especially for smaller volunteer groups, it pays to get to know each other better. This game can help.

How to implement it: Divide the group into pairs of two, and have them choose which partner goes first. That partner will talk to the other, without preparation, for 3 minutes about a favorite topic. When the 3-minute timer goes off, it switches to the other person. Then, go around the room; each group member has to now explain the topic they just listened to with as much detail and passion as possible.

4. Group Outings

The idea: What better way to build a team than to spend quality time in a fun activity together?

Budget required: Depending on the outing, but plan at least $200 to $500 for a group of 5 to 10 volunteers.

Benefits: If you pick an activity everyone enjoys, the team building is almost effortless. The activity itself will bond the group together and offer plenty of potential for stories later.

How to implement it: Pick an activity that matches your team's demographics and the type of volunteering they do. It could be anything from a cooking class to bowling or an escape room. Book the space, and make sure you pay for food and drinks. Plan an entire morning or afternoon to leave plenty of time for bonding.

5. Post-Volunteer Celebrations

The idea: Who said team building is done when the work begins? If your volunteer group accomplishes something, help them celebrate it together to tighten their bonds.

Budget required: Depending on the celebration, your budget can range from $100 for a simple office get-together to $1,000+ for an off-site event.

Benefits: Post-volunteer celebrations don't just tighten bonds. They also show your team how much you value their contributions. And, you'll be surprised how tight-knit the group can become over time.

How to implement it: That depends entirely on the type of celebration you've planned. Pick a day soon after the volunteering work that works with as many schedules as possible. Then, build an event schedule, including some time for fun activities and potentially giving away volunteer awards. 

Using Volunteer Team-Building Activities to Build a Better Tea

Of course, these volunteer team-building activities are only the beginning. You'll find plenty of other team-building volunteer ideas depending on where you look, with many specifically organized towards specific audiences and types of volunteerism. The key, though, remains the same: with the right team-building volunteer ideas, your program can become much more successful, improve volunteer retention, and grow your volunteer program over time

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