With association line items on the chopping block in a challenging economy, team-building efforts and planning sessions can be restructured, downsized or entirely eliminated. I recently attended a session that had limited actual issues discussion or training, and instead focused on all of us getting to know each other and working together on random things. Because the session was in a destination known for arts, the focus was art.
The activities: arts and crafts. Materials are easily found in many homes or available at low costs from many stores: Colored chalk, watercolor paint, magazines (for cutting out pictures), magic markers, glitter, yarn, pipe cleaners, canvas, etc. Facilitators, if needed, can be local art teachers (from schools, camps, studios, youth programs, churches).
In one activity we worked in groups to define the coming year on giant canvases. Did individual drawings on notebook paper, then discussed what a design would look like on a flip chart, then put the image on a canvas (the size of a queen-sized bed) using variety of art supplies. Bonus: We discussed the coming year.
In another activity, we went to an art studio (could just as easily have been a large garage, barn or school/church activity room) and worked in small groups to do self-portraits. One group of 6 did watercolors, another did "Picassos" of themselves with chalk, another had materials for 3-dimension "sculptures", the last did collages using magazine pictures. It was stuff I used to do in vacation bible school when a tween - except without the religion. Then we judged pictures on "best in show", "looks most like the artist", "most likely to sell commercially." Bonus: We discovered real artistic talents in the group.
1. Team-building can be creative and inexpensive. There is value in fun group activities.
2. Think about the types of activities youth groups do - how about a whiffle ball or kickball game? With room for cheerleaders for those who'd rather support from the sidelines. Even pizza and bowling could be lower cost then big dinner events. Or remember doing paper mache with a certain theme on coke bottles?
3. Have you considered facilities like school buildings and art studios for your session?
4. Shorten the update part. Session ended with a 45-minute summary of what happening and expected in each area of organizational focus. Presenters had two-minutes each to give highlights for their area of focus. That was actually plenty of time and participants still managed to get overview of scope of everything needing to be accomplished in the coming year. Does association staff traditionally spend too much time on the "update" sections thinking leaders have to get lots and lots of details about everything? What happens if they get 2 minutes each?
A bonus to participation in association activities is often characterized as "the people I met." Give them a shared experience that doesn't have anything to do with debating issues or listening to updates the entire time.