by Heidi Mayer-Kruse
• Find the causes important to your group
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) originated in the form of financial donations to key causes. However, in recent years, CSR has taken on a variety of new forms beyond traditional philanthropy. Once considered a novelty, everyone from small mom & pop shops to mega-corporations are looking for ways to give back.
The opportunities are as varied as the companies pursuing them. Gone are the days of simply writing a check and sending a press release. Today’s CSR programs are creative and an integral part of the business plan. More importantly, strategically planned meetings or events can meet your primary business goals, as well as, your CSR targets.
These are some key concepts and strategies to keep in mind as you build CSR into your meetings or events.
So you’re spending a long weekend or even a full week in a location? Call ahead to the local Chamber of Commerce or Visitors Bureau. These community-minded experts can help you identify needs within the community that your organization can help fill during your time there.
Is teambuilding among your primary focuses? There is an added meaning (and participant focus) when your exercise has tangible real-world impact beyond the team. Paint a fence for a crisis shelter. Prepare and serve meals for the homeless. These acts encourage coordination and organization among participants while filling a need in your host community.
“Many conventions which I go to, and those which come to Rapid City, have a charitable giving component,” said Julie Schmitz Jensen, Executive Director/Vice President, Rapid City Convention & Visitors Bureau. “For instance, I go to the National Association of Sports Commissions annual convention and there is a Legacy Committee which goes in a day early and does good works somewhere in the community hosting the convention…usually an inner city park which needs refreshing or food collection, etc.”
Make Giving Part of your Corporate Culture
Even if you’re not part of your organization’s management team, as a meeting planner you have an inherent influence over its
culture. Build ‘giving’ into your training and event itineraries. Management will likely recognize the value and your employees or attendees will appreciate the opportunity to work for a larger good.
When philanthropy is “built in,” your organization will naturally have additional positive interactions with the public, as well as, more meaningful discussions about your community.
Ask your Stakeholders
The best CSR projects don’t come from the corner office or boardroom. Most are, instead, from employees or customers. Before your meeting or event, ask what causes matter the most to your stakeholders. This ensures your attendees will be truly invested in your work and your philanthropy will have a larger impact.
Offer Options (If you can support more than one)
Consider working with the CVB to host multiple volunteer opportunities at the same time, allowing group members to register for a cause that speaks to them. ‘Many hands make light work’ — you could potentially help two or more organizations in a short amount of time.
Today’s customer is savvy and skeptical. And so are your meeting attendees. Whatever your project or cause, ensure your efforts are meaningful and have real, lasting impact.