Finding ways to include corporate social responsibility initiatives in events is an increasingly important detail as employee-driven activism is rising around the world. Unfortunately, there isn’t always a significant amount of funding available in the budget to design and implement give-back activities. While this does present a challenge, it’s also an opportunity for savvy event professionals to think creatively about how to help organizations achieve these goals.
While many companies and associations may have established give-back programs in their home office or regional offices, they might not immediately see how to incorporate that same spirit of service when traveling. This is where event professionals can assist clients by identifying and implementing low-cost or free activities that still carry a sizable impact.
More: Philanthropy and CSR: Missing Ingredients to Profound Meetings
Here are a few ideas.
Companies committed to environmental health and reducing the carbon footprint of their events can donate centerpieces and floral arrangements to local hospitals or retirement homes. Easy to accomplish and usually universally welcomed, this gesture cuts down on waste and helps to brighten the experiences of staff and patients.
Catered Doggie Bags
Food that is not consumed—including unopened bottled water or sodas—can be packaged at the end of a meal and donated to local shelters.
For more hands-on involvement, donation drives are another no- or low-cost option. While many guests will be traveling light for business trips, an invitation to bring one or two gently used books won’t take up too much room in anyone’s carry-on bag, and the request can be sent to guests as part of their registration materials. Set up a collection point that is central to the meeting’s programming, allowing guests to see their contributions grow and evolve in person, with the books being donated to a local library, book drive or hospital at the program’s end. A similar impact and effect can be achieved by inviting guests to contribute gently worn professional clothing, which can then be donated to a local branch of Dress for Success or a similar organization.
Play for Good
Corporate social responsibility initiatives can even be threaded into an event theme, creating opportunities to give back via gamification. For example, at a casino themed event, any funds bet by players and won by “the house” during the course of an evening can be donated to a charitable partner. Guests can even be invited to help select this charitable partner by voting via survey during their registration process.
While being able to commit funds to giveback initiatives during meeting and special event programming is wonderful, there’s no reason to believe that companies and organizations can’t make a difference in communities, even without a dedicated budget for this kind of activation. When creating a plan for a client, it’s always worthwhile to understand their values and goals and offer suggestions of how to incorporate those values into their program.
Emily Schneider is a Creative Services Manager with CSI DMC. With more than 16 years in the events industry, her work with CSI DMC focuses on discovering and creating innovative activities and experiences for CSI DMC’s clients and partners.