The average baby will blitz through more than 3,600 diapers per year – a formidable expense for any family, but particularly those who already struggle to pay for daily necessities like food, shelter and clothing. Years ago, at an event, Rachael Riggs, manager of Meeting and Conventions Sales for the Chicago and Midwest U.S. at Tourism Vancouver, met a staff member of The Cradle – a Chicago-based adoption agency – and learned of the dire need for diaper donations both at the agency and within the Chicago community. Inspired, Rachael along with her friends at Association Forum organized her first diaper drive at an association meeting held a few months later and procured some 1,500 diapers. During this June’s Forum Forward event, she hosted her fifth diaper campaign – and the industry-wide initiative collected nearly 35,000 diapers, a record-breaking amount that allowed The Cradle to remove the item as a budget expense for an entire year.
Stories like this support the dramatic impact that Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) can have on organizations and communities. Indeed, in recent years CSR in the meetings industry has evolved from a nice agenda add-on to, in many cases, an integral offering that can determine whether or not an association chooses to meet in a particular destination. Growing awareness of the need for social, environmental and cultural responsibility means more and more attendees are gravitating toward agendas that embraces the mindset of “leave the world a better place than you found it.” The most compelling aspect of CSR is that it benefits everybody: associations that give back not only help out the surrounding community, but also improve their own public image, increase meeting registrations, and inspire members to remain engaged and motivated.
A longstanding advocate for CSR, Rachael has spoken at multiple industry events about the importance of planners incorporating responsible activities into their meetings. “Giving back is, quite simply, the right thing to do, and today’s generation is particularly cognizant of that,” says Rachael. “Countless studies have shown that integrating CSR activities into corporate culture increases motivation, sales and employee interest. Associations can reap the same rewards by making it easy for people to help others while attending their meeting.”
Tourism Vancouver’s #VanGiving program, which encourages and assists meeting professionals in providing assistance to causes they believe in, has helped to organize CSR experiences for numerous meetings, including PCMA’s 2016 Convening Leaders. In addition to diaper drives, #VanGiving connects planners with socially impactful activities like stuffing hygiene kits for homeless shelters; building outdoor play kitchens for daycares and elementary schools in low-income areas; helping out at farms that grow nourishing ingredients for local food banks; and more. Planners uncertain of where to start can connect with the Tourism Vancouver team, who will help identify an opportunity that best fits with the meeting size, location and theme.
Though food drives remain one of the most popular CSR activities, valued for being both impactful and logistically possible year-round, diapers and baby formula remain a key need for low-income families and adoption agencies across North America. At Forum Forward 2017, Rachael and her team decided to up the ante by challenging corporate organizers and association CEOs to beat each other’s diaper contributions, as opposed to merely asking them to contribute. Among the 12 associations, the National Sporting Goods Association won the coveted Golden Diaper Award for collecting the most diapers per employee. The friendly competition resulted in the biggest diaper donation yet – but Rachael has already turned her attention to the next challenge, a stocking-stuffing event for children in need that will take place at this year’s Holiday Showcase in Chicago.
Planners hosting a meeting in Vancouver, or those considering the destination for an upcoming event, can rest easy knowing there are plenty of CSR options to include in the agenda. To learn about the different possibilities, or to contact the Tourism Vancouver team for assistance, click here.