How to Decide if a CSR Activity Is the Right Fit for Your EventJune 1, 2014
By Mary MacGregor
June 1, 2014
How to Decide if a CSR Activity Is the Right Fit for Your Event
A Clean the World event at MPI-WEC: Gently used hotel soaps and shampoo are recycled and redistributed to countries in need. Credit: OrangePhotography.com
Mary MacGregor joined BI WORLDWIDE (BIW) in January of 2013 as corporate vice president – event solutions. She comes to BIW after serving as the leader of business development, events and marketing for other major third-party organizations. In her current role she is responsible for all operating areas of the BIW Event Solutions Group including purchasing, design, delivery, group air, individual incentive travel, onsite operations, technology, communications and merchandise. She leads a team of more than 175 industry professionals who deliver memorable experiences and measurable results for their customers. In 2011, Mary served as global president of Site (Society of Incentive & Travel Professionals). For more information, visit www.BIWorldwide.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) continues to be a popular component in meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions. CSR event components are a good way for organizations to build social good will, set an example, inspire event participants to get involved in their own communities outside of the event and extend their brand promise. They also can be a lot of fun!
Simple to Intense
CSR components range in scope from simple things like every attendee donating a children’s book to the local library where the event is being held to multi-day, labor-intensive activities to help build a medical clinic or school. It’s quite hard to argue that CSR isn’t a good thing. Generosity, caring and a genuine effort to make things better for the community certainly is a positive way for any organization to operate and expanding that mission to an event site can be a natural fit.
5 Questions to Consider
Determining if a CSR activity is a good fit for your event requires consideration of many factors. Group demographics, destination, budget and timing must be addressed. Ask yourself the following questions to help determine if a CSR component is appropriate for your next event:
- Do the participants at my event share my CSR values?
Employees at a company-required meeting are more likely to embrace your CSR values. External customers may like your product and service, but may view your CSR values from a very different perspective. Make sure you are on the same wave-length with the majority of your participants.
- Does the event component align with my CSR values?
If your organization routinely supports literacy, for example, make sure your event component relates somehow to literacy. This furthers your brand promise. Including an event that appears to have no connection to your organization is confusing and can come off as gimmicky or just a way to get a tax write-off.
- Is the activity in line with the participants’ interests and talents?
Participants need to feel comfortable and competent to do the activity you are asking them to perform. If it’s working on a construction site, do they have the skills and physical ability to do the job? If it’s working with disabled children at a sports event, do they have the empathy and personality to engage with these special individuals? While it can be good to encourage people to step outside their comfort zones, it’s not always in everyone’s best interest to do so.
- Does the CSR component add value to the locale where the event is being held.
Virtually every community has public-service and social-enhancement needs. Make sure your CSR component serves a real need in the community. Just because your organization’s CSR strategy focuses on the needs of children, doesn’t necessarily mean the community has the same priority. They may be in dire straits over serving an elderly population or veterans. Work with your destination management company or event planning agency for help on identifying the right component that aligns with both your CSR strategy and community needs. It would be unusual not to be able to find some common ground.
- Am I willing to make participation at the event optional?
This can be tricky depending on who your attendees are. If everyone is a direct employee, how important is it to you to require participation? Some companies see the CSR activity in the same light as a teambuilding event — which they can be! If you do require participation for employees, make sure they can handle the work (see question 3). Someone who is afraid of water is not going to find going out in a canoe to do water-quality testing to be a positive and engaging experience.
When your attendees are sales channel partners, customers or industry colleagues, make sure everyone can graciously decline.
CSR Has a Very Valuable Role to Play
A well-planned CSR component can be extremely rewarding for your participants and the community you are helping. While not everyone will want to participate, you can make a positive impact on your brand, your organization, your attendees and the community where your event is being held.
When including a CSR component, make sure it is:
- Meaningful: It needs to make a real impact and not be a photo op to garner some good press.
- Aligned: It needs to relate to your organization’s CSR strategy, mission, values or culture.
- Appropriate: Participants need to have the skills, abilities and confidence to perform the tasks.
- Community-specific: It needs to meet the top priorities of the community, not just be a “feel-good” experience for participants.
- Relevant: Participants must see the value of their contributions and in certain situations, must be able to opt-out.
Help Is Available
Consult with your event planning agency or destination management company for help in deciding if a CSR component is right for your event. They have knowledge of the community you are visiting and have good local contacts to ensure that your CSR activity is positive and productive for everyone involved.
For more information on how BI Worldwide can help your organization plan an engaging CSR event or examples of successful events planned for a variety of organizations, please visit www.BIWorldwide.com or contact us at info@BIWorldwide.com. C&IT