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Enhancing Your Attendee Experience with Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)

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By: Rachael Riggs, CMP | Jan 9, 2018

CSR is a hot topic right now.   I have heard over and over again that planners want to incorporate CSR into their attendee experience, but don’t have the time or know where to start.   Many say their Boards of Directors or stakeholders want a program, however, they don't realize the amount of work it could take.   

As a meeting planner, I started integrating CSR programs into meetings in 1992.   We had the right mix of committed and motivated people to make it all happen.   We renovated schools, YMCAs, donated fitness equipment to youth centers and educated kids on the benefits of health and wellness all over America.  We had leadership that supported the projects both with time and money.   But it did not happen overnight.    It took several months to get everyone on board, but once we did that the amount of support was overwhelming.   There were days where I said to myself "why did I do this to myself?" but I loved it anyway.  We were making a difference to so many.  It takes the right mind set of many to pull this together. 

Flash forward to today, as a supplier, I wanted to make what I do for more meaningful. Vancouver is a very socially conscious destination.  A few years ago, my team came up with the program called #vangiving.   We sponsor industry organizations and their CSR efforts.  Recently we just hosted a coat drive at the MPI-CAC Signature Luncheon and we donated over 30 coats to Button and Zipper here is Chicago.   They provide coats to the homeless Chicago.  

Another highlight of our program is with Association Forum (AF). Five years ago, AF wanted to start small and so did we. The first year we coordinated a food drive at Holiday Showcase. We promoted it, but it was not fully integrated into the program yet.   Over the years, we have changed the effort depending on how we want to enhance the attendee experience.  

My favorite success of this partnership is the diaper drive.  The key is to keep it fresh. To change it up a bit, we decided in year 3 to make it a competition for the covet “Golden Diaper Award”.  I asked a trophy maker to construct the ugliest trophy he could and put a baby on the top.  As we rolled out the program, we said that the first winner would have the naming writes.  That winner was the American Health Information Management Association and they named it after their founder Grace.  It is now called the Grace Cup.   During this June’s Forum Forward event, we challenged CEOs to host a diaper drive in their office and compete for The Grace Cup. Twelve associations entered the competition.  When all said and done, we collected nearly 35,000 diapers, a record-breaking amount that allowed The Cradle – an adoption agency in Evanston - to remove the item as a budget expense for an entire year.  This year’s winner was the National Sporting Goods Association they accepted the Cup at the recently held Holiday Showcase.    A complete success in my book!

Many ask me how do I come up with these ideas?     Here are a few questions I ask myself when thinking about CSR:

1) What is important to the organization?  Find a cause/activity that is related to the vision and mission of the organization.  If it does not connect to that mission, it will likely not be supported as much as it could and might die out after a year or two.  

2) Who are the stakeholders and what is important to them?

3) What is reasonable to do?  Don't bite off more than you can chew

CSR can be as easy as you want to make it or it can be complex.  I have seen so many great programs incorporated into meetings.   Anything is possible. You just have to have someone champion it and make it a part of the program. 

We live in a world of privilege in our business and my hope is that many of professionals and the professionals we host will to share their time and help those in need.    My charge to our industry is find what is important to your group and incorporate a way to give back within your next meeting. 

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