This is Part 3 of a three-part story:

Part 1: Meeting Managers Are the Gatekeepers of Compliance

Part 2: From Macro to Micro: How Pharma Trends Affect Your Meetings

Corporate social responsibility activitiesteambuilding events you hold at a meeting that mirror your company’s or organization’s responsibility for the impact of its decisions and activities on society, the environment, and its own prosperity—are most meaningful when they leave a lasting impression on both the volunteer participants and the charity it is benefiting. So said a panel of experts speaking at the Pharma Forum 2012 in Orlando in March.
 

Tammi Runzler, senior vice president of convention sales and services at Visit Orlando, has championed CSR activities for meeting professionals bringing groups to Orlando and has watched them evolve over the past few years. She has also formed her own nonprofit, My Neighbor’s Children, which serves underprivileged children in Haiti. It was jump-started by a visit she made as a volunteer with Clean The World, an organization that collects gently used soap and bottled amenities from participating hotels all over the country. Instead of throwing those products away to eventually end up in a landfill, they are recycled and sent to more than 42 countries, where better hygiene helps save children’s lives. Runzler delivered the clean soap to the children of Haiti just after the devastating earthquake in January 2010.

Runzler said a CSR meeting activity can have multiple benefits for your stakeholders: it helps you gain a competitive advantage, improves financial performance, fosters culture, builds team camaraderie, retains members or employees, helps the community, engages the volunteers, improves your reputation, builds skills in the workforce, underscores your organization’s values, and can be incorporated into your organization’s growth strategy.

“It can be become such a spider web of emotional impact,” she added. “A CSR event creates loyalty to the organization, allows your attendees to network with like-minded people, and creates a feeling that lingers on for the whole conference. Plus people are happy when they get back to work.”

Runzler was joined by executives from two other Orlando-based nonprofits, Shawn Seipler, CEO, Clean The World; and Caroline Schumacher, director, guest operations, Give Kids The World, at the session, moderated by James Anderson, director of Northeast sales for Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center, National Harbor, Md.

The theme of the presentation was how to give your one-time CSR meeting activity year-long impact.

“From the CVB perspective, I’ve seen such an evolution over the years,” said Runzler.

“People want to share in a CSR activity before, during, and after their meeting event. Our industry can take a leadership role,” she said. Use your CVB to discuss your organization’s mission statement and they will help you partner with the right nonprofit. More and more charities are connecting with their CVBs for this very reason. The more we know about your core values, the more I’m going to help you create an activity that connects with your group emotionally.”

It’s critical to include a metric piece to your activity if you can, added Seipler. He started Clean The World after traveling on business for years, staying in numerous hotel rooms, and wondering what the heck happened to all those unused soap bars he left behind. He and co-founder Paul Till quit their jobs to embrace the cause of collecting soap from hotels, recycling it in specially built recycling facilities, now in Las Vegas, Orlando, and Toronto. “We distributed 10 million bars of soap last year and diverted 1.4 million pounds of waste from landfills, recycling some 250,000 rooms a day,” said Seipler.
“Our goal is mighty, but our solution is simple—save the millions of lives lost each year to acute lower-respiratory infection and diarrheal illness by distributing recycled soap and promoting proper personal hygiene practices,” he added.

Each hotel that takes part in the annual program is charged a per-room fee, but even hotels not in the program can be tapped by meeting professionals to use for their meeting on a temporary basis. Fees are charged to the planning group, too, but Seipler said they are reasonable. CTW partners with dozens of nonprofits to distribute the toiletry bags to shelters throughout the U.S. as well as global organizations that help them distribute the recycled soap bars to thousands of children.
Seipler gave as an example one group that used the CTW program at one hotel in a multiple-hotel meeting as an incentive to stay within the block.

It’s important to give volunteer groups metrics that are a measure of their work. CTW informs meeting planners about how much they saved by having their hotel or hotels participate in the recycling program and by placing cards in guest rooms, notifying attendees of the program. If you organize a CSR activity in the recycling facilities in Orlando or Las Vegas, you can give your group a count of how much soap they’ve recycled. For example, a group of Pharma Forum 2012 planners learned that they prepared 640 soap bars. CTW also offers mobile hygiene building kits that can be built in any group setting in any venue.

That’s another trend, said Runzler, who noted that many groups can’t afford the time away from the meeting venue to do an effective event, so they ask more and more how the CSR event can come to them. “Create options, or partner with two or three nonprofit organizations,” suggested Runzler. “Set up a CSR station or engagement space on site, where a volunteer can choose an activity according to her or his schedule.”
 

Schumacher from Give the Kids the World runs a village, a 70-acre nonprofit resort that creates magical memories for children with life-threatening diseases and their families. “So many kids want to come to Orlando,” said Schumacher, “we have served well over 114,000 families. So we’ve grown as CSR has grown.

“It’s important to tie in the mission of your company with your event,” she added. And it is up to her nonprofit to follow through with photos and other mementos of a CSR event throughout the year. Sometimes, a one-time event can snowball into an ongoing relationship, said Schumacher. For example, a children’s clothing chain built a villa during a CSR activity, which kick-started an ongoing relationship with the chain’s local retailers, who have returned to paint and maintain the villa.

“Send photos, send holiday cards, keep the lines of communication open,” said Runzler, who acknowledged that good charities and good meeting professionals stay connected long after the event to ensure it stays in the hearts and minds of the donors.

The nonprofit should be able to give something back to the company as well, added Runzler. “If someone has donated Crocs to my orphaned kids in Haiti, I take photos of them wearing them, and send the pictures to the generous donors,” she added.

Said Seiper: “Make sure CSR is a part of every meeting. There is a need for your help, and know that you really are making an impact.” Schumacher from Give the Kids the World runs a village, a 70-acre nonprofit resort that creates magical memories for children with life-threatening diseases and their families. “So many kids want to come to Orlando,” said Schumacher, “we have served well over 114,000 families. So we’ve grown as CSR has grown.

“It’s important to tie in the mission of your company with your event,” she added. And it is up to her nonprofit to follow through with photos and other mementos of a CSR event throughout the year. Sometimes, a one-time event can snowball into an ongoing relationship, said Schumacher. For example, a children’s clothing chain built a villa during a CSR activity, which kick-started an ongoing relationship with the chain’s local retailers, who have returned to paint and maintain the villa.

“Send photos, send holiday cards, keep the lines of communication open,” said Runzler, who acknowledged that good charities and good meeting professionals stay connected long after the event to ensure it stays in the hearts and minds of the donors.

The nonprofit should be able to give something back to the company as well, added Runzler. “If someone has donated Crocs to my orphaned kids in Haiti, I take photos of them wearing them, and send the pictures to the generous donors,” she added.

Said Seiper: “Make sure CSR is a part of every meeting. There is a need for your help, and know that you really are making an impact.”

This is Part 3 of a three-part story:

Part 1: Meeting Managers Are the Gatekeepers of Compliance

Part 2: From Macro to Micro: How Pharma Trends Affect Your Meetings

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Raising the Bar on CSR

CSR Tip Sheet

5 Great Charities for Meeting Managers

MPI Releases Results of CSR Study