In recent years, companies around North America have been increasingly incorporating charity team building programs into their offsite events. I mean, if you do a quick Google search with the term ‘charity team building’, you can easily find more than three dozens of companies that offer team building programs with a give-back component.

This really isn’t all that surprising when you consider the perks of having a charity team building event as part of your offsite. These events allow companies to meet two key objectives that are imperative to organizations today – the need to provide employees with a chance to network and build relationships with those in their company, and employees expectations for the company to give back. The latter is especially important to Millennial employees – according to the Cone Communications Millennial Employee Engagement Study, more than 2 out of 3 Millennials won’t take a job if a potential employer doesn’t have strong corporate social responsibility (CSR) practices.

As important as charity team building programs are in addressing these two needs for companies, the unfortunate truth is that they can very easily go terribly wrong.

I was once told a story of a company who decided to invest in having a build-a-bike themed charity team building program as the closing event of their two-day retreat. The team had fun, got to know other members of their organization throughout the program, and ultimately ended up building a bike together that they were all quite proud of. But towards the end of the event, the company delivering the program ended up inviting a family in need to the event to receive the bike from their company. They asked them to give a speech to thank the company, and it was clear that they were uncomfortable and embarrassed to be put in this situation. Although nobody said anything at the time, it became clear to the team that the event organizers have brought this family out to parade them in front of the team in order to showcase the “success” of the event. After the event, the unspoken consensus among the team was that the company should never invest in charity team building programs again.

Unfortunately, these horror stories are all too common, and have given charity team building programs a bad reputation lately. Part of the reason for this is that numerous companies have recognized an opportunity for profit from charity team building programs, and have consequently decided to offer numerous, low quality programs in order to take advantage of this trend.

Based on our experience in the team building industry over the past two decades, we’ve learned that genuinely successful charity team building programs have three key criteria. Here are three specific things to look for when deciding on which charity team building program to invest in:

1. Authentic Give Back

Charity team building programs should result in giving-back to those in need with no strings attached. I hope that we can all agree that those in need who benefit from these programs should not need to be paraded in front of the participants in order to demonstrate the success of the program. Charity team building programs should be a genuine win-win for both the participants and those who benefit.

2. Partnerships With Organizations That Have Expertise

Team building companies are experts in exactly that – team building. We are not experts in the giving back component, and it’s important for companies in our industry to realize this. We need the support of organizations that do have expertise in giving back when designing and delivering these programs. This is why we tremendously value our partnerships with organizations such as Kiva and Niagara Prosthetics.

3. Experience and Trustworthiness of the Organization

Many companies out there offer charitable team building programs, but significantly fewer have enough experience and expertise with developing and delivering these programs. Failures like the one described in the story above often result from ignorance and the lack of experience. There’s much more to delivering a successful charity team building program than what you can see. For instance, would the event be appropriate to the venue, organization, and team? How do you engage the team in the program without having the program come off as tacky or embarrassing? Who exactly will benefit from the charity team building program? These are all questions that the organization delivering your charity team building program should be able to answer. Look for well-established companies who have at least several years of experience delivering charity team building programs.

Charity team building programs have the power to be hugely impactful experiences for employees and organizations – but only if they’re done right. We at Summit would recommend considering these three criteria when deciding which charity team building program to invest in for your next offsite. At the end of the day, go with a team building company that you can trust.


Shoot us an email at or give us a call at 1-800-685-5278 to chat with us about how we can deliver a charity team building program for your next offsite. Having delivered these programs for more than two decades, we’ve worked with clients including Mercedes Benz, Cooperators, and Warner Brothers.  Also, check out our Play It Forward and Step Up programs. Through our Play It Forward program, more than $170,000 has been lent to entrepreneurs in developing countries with the support of Kiva. Similarly, through our Step Up program, more than 150 prosthetic legs have been donated to a children’s hospital in Kijabi, Kenya with the support of Niagara Prosthetics.