TEAM BUILDING | 3 Simple Ways to Make Team Meetings More FUN!

publication date: May 15, 2024
author/source: Meredith Burke

I’m sure you’re reading it in the state of the sector reports,1 and feeling it in your own nonprofit organizations…turn-over is accelerating, burn-out is growing, and building effective team cultures is challenging. This, at a time when the need for services of nonprofits is growing exponentially – strong staff teams are needed more than ever!

As any HR professional will tell you—employee retention is a balance of a variety of factors, including fair salaries and rewards, professional and personal growth opportunities, flexibility for work/life balance, and also positive organizational cultures that people want to be a part of.

It’s organization culture that I’m exploring here, with three easy-to-implement ideas to build positive, collaborative, FUN cultures that team members want to be a part of.

1. Kick-off your next team meeting with an ice-breaker to create fun and build connection.

Each time the team gathers is an opportunity build personal connections and share some laughs. Whether it’s a conversation-starter aimed at getting to know team members (E.g. Share your most memorable summer job), or the “Rose, Bud, Thorn” exercise to allow team members to share what’s on their mind at the moment. We recently kicked off a team meeting with this exercise and the team frequently erupted in laughter while sharing common frustrations. You never know what will surface and connections will be formed!

2. Take time to celebrate wins and milestones.

Finding opportunities to celebrate small wins can help keep building positive momentum. Pre-COVID our team would ring a brass bell to share good news with the team. Now in our hybrid work environment, the “bell ringing” tradition remains, via the newsfeed section of our internal communication platform. It helps maintain positive energy, while also giving individual team member an opportunity to be proud of achievements in a public forum.

An informal team gathering is also a great opportunity to celebrate mini-milestones as a team and help team members connect with each other. Our team recently substituted our regular bi-weekly team meeting with an outing for nachos and soft-drinks at a local eatery. It was an inexpensive way to bring the team together and foster interpersonal relationships that can carry over to improved working relationships back at the office.

3. Find ways to make data-heavy topics more fun.

Each year, our fundraising team holds an intensive 2-day post-campaign review session. The agenda for these sessions are typically filled with lots of spreadsheet review, data analysis, and trend identification. This data review is certainly a critical part of our campaign cycle and helps us base the future campaign’s plans based on data-driven insights, however many of our team members who don’t regularly live in spreadsheets and data each day, found these sessions a bit intimidating. So, we decided to get creative and add a fun theme to these sessions. We created a summer camp theme we called “Champ Camp.” We dressed as camp counsellors, gave out badges to our campers at the successful completion of each agenda section, and played some traditional camp games to break up the sections.

Recently we hosted a “jazzercise” themed session where team members were given sweatbands, encouraged to wear comfortable fitness clothes, taken through various warm-ups, and enjoyed meeting snacks of smoothies and power bars. (This is me, channeling my inner jazzercise instructor while facilitating a comprehensive campaign data review.)

Not only did the team enhance their own data analysis competencies and walk away with valuable data-driven insights, they got to know their team members a bit better, and actively contributed to building a culture that values teamwork and collaboration.

Finding ways to inject fun into team gatherings can lead to laughter, letting guards down, and opportunities for connections and friendships to be formed among team members. Harvard Business Review recently featured a study on “The Power of Work Friends” and found that “…close friendships increase workplace productivity – friends are more committed, communicate better, and encourage each other.” In the critical business of carrying out our nonprofit organization’s mission, finding new ways to engage our internal teams to work together has the potential to more effectively donors, clients and internal partners.


“There is little success where there is little laughter.” - Andrew Carnegie


Meredith Burke is a seasoned fundraising professional, specializing in Corporate Philanthropy and Employee Engagement. With an MBA and BBA, as well as an early career in financial services, Meredith eagerly made a switch to the nonprofit world to apply her business strategy to help maximize revenue for the community. Her career in fundraising began 16 years ago at UNICEF Canada where she led national fundraising campaigns. She joined United Way 11 years ago, working in several communities across Southern Ontario. In her current role as Senior Director, Resource Development, Meredith leads a team of Campaign Managers to strategically grow revenue by developing relationships within the local business community.


1 "2023 State of the Sector Survey, Policy Report." Ontario Nonprofit Network. Retrieved, May, 2024. 

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