Christmas team party in 2020?! Some ideas to help you plan

Festive celebrations can lift spirits after all of the hard work you’ve done at the end of a year. But this year the pandemic is inevitably forcing us to re-think what we might do instead of a team lunch or party.

Recently, at one of our regular Group Coaching session for the Bright Spot Members Club, one of our members requested ideas for how to solve the challenge of the team Christmas party, this year, given that we’re unlikely to be able to meet face to face. In case you’re wrestling with the same dilemma, in this blog I wanted to share some key elements of our discussion.

Involve your team in solving it

A couple of years ago, the very experienced fundraising leaders, Liz Tait and Paul Mckenzie, delivered a fascinating session for our Breakfast Club and Bright Spot Members Club on creating a positive empowered charity culture.

Then at Battersea Dogs and Cats Home charity, they had nurtured a vibrant and supportive culture that helped people really enjoy their work and get great results. While they outlined a number of fun, creative initiatives that clearly helped to build and reinforce this culture, the key thing I took from their talk was that most of the activities were not things they had dreamt up themselves.

They explained that the activities were not thought of / imposed by leaders. They involved their colleagues in deciding what kind of culture they wanted. Then crucially, they asked colleagues what activities they’d like to try to bring these values to life. Apparently, plenty of the ideas were far more creative and brave than they ever would have thought of themselves.

So I’d argue that one key to a successful team celebration(s) this year is that as a leader, you involve some of the team in designing it. And secondly, give over responsibility for organising it. Clearly someone needs to take responsibility. But in most teams there are some people who enjoy this kind of thing, and who are good at it.

Recognise different needs… and some ideas our members came up with

As our guest coach, Leadership and Fundraising expert Charly White pointed out in this session, there are probably a variety of communication styles, personality types and faiths represented in your team. For instance, some people are probably more extraverted than others. Clearly your plans need to be inclusive.

As you may have found when trying to maintain some sense of connection and camaraderie during this difficult year, a little effort to create a theme or activity can help people connect at a more personal, trust-building level, rather than only talking about work.

(For more ideas to help with this, check out Episodes 23 and Episode 24 of my podcast with Paul McKenzie Leadership During the Crisis.)

Here are some ideas that Charly and the rest our group came up with in this ideas session:

  • Virtual Secret Santa (Draw Names is a great website for this).
  • Socially distanced walk. If you’re geographically close and lock-down has finished, meet in an outdoor space for a socially distanced walk
  • A game or a quiz with drinks (if you’re not quizzed out)
  • Craft activity. If your team enjoys crafts, an option is to do a craft activity together, such as wreath-making, over zoom. (For instance, one team had recently had a really good time bonding with team-mates while carving pumpkins in Halloween week.
  • Share entertainment tips. A session where each member of your team gives recommendations of a TV series or film they’ve watched. One of our members said this worked because it was relatively easy for everyone to do, and yet still elicited loads of enthusiasm and opportunities to bond over shared favourites.
  • Two truths and a lie. Research reported by Chip and Dan Heath in the excellent book The Power of Moments, shows that you increase trust when you share things about yourself that others would not necessarily know. A simple way of doing this, which most people nevertheless feel safe with, is Two Truths and a Lie , where each person shares with the team three statements, and others have to guess which of those is made up.

Help people feel appreciated, this year of all years

This year has been relentlessly challenging and yet our colleagues have been handling the difficulties of furlough and working as hard as ever to help our charities succeed. While I’ve noticed that the best leaders don’t save up their feedback (positive or negative) to deliver only on special occasions such as appraisals or at the end of the year, milestone times of the year can nevertheless give you an opportunity to make sure your team know their efforts are appreciated.

Charly suggested this might be something as simple as a handwritten note or a little treat delivered to people at home. And she mentioned how powerful the effect on morale had been in one charity recently where the Chief Executive had picked up the phone to every single member of staff and thanked them personally for everything they’ve done this year, and to genuinely listen to how they’re doing at this stage in the pandemic.

One activity Charly has found to be surprisingly powerful when working with teams to improve trust and confidence, is the ‘post it note’ task. Essentially, you ask each of your team to prepare a post it note for each of their colleagues. For each one, write down three words that describe that person at their best; three things you value about them; and metaphorical gift in terms of any encouraging idea you believe they might find helpful.

If you let your team know about this in advance, it gives them time to properly consider what they’re going to write. Then get everyone together in a virtual call, and put them in 1:1 breakout rooms where they can individually exchange their notes with each other.

One reason we’ve found this kind of activity to be so powerful is that many of us have a powerful inner critic, which drowns out an objective assessment of what we’re good at and the impact we have on others. So we can take our own positive qualities and contributions for granted. But when several people independently and sincerely acknowledge you’re good at something or thank you for something, it helps your brain acknowledge those strengths. As result, not only does your own confidence improve, but in speaking at this deeper level, team trust and a sense of connection increases too.

I hope you found these ideas helpful. Best of luck with whatever you decide to do to help your teams celebrate, bond and feel appreciated this year.

Would you like more fundraising and leadership help in 2020 / 2021?

During these challenging and socially isolated times, the 300 fundraisers and leaders in our Bright Spot Members Club are finding the resources especially helpful. The topic above was one of six leadership and fundraising challenges we helped members to solve during the weekly Group Coaching session last week. As well as these regular problem-solving sessions, there are also over 40 training and inspiration bundles on a variety of fundraising, leadership and personal development subjects. To find out more, follow this link.