by Heidi Mayer Kruse
• Teambuilding with real-world significance
• Volunteer opportunities and meetings
Many planners extend the reach of their company’s corporate social responsibility efforts by adding a charitable component to their meetings and events. The benefits are two-fold. The first is an obvious boost to your public relations efforts, but the second is potentially even more powerful.
Teambuilding and training exercises have more influence if participants see a real significance or impact to the work they are doing. Choose a cause and an afternoon becomes a tangible device for improving their connections to each other and a community.
Here are a few samples of past events and possibilities as you plan for your next meeting or event.
St. Louis, MO
Explore St. Louis has developed several turn-key ways for groups to give back based on your social values, available time commitment, and number of participants.
Stephen Foutes, Public Relations Specialist for the Missouri Division of Tourism, provided this insight into the city’s efforts. “St. Louis has made their CSR efforts prominent in the public eye with the creation of The Giving Arch. The Giving Arch is displayed on the eastern wall of the Washington Avenue lobby in America’s Center where it serves as both a collection point for donations and reminder of the many ways groups can support a host of St. Louis-based charitable organizations. For example, attendees can benefit disadvantaged children by providing reading books, school supplies, and personal hygiene items. Other activities take place outside of America’s Center with partners such as Brightside St. Louis, Better Family Life, and Stray Rescue of St. Louis where attendees can roll up their sleeves in an organized group project.”
Greater Des Moines, IA
“We have a long list of volunteer opportunities in Greater Des Moines. From community art projects to helping clean up a local park, groups can easily find an opportunity that fits their needs. A popular choice is Meals from the Heartland, which allows groups of any size to package meals for people in need across the world. Groups have the option to go to the facility or have Meals from the Heartland come on site, which makes it an easy and rewarding way to give back,” explained Vicki Comegys, Vice President of Conventions, Sports & Services at Catch Des Moines.
Some of the volunteer opportunities in Wichita include the Kansas Food Bank, Habitat for Humanity, Wichita Children’s Home, and Kansas Humane Society. “When Visit Wichita receives a request from a group interested in volunteering, or volunteerism, we serve as both a facilitator and connector,” said Moji Rosson, Vice President of Sales at Visit Wichita. “We gather information on what needs the community has and what opportunities there are for a group to assist, and then connect that group to a cause to best
Grand Rapids, MI
“We’ve had quite a few groups come in that have been interested in giving back to the community,” said Tim Nelson, Director of Convention Services at Experience Grand Rapids. “When we receive these requests, we work directly with the local organization to find out how the group can volunteer. We’ve had groups assist with Kids Food Basket, Friends of Grand Rapids Parks, and Kent County Habitat for Humanity just to name a few. We’ve also joined other destinations in the Giving Good program, which gives meeting planners direct access to CSR opportunities at GivingGood.com.”
The Destination Services team at Meet Minneapolis provides a list to planners to assist them in looking for opportunities in Minneapolis. According to Kristen Montag, Senior Public Relations and Communications Manager, Meet Minneapolis will also work to connect planners directly to organizations they’re interested in. Their team doesn’t usually assist directly in the planning, but they will help to make those key connections that are so vital to the success of your meeting or event.
Be the Pioneer
This is still an emerging opportunity in many pockets of our region, but don’t be discouraged if you’re the first to make a request within a community. There are always causes looking for volunteers, it’s just a matter of making those initial calls to get the process started. The model can expand or shift to easily meet both your goals and the goals of the host community or cause.
Utilize local CVBs and Chambers of Commerce to identify the agencies and organizations to connect with.
Keep an open mind. The results can be powerful for both you and your hosts.