Like many organizations, Event Service Professionals Association facilitates a giveback opportunity into its annual conferences. But it has taken the concept a step further. ESPA established the first week of August as National Celebrate Services Week, and it coordinates service project meetups for its association members across the country.
Here are five ways planners can infuse meaningful giveback opportunities into their events.
1. Determine which format is the best fit.
McCullough says there are three main ways to give back: an off-site excursion, an in-house project or a call for donations. “If you have the ability to go off-site, do it. Just tell your attendees before they book their travel, as sometimes these excursions work better as pre or post-conference events,” she says.
Over the last several years, ESPA has experimented with a different format at its annual conferences. One year, attendees participated in an off-site beach cleanup and another year, they worked inside the venue during coffee breaks to assemble toiletry kits for the homeless. Most recently, ESPA issued a call for attendees to bring school supplies to the conference to benefit local underprivileged schools.
2. Make it interactive.
While an off-site project and in-house assembly lines have obvious interactive components, you’ll need to get more creative for donations. ESPA turned the school supply drive into an activity by asking teams to create centerpieces for the venue tables using the donated supplies. McCullough says this activity was well received by participants. Other ideas could be a packing party or competition to see who can load the donations the fastest.
3. Utilize the CVB.
Most CVBs have relationships with local organizations already, so work with a representative to determine which group is a good fit for what your attendees are able to do. Some CVBs already have lists of potential corporate social responsibility partners on their websites. Once you and your CVB rep have determined a partner, ask the CVB to make introductions and help coordinate the logistics of your project. Work smarter, not harder!
4. Engage your presenters.
McCullough and her team work with the CVB to compile a list of local charities that could benefit from a financial gift. Then she presents the list to each speaker. Each speaker selects the organization that resonates with him or her the most, and ESPA gives a donation in its honor instead of a speaking honorarium. “People love giving back,” McCollough says. “They just need to be given the opportunity to do so.”
Share photos and updates on social media after the event. This not only generates excitement among the attendees but also raises awareness for the charity. Include an update in your post-event communications with specifics, if possible. Participants will love seeing exactly how many toiletry kits they were able to give collectively or see photos of a principal’s face when he or she saw how many boxes of supplies were delivered.
“Our members really look forward to the giveback component of a conference,” McCollough says. “They ask me what our plans are months and months in advance!” Giving back is far more than a trend in the events industry. It’s a way to make a lasting impact.”