You've heard of voluntourism. Now The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Co. has coined the word “volunteaming.” Under its VolunTeaming program, launched in July, corporate groups can plan community service projects during meetings. Overseeing the projects is Sue Stephenson, recently named vice president of community footprints for the global hotel company.

Groups can spend a full or half day off-property engaged in a service activity or choose a shorter, on-property option. Projects are developed locally, educating participants about the area in which their meeting is held. For example, in Florida, participants might travel to the Everglades to plant cypress trees, during which the life cycle and needs of this unique habitat are explained. In San Francisco, attendees can learn the colorful history of Alcatraz Island while they work to preserve its once beautiful gardens and wildlife habitats, in disrepair since the closing of the famous prison.

Whatever the size and scope of the project, Stephenson says, “there is an incredible teambuilding element. You're partnering to be a force for good.” Find program descriptions at Individual hotels will work with planners to customize programs for their groups.

No Time to Give?

If there's no room for a hands-on project in your agenda, consider Ritz-Carlton's Meaningful Meetings program. Companies can donate 10 percent of their room revenue, with half going to a charity of their choice and half to the Community Footprints program.

Fairmont Hotels & Resorts recently announced a similar program, called Meetings That Matter, by which 10 percent of a group's room revenue may be donated to a charity of the group's choosing. The program is available for meetings booked and taking place in 2008 or 2009.

Marriott International, meanwhile, gives planners a way to contribute to the Amazonas Sustainable Foundation, an environmental organization in the Brazilian state of Amazonas to which Marriott has committed $2 million. Planners who book programs at Marriott brands through 2009, for meetings taking place through 2011, can donate 5 percent of room revenue to the foundation. Through its own Spirit to Serve mission, Marriott partners on projects with many organizations such as Habitat for Humanity and America's Second Harvest. In 2006 alone, Marriott employees volunteered some 210,000 hours during company-sponsored events.