Here’s Your Guide to Giving Back

By Melissa Sersland, January 7, 2019

For the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, incorporating a service-learning opportunity into its triennial youth gathering has been a natural fit.

“More and more often, kids are living and growing in faith through service,” says Molly Beck Dean, director of the ELCA Youth Gathering. “It’s an entry point for kids into the church.”

As a result, during the ELCA’s gathering this summer, more than 30,000 participants were assigned to hundreds of projects throughout Houston over three days. However, without months (or in the ELCA’S case, years) of planning and building relationships with the community, Beck Dean cautions that organizing large-scale service projects can be unsustainable or counterproductive. “We listen to our partners to learn what they really need,” Beck Dean says. “It’s not just dropping into a city doing what we think needs to be done. We spend years walking with partners in a city and then figure out how a busload of kids can contribute to their mission and their city.”

Do No Harm

Organizing a service project during a meeting or event seems like a win-win for planners, attendees and the host community. Participants feel good completing a project they believe helps others; groups get a chance to engage with the community; and everyone can share the good work of the organization and its participants on social media.

But, Beck Dean says, without proper planning, dialogue and conversations with the community, some service projects can do more harm than good. “People think ‘service’ and think we’re going to paint a fence or build a wall,” she says. “Sometimes, what our partners need is people to listen to someone’s stories and focus more on the learning part of service learning than the work part of it.”

When incorporating service-learning opportunities, planners and nonprofits are advised “to do their homework, get information and identify the need,” says Teresa Alfaro, CMP, senior meetings manager for Volunteers of America, a faith-based nonprofit.

Alfaro recently planned two service projects for a national conference for staff members of Volunteers of America. She worked with the area office to coordinate projects, which included assembling 2,500 hygiene kits and taking part in community beautification—both were projects the community already wanted to complete but lacked manpower to do so.

(Visited 54 times, 1 visits today)

Connect Association is proud to present our inaugural class of 15 Over 50. These individuals are leaders, mentors and stars who moved the events industry

Amanda Cox, director of sales and marketing at JW Marriott Marco Island, shares her insight on the resorts latest transformations.

Explore L.A., where the great outdoors awaits groups.

Stephanie Donoho, administrative director of the Kohala Coast Resort Association dispels myths from the Big Island’s 2018 eruption.

The only thing we can assure you of, even though you don't know where you're heading for your team-building event with Mystery Trip, is that you will have

Brightline, the the only privately owned and operated intercity passenger rail service in the United States, launched last year with service between Miami,

Looking for experiences to relax or renew your group? Check out these five ways to get inspired.

Hard Rock Riviera Maya will rock you—Dive into a new way of producing meetings with wellness-centered accommodations, activities and more.

No one wants to waste time during meetings—follow these 5 steps to make your time spent more effective.

Following these six steps to create a zero-waste event.

The best social media practices for meeting planners to engage your event attendees from start to finish

Detroit is re-energized after a plethora of new additions and renovations.

Explore Monterey, California, where the great outdoors awaits groups.

Katherine Lo, founder and president of Eaton Workshop and Sheldon Scott, director of culture at Eaton DC give us an inside look into the trendy DC stayover.

Explore Squaw Valley, California, where the great outdoors awaits groups.

Stephanie Klett, Wisconsin’s Secretary of Tourism for the past eight years, was named as the new president and chief executive officer of VISIT Lake

The Latest