Making an Impact: How Your Organization Can Benefit Host Cities During Your Next Meeting
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)—recently, this topic has become more visible within meetings and events industry. You’ll find ample examples online with a quick search on CSR projects. But how do you create and execute your own program within your organization that relates to your core business? This is how our organization created and implemented our own CSR event program as well as some of our tips and recommendations.
Over the past 2 years, the Society of Actuaries (SOA) has incorporated corporate social responsibility as an important initiative within our meetings and events. We start our planning with learning more about our host cities and ask ourselves, “how can we connect, make an impact, and give back to the local communities?”
In-person involvement is not the only opportunity
Our efforts began during the pandemic and the transition to virtual meetings. We wanted to give back to the cities where we had planned to hold our in-person meetings. Our 2020 Annual Meeting was scheduled to be held in Seattle. When we had to cancel the in-person meeting, we quickly started brainstorming ideas to keep the connection and help the city of Seattle.
In addition to the virtual experiences of the city (musical performances from Pike Place Market, yoga sessions from a local studio, glassblowing video from a local artist) we also partnered with BlackFin Coffee, a Seattle specialty coffee roasting brand whose mission is to save the endangered southern resident orcas. Attendees were provided the opportunity to learn more about the organization and its mission through customized videos, allowing for monetary donations, benefiting the PNW Protectors. A portion of the proceeds from BlackFin Coffee products were donated to the PNW Protectors as well.
The return to in-person
In 2022 we were able to return to in-person meetings and appreciated the opportunity to impact our host cities. Our Health Meeting took place in Philadelphia, PA where we partnered with the Women’s Community Revitalization Project (WCRP), an organization committed to social and economic equity for low-income women and their families.
After 2 years of virtual meetings, we realized our attendees may benefit from structured networking. We thoughtfully created an activity that would connect attendees while also benefiting WCRP. Meeting attendees came together to assemble mini garden starter kits which were donated to the Grays Ferry community. The garden kits were distributed to 350 families to assist them in starting their own in-home gardens. In addition, we collected financial donations throughout the meeting, with the SOA matching contributions. The director of WCRP was our guest speaker, providing information and raising awareness of the charity’s work and the communities they serve.
The 2022 SOA Life Meeting took place in Chicago. The SOA partnered with Kids Above All to host a Backpack Drive during the conference. Kids Above All offers a variety of services that places the safety, well-being, and education of kids and families above everything else, so they can build better lives.
Like our previous meeting, we invited the director of the charity to speak at our luncheon to bring awareness to the organization and the Backpack Drive which was set up just outside the luncheon doors. Making it as easy as possible for attendees to participate was key.
Our attendees assembled more than 400 backpacks that were donated directly to children in need to brighten the beginning of their school year. Attendees were able to donate school supplies directly from the Kids Above All Amazon Wish List and/or provide monetary donations to the organization, which were matched by the SOA. We also developed a program allowing member organizations the opportunity to support the efforts by providing monetary donations that were used towards purchasing the materials for the drive.
Our annual meeting, the ImpACT Conference took place in late October 2022 in Orlando. The SOA partnered with Serenity’s Grace, a local charity aimed at reducing the extreme poverty level in Central Florida. The organization identified healthy eating and personal hygiene as two main areas of focus. We provided materials for attendees to build toiletry/hygiene kits and asked attendees to bring items from Serenity’s Grace’s “needs list”. At the time of writing, we were still brainstorming ideas to incorporate building healthy recipe cards to be used at the local food pantries.
The future of CSR
What does the future hold for corporate social responsibility within our meetings and events? We intentionally designed our beginning efforts to be small and manageable, allowing room for us to learn as we move through the process and the opportunity to grow the programs. Our 2023 planning will start this fall and we are looking to extend our efforts further working with the cities and communities where we are hosting our meetings.
Below are some tips and advice from the SOA meetings team.
Plan, plan and plan – Whatever lead time you think you need- triple it! This is inclusive of identifying a project, securing collateral and implementation plans for onsite.
Be creative. In-person isn’t the only option to make an impact. Think about what kind of outreach and efforts can be accomplished virtually.
Define CSR as it relates to your members and organization. CSR can mean different things to different people.
Define your CSR event strategy. Research your initiatives and explore opportunities that your members are passionate about and are relevant to your organization’s mission.
Set SMART goals. Start small/manageable and build up. Create metrics to measure success.
Communicate. Get the word out about what you are doing and start early. You will be surprised by how many people are willing to contribute once they know how they can help. This includes your own organization. Your members, attendees, and staff want to be included in the good feeling of giving back.
Get creative with your budget. While you can hire external vendors to assist/manage your program, we found it to be more economical to handle internally. The additional staff time spent on each project was fulfilling and worthwhile. We also developed a “supporter program” allowing member companies an opportunity to assist with the funding efforts.
Stay connected with the CSR community to continue your knowledge and development for your program and/or new ideas.
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