Home Publisher's Point of View Has Community Service Reached Your Ballroom?

Has Community Service Reached Your Ballroom?


A number of years ago I attended an American Hotel & Lodging Association conference in Atlanta. Attendees were given the option of staying an extra day to participate in a work project that involved cleaning up the grounds of a community center. I participated in that event even though I knew I would miss another day in the office and would have to pay more for another night in a hotel. Fortunately the publication I was working for at that time did not mind me staying an extra day to volunteer. I will be attending a conference next month that is also offering a community service event outside the hotel. To participate, attendees will have to come in early.

While community service events outside of a hotel certainly can be worthwhile as a team building exercise, they often require too much time and can be logistically and financially challenging. Increasingly, meeting planners and hotel conference center personnel are joining to organize ballroom-based community service events that last two hours or less. I spoke with Alan Ranzer, managing partner and co-founder of Impact 4 Good this past week and he told me more and more companies are trying to align their meetings with social causes that mean most to them while staying on schedule and minimizing the hassle of going off-site.

Ranzer’s firm helps meeting planners organize community service events at the meeting site. Examples of activities his clients have participated in include: packaging together earthquake kits for Haiti, building bookshelves that are later donated to local children, designing layer cakes that are later donated to boys and girls clubs, or creating miniature solar cars and then racing them. The cars are later donated to schools. (A list of other types of activities a group may consider can be found here.) Ranzer told me most community service events like these can be organized from $50 to $120 per person.

Connection to 2008

You may recall that in 2008, as the recession hit hard, several prominent companies were criticized for exorbitant travel. Ironically, it was at that time that Ranzer says interest in community service during meetings skyrocketed. “Perception became the story,” he says. “Companies realized they still had to meet but they had to deal with negative images associated with meetings.”

No matter the motive, community service events today are more than a trend; they are part of the fabric of most companies and you need to be prepared to accommodate requests for these types of events. Community service events help create positive memories for meeting attendees, they create a sense of team and mission, and of course they have a tangible positive impact on the local, national, or even international community.

Many companies already have the infrastructure in place to make “ballroom” volunteerism easier. Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, for example, as part of its Sustainable Meeting Practices, offers the opportunity for meeting attendees to give back to the local community through on-site team-building and/or volunteer activities.

Has your property participated in “ballroom” type community service? I would love to learn what types of activities were organized. I will share those in a future column. I can be reached at (440) 243-2055 or by e-mail at editor@greenlodgingnews.com.

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