Don't Have All Day? You Can Still Serve.

Incorporating a service project into your meeting agenda need not involve box lunches and buses. “We can bring the community service experience to the ballroom,” says Alan Ranzer, executive director, Impact 4 Good, a three-year-old company that helps corporate groups plan service activities.

These are just a few on-property options:

  1. Fare to Share

    Culinary teambuilding is prevalent — and so is food waste at meetings. This teambuilding program results in appetizers for participants and lots of donations to feed hungry people: Recipients are soup kitchens, food banks, and organizations that deliver food to needy people who are homebound. Visit www.impact4good.com or www.teambonding.com.

  2. Housewarming Packages

    Among the project possibilities at some Ritz-Carlton properties, says Sue Stephenson, vice president, community footprints, is to assemble a package of necessities for a family moving into a Habitat for Humanity home. After learning about the family they will work to benefit, teams get $100 to purchase kits with materials needed to construct one of four items for the beneficiary family. Teams will not have enough funds to purchase all needed items, however. So they need to get creative to “earn” more money. Go to www.volunteaming.com.

  3. Support the Troops

    Anysoldier.com is an organization that has created a way for people to send letters and small gifts to soldiers serving in Iraq who don't get much or any mail. The nonprofit group, founded by a soldier and his dad, gives your company a list of commanders or sergeants. Your attendees write cards and fill cardboard boxes with toiletry or other items, then address the boxes to specific leaders followed by “Attn: Any Soldier.” That line is a signal to the leader that he or she should distribute the contents to soldiers throughout the unit. Visit www.anysoldier.com for details. (Be sure to read the entertaining FAQs.)

If You Do Have All Day …

Of course, with a bigger budget and more time to spend, project options are limitless. In partnership with Access San Diego recently, for example, Paul Blanchard led 60 executives through the construction of a playground for a local Head Start school. The sponsoring company purchased a small piece of land that had been cluttered with old building materials, paid to have it graded and prepped, then five teams showed up and got to work.

Companies might also consider projects in line with their specialties. For example, earlier this year Blanchard worked with the IT division of a major company on building a computer lab in New Orleans for high school kids who had lost everything in Hurricane Katrina. Blanchard found a local after-school program for kids interested in computers, a vacant four-room house, and the sponsoring company bought 15 computers and printers. On site, 70 IT executives painted walls and assembled 40 desks, several blackboards, bookshelves, and printer tables, and then networked the computers. Going one step further, the IT employees exchanged e-mail addresses with the students so they could potentially act as mentors.