DOCKSIDE JOURNAL ENTRY / January 17, 2018

5 Ways to Give Back Through Your Event

Adding charitable elements to your event is a great and easy way to pay it forward in the community where you hold your event.

And while it can help engage your attendees and benefit your event overall, it can also make a positive impression on the community you’re visiting. Say you have a 4,000-person meeting and arrange to have leftover food donated through a local food bank. Chances are that’s a big impact on a vulnerable segment of the community.  

Read on for a few ideas on how to incorporate a give-back to your event.

1. Invite a charity of your choice to participate.  

Lorie Thomas, SHW SVP of Event Services, is ready to greet families from Mary’s Place at a corporate haunted house.

Work with a charity of your choice to incorporate them in the event. SHW recently worked with a client to produce a huge haunted house in one of their headquarter buildings for employees and their families. SHW knew the company shared a connection with Mary’s Place, a Seattle-based organization that works with homeless youth and families. SHW was able to work with the client so that during one of the two days that the haunted house operated, the event was open to kids and parents from Mary’s Place.

Our advice? Get creative. Pick a cause or organization that you care about as a starting point, and think about unique ways that your event can help out with their ongoing goals and initiatives. If your event isn’t in your home city (or if you just need some help choosing) the local visitor and conference bureau can help you find the right charity for your company.

2. Hold a book drive at check-in.

If your event has a registration component, ask guests when they register to sign up to buy a new book for a child in need. This is a great way to not only support a good cause, but also to get attendees thinking about the event ahead of time. Work with a reputable organization that will distribute the books, so you know they’re going to the right places. Some organizations that do incredible work in the U.S. and abroad with book drives are Book Aid International, The Pajama Program, Kids Need to Read, and Room to Read. They’ll let you know which titles they need most and work with your event planner to coordinate distribution, so you don’t have to do the heavy lifting.

3. Hold a silent auction featuring local artists.

 Glassblowing art from  Seattle Glassblowing Studios  | Photo courtesy of  Visit Seattle

Glassblowing art from Seattle Glassblowing Studios | Photo courtesy of Visit Seattle

Another way to engage the local community is to hold a silent auction during your event that incorporates works by local artists. Reach out to local galleries or artist organizations to donate pieces, then donate all the proceeds to a local charity of your choice. Not only are you supporting a good cause with the proceeds, but attendees can connect to the local community. Consider including some short background info on each artist, too, or invite the artists to attend the event. Maybe they’ll sell a few more pieces to new admirers.

Don’t know where to start finding artists? Your local visitor and conference bureau is a great resource to help connect you to the right people.

4. Donate leftover food from your event.

There’s almost always leftover food from events that ends up going to waste. This option is less hands-on for guests, but can be a big help to local food banks who rely on donations. It’s pretty easy too. Lots of convention centers and catering companies already have food donation programs in place. Just ask! If neither your venue or caterer have an existing program, Feeding America has a “Find a Food Bank” feature where you can find a food bank near the event.

5. Offer an optional community service tour program.

Photo courtesy of Code.org®

If your program includes tours that guests can pre-register for, consider including an interesting option with a community organization. It’s a useful way for guests to learn more about the community they’re in, and give back in a hands-on way. This is completely customizable, so the tour can align with your company or program’s giving goals. Does your company have a green initiative? Consider planting trees around in the city. Consider the skill set in your group. Lots of code-savvy folks? Contact the local school district about spending a day teaching basic coding. A decent crew of handy-people? Maybe the local Boys & Girls Club needs their play yard spruced up. A skilled event manager can help guide you to organizations that will use transient volunteers.