Pouring back into the community that hosts your event should never be an obligation; it should be a display of gratitude and goodwill to those who have welcomed you and your attendees.
There are many reasons to give back to your host community, but the most critical element to any “giving back” program is to do the right thing for the right reason.
The cornerstone of every event we produce is the experience design principle. What better way to enhance the attendee experience than by giving them the opportunity to give back?
Included in our initial planning process for our events each year is our “giving-back” program. It’s our way to thank the host cities for working closely with us to ensure the success of our event, providing our attendees have the best-possible experience.
Creating this type of program takes minimal effort during the initial planning stages to determine which organization to support.
When meeting with our host city officials, CRV’s and host hotels, we make it a point to learn about any programs they might support or any organizations they recommend we consider.
When choosing the benefactor, we also try to create an exciting way for our attendees and participants to contribute to the effort while meeting the needs of the organization.
“We’ve supported local homeless shelters through asking for contributions of socks and toiletries,” said Karen Watson, Sr. Director of Strategic Events at Maritz Global Events. “We’ve supported local food banks by asking participants to donate cash or gift cards because it makes sense to ask attendees to give something that’s easy to bring with them rather than a can of food or something they can’t easily travel with.”
Watson has been an incredible resource in finding new ways to incorporate these charitable efforts into each event.
Make it Your Mission
One of the most intriguing ways Watson has done this is by intertwining these opportunities with the corporate mission of the Maritz Global Events to help raise awareness of human trafficking across the industry.
International Sanctuary is a grass roots initiative that supports survivors of human trafficking by giving them shelter, teaching them a trade and essential life skills while giving them a chance to step back into the world emotionally whole again.
Through their division Purpose Jewelry, survivors are hired and trained to make jewelry that is sold in an effort to raise money to build more sanctuaries for other survivors around the world.
Watson selected them as the benefactor of Maritz Global Events’ e4 program this August.
“We decided to purchase jewelry from Purpose Jewelry for our guest gift program as a way to give back to the Anaheim community,” she said. “But while thinking through our options for helping, we realized there was more we could do beyond purchasing the jewelry for our gifts. We have never done any type of ‘sales’ at this event, but given the quality of the jewelry and the great cause it supports, we also gave them a booth at our event to showcase and sell their products.”
During the three-day event, Purpose Jewelry sold more than $10,000 worth of jewelry in addition to the money they received from gifts purchased through by the event.
Even though most guests are happy to help organizations in need, Watson said her team looks for fun ways to engage attendees through these opportunities.
“One year we had a fun evening at a baseball park and added a dunk tank. Attendees could purchase chances to dunk executives and industry leaders and all the proceeds went to the organization that had been selected that year.”
Another example she cited was an event at the Mirage’s Dolphin Pool in Las Vegas. During onsite registration, attendees could purchase raffle tickets for a chance to “Paint with a Dolphin” during that evening’s reception. With very little effort, they raised almost $1,000 and one lucky attendee left with a great painting, while all the attendees had an experience to remember.
Promoting Giving Back Opportunities
It’s important to promote these giving opportunities well ahead of when your guests arrive.
It’s smart to include a page in your registration process completely dedicated to the giving back program with a detailed description of the organization you are supporting.
Consider providing links to the organization and an itemized list of their needs that people can easily bring with them such as socks, gift cards, children’s books, etc.
Include these details in follow-up information prior to the event such as the final confirmation email or a “Know-Before-You-Go” video, so participants are reminded to bring their contribution with them when they are packing.
Another way to promote your giving back program is through onsite donation bins and tables where attendees can drop off their donations. You can easily put these at registration desks when attendees check in, along with donation boxes to collect gift card and cash donations.
A Gift They’ll Remember
Several years ago, during an e4 event in Hawaii, Watson selected a local literacy program as the benefactor of our giving back program and promoted the program by encouraging participants to bring children’s books to donate.
In addition, they needed school supplies for the children they serve. Watson decided to place bins throughout the event, reminding attendees about the giving back program.
Because of this, people who forgot to bring a donation actually went out and purchased school supplies and books at local stores to donate on site.
The program was so successful, the organization sent photos of their once almost empty supply closet filled to the brim with the donations from the event.
“We were able to share this information with our attendees after the event so everyone could experience the joy of knowing we did something that made a difference,” Watson said. “Plus, it’s a great way to stay in touch with attendees after the event is over and stay top of mind.”
One final example Watson shared of how to implement a giving back program was when Experient supported a local homeless shelter for families.
The program was used as a team-building opportunity for attendees, where they played games and received points for winning games. Those points were then traded in for school supplies and back packs that Experient purchased in advance to donate to the shelter.
In addition to those donations, attendees were asked to give toys as birthday presents for children at the shelter. Guests brought so many toys that the shelter later reported they had a full supply room with enough gifts for every child to get a birthday present while at the shelter for the next year.
What Can You Do?
These are just a few examples of ways a giving back program can be created to serve a the communities that help us make our events successful.
“Most attendees come to events thinking about what they will get out of the experience. Our goal is to help each person see the greater good they can do, and hopefully incorporate that into their own events and enrich the lives of so many more.”
Our desire is that these examples inspire you to consider doing something similar when planning your events.
We would also love to hear your ideas. There are so many great and powerful ways we all give back to our communities. If you have experiences with a giving back program that you want to share, we encourage you to share in the comments section and offer up even more inspiration.