Meeting-Booking Company Uses a New Model for Giving Back

Hotels for Hope offers a practical model for conscious capitalism in action by leveraging meetings and events business.

We’ve always conducted our Best in Show program as a cheerfully non-comprehensive affair. It’s not meant as a referendum on the 50 absolute best things in the industry, but rather as a sampling of 50 really great things. We’re open and eager to finding new really great things in all of the areas we celebrate in Best in Show, and any beyond that.

Such as (drumroll, please) Hotels for Hope, which would have been a strong contender for this year’s Best CSR Initiatives if we’d known about it. It only blipped on our radar because it’s just been ranked #529 overall on the Inc. 5000 2015 list of the fastest-growing private companies in the United States — and sixth among travel and hospitality companies. What does this have to do with CSR? Hotels for Hope brokers rooms for large meetings and events, and donates $2 for each room to a children’s charity — to the tune of nearly $500,000 so far. We talked to founder and CEO Neil Goldman about the five-year-old, Austin-based company’s do-good-to-do-well model.

A background in hospitality “I graduated from Penn State University with a major in hotel restaurant management and a minor in business, went and worked for Four Seasons and Marriott out of school, and got the itch to start my own company. I was living in San Diego, moved to Austin, and actually started more of a localized company where we were brokering overflow business from hotels. When hotels had rooms that they couldn’t accommodate, instead of hanging up the phone with [overflow customers] they’d refer them to us, we’d qualify the rooms and then identify another hotel on the market to send them to. I did that for two years, helped about 1,500 groups during that period, and then got bit by the social bug and wanted my business to be more impactful and have more of a purpose. That’s when Hotels for Hope started to get ‘beta-ed’ and take shape.”

The Hotels for Hope model “We broker-manage hotel inventory for a lot of major events. It’s anything from a conference to a meeting to a race to a festival to a tournament to a wedding block, etc. And then we have our social-giving component, which we call RoomFunding, where essentially we work collaboratively with the hotels to impact the lives of children. We ask the hotel to donate $1 per actualized room rate. We match that $1, and $2 goes back to children’s charities. Our clients have an opportunity to turn their room rates into social change.”

Conscious capitalism “I am a big proponent of it. Essentially the model is, if you put stakeholders first instead of shareholders, inevitably your business is going to succeed. For us, we do not put money as the preemptive catalyst of why we do business. We care about our stakeholders, and our stakeholders are our clients. We try to give them the absolute best product at the best price. Our hotel partners, we try to fill their rooms as often as possible and be as transparent as possible. Our vendors, we try to get great relationships, so that they’ll give us good deals and they’ll cheer for us to be able to secure more business. Our nonprofits, being able to fund them and find them unique ways to get their message out there. Then, of course, our employees — we make charity personal, we have a fun office environment, and we try to do things along those lines.”

Scaling up “We have a million different directions that we want to take right now. It goes back to [the fact that] a room night for Hotels for Hope is our currency. If we can create the infrastructure where we are pushing more room nights through, then the company grows monetarily, our charitable giving grows monetarily, and our whole ecosystem grows as well. So for us, it is very much about a land grab and a relationship-build right now to continue to expand the Hotels for Hope brand.”

Christopher Durso

Christopher Durso formerly was executive editor of Convene.