Doing Good by Doing What You’re Good At

When it comes to doing good, sometimes the hardest part is choosing the right idea.

But when a plan to tackle a social problem aligns with a business interest, things start clicking, Margaret Coady, director of the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy (CECP), told USA Today earlier this year. 

It also works that way when an association or organization lines up its public-service projects at the “sweet spots” where their own areas of expertise intersection with social needs. A perfect example was the decision by the American Institute of Architects (AIA) to create a project that would address the rebuilding of post-Katrina New Orleans, the site of AIA’s 2011 National Convention and Design Exposition.
Knowing the needs of New Orleans, “we can’t not do something,” Joel Mills, director of AIA’s Center for Communities by Design, told Executive Editor Chris Durso, who wrote about the project for Convene. (The project outline is available here.)

Another great example is the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) decade-long commitment to building safe, accessible playgrounds in the cities where they hold their annual meetings. It resonates with AAOS members, public relations director Sandra Gordon told me, because  orthopedic surgeons have first-hand experience with injuries that children can suffer on unsafe playground equipment.

Nearly half of all conferences now include volunteer experiences, according to research conducted at the University of Florida. Just think of all that could be done, and the rewarding experiences that could be created for meeting attendees, if conference-related projects unleashed the full talents of their members.

Barbara Palmer

Barbara Palmer is senior editor and director of digital content.