The concept is simple. Planners can order foldable duffle bags, complete with the Empty Suitcase Campaign logo (or order a similar duffle bag from their preferred vendor), and distribute the bags to attendees before the event (they slip easily into mailers). Attendees are asked to fill the bags with the needed items and bring them on the trip. Alternately, planners can simply ask attendees to pack items into their existing baggage.
The website - emptysuitcase.org - features a list of destinations around the globe and everyday items that are in need there, all compiled with the help of local DMCs. Meeting planners should consider reaching out to their local DMC, CVB, or tourist boards to identify the best channels to distribute the items to people in need. The website also offers a customizable letter with instructions for your attendees.
The project was conceived by Shawna Suckow, CMP, founder of SPIN (Senior Planners Industry Network) and Colleen Abernethy, owner of Platinum DMC Collection. “We were planning a trip to Nepal in 2013 and heard of a doctor there who offers an annual eye clinic in a remote area and needed used prescription eyeglasses,” says Suckow. “Through Colleen’s connection with the Lion’s Club, we brought a suitcase filled with more than 200 pairs with us.”
“The feeling that overcame us after we met the doctor and left with that empty suitcase was so gratifying,” said Abernethy.
“Sometimes it feels better coming home with an empty suitcase rather than a full one.”
Suckow and Abernethy joined forces with Barbara Scofidio, editor of Prevue magazine, and Doug Chorpenning, planner and founder of Wet Paint Creative Group to officially launch the project.
“The website is self-perpetuating,” said Chorpenning, “with suppliers and planners providing lists of items needed all around the world and then sharing their success stories to inspire other planners.”
Scofidio says the initiative fills a need that emerged as companies have cut the length of meetings and incentive trips. “It’s challenging to fit an element of giving back into an already packed two- or three-day program. Sometimes even a half day spent volunteering at a local school or playground is just too much time. That’s where the Empty Suitcase Campaign can help.”
Suckow hopes to see the options for giving grow as the Empty Suitcase Campaign takes off. She encourages DMCs, CVBs, tourist boards, and other suppliers all over the world to submit the names of local nonprofits in their destinations, along with needed items, to firstname.lastname@example.org. Meeting planners are encouraged to send their photos and success stories as well.
If you and your organization are giving back to your community, contact us today at Editor@MidwestMeetings.com!