Happy New Year! I know we all wish for a peaceful and prosperous 2013, and we can help achieve it by adding “good works” to our list of resolutions – and sticking to it! One way is by practicing “voluntourism” on both a personal and organizational level.
In these times of natural and man-made disasters that leave so many people and their communities financially and spiritually impoverished, I think we all consider giving back to be part of our humanitarian responsibility. Many associations and corporations have adopted a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) program as one of their organizational pillars and attach a giving project to their meetings’ programs. But with 1.1 million charitable U.S. organizations, including those that address health care, education, scientific research, social services and the arts, how do you choose the best local charity to support in your meeting destination? The answer: first speak with your CVB professional.
It makes sense when you think about it. As the destination expert who excels in helping you find just the right fit for every aspect of your meeting, the CVB can guide you to local charitable institutions to accomplish your CSR goals. You expect your CVB partner to inform you about the local hotels, facilities and attractions, and you anticipate getting the inside scoop on the unique culture and out-of-the-ordinary venues for your off-site events. It follows that their comprehensive view of the destination includes knowledge about the local charities that will complement the goals and mission of your corporate social responsibility programs, and then help you connect with the charity administrators to put your voluntourism plan in motion.
Your CVB partner has become very familiar with your organization’s culture by working with you to help find just the right facilities and activities to create a successful meeting. Knowing the personality, demographics and limitations of your group means the CVB is in a position to recommend projects or organizations that will be a good match. And, since the CVB works to improve the quality of life in the location they represent, connecting meeting professionals to local charitable organizations is one more way the CVB fulfills that obligation to its region. It’s a winning scenario for everyone – you, your organization, your attendees, and the local community.
All CVBs are eager to connect you with their local in-need organizations, and do so through a variety of methods. The websites of many CVBs contain a section about local charities or a portal that takes you to linked community service organizations. Others have a volunteer resource manager or community projects specialist on their staff. Some CVBs, such as the Providence Warwick CVB(PWCVB), The Virginia Beach CVB, and the Philadelphia CVB, have partnered with outside firms or non-profits to help set up community service projects. Martha Sheridan, PWCVB president and CEO explains, “We have partnered with Solutions Inspired, a local firm that specializes in developing strategic engagement programs, pairing meeting planners with community-based organizations in Rhode Island. This initiative streamlines the project process and gives us a new program to offer planners looking at the destination.”
Speaking of looking at the destination, do you routinely include a visit to prospective CSR venues in your site inspection or pre-meeting visits? Your CVB partner can include these visits in your site schedule so that you know how the experience will look and feel to your attendees. Also, be sure to ask for references from other groups that have done similar projects – it’s always valuable to tap into someone else’s experiences, both positive and negative. Once you’ve decided on the charity and the details of the project, the CVB can help build excitement for the charity event by working with you to publicize it in your attendance building marketing efforts.
So, make the CVB your first stop in giving back by visiting empowerMINT.com and get connected to your partners in voluntourism! Let’s make a positive difference.