In a survey Convene conducted as part of a report on homelessness and the meetings industry, 35 percent of respondents said they had organized a CSR activity to benefit homeless communities in the destination where they met. Here are some of the ways they make an impact, as well as a list of some of the ongoing ways that convention centers make helping others business as usual.
Using attendees’ skills to help the homeless
Ten percent of homeless people have pets, so at the American Veterinary Medical Association’s annual convention in Denver in July 2018, veterinarians set up a free clinic outside the convention center, offering services such as heartworm tests and vaccinations. That same month, chefs attending the American Culinary Federation’s national convention in New Orleans prepared meals for the homeless and needy.
Making financial donations
Instead of giving honorariums to speakers, the Society for Collegiate Travel and Expense Management (SCTEM) donates money to a local charity. The chosen charity makes a short presentation during the general session and the SCTEM website includes a link for donations. At its 2018 conference, SCTEM donated money to Caritas of Austin, a local organization for the homeless. During a May convention in Seattle, the International Trademark Association donated to local charities such as Dress for Success Seattle, which provides professional attire to impoverished woman who are looking for jobs.
Volunteering in the host city
Most CVBs make it easy to volunteer. Explore St. Louis helps groups provide meals via the St. Louis Dream Center Food Ministry. San Francisco Travel offers numerous opportunities to help the hungry, from stocking a food bank to serving a hot breakfast. Visit Seattle lists volunteer opportunities on its website, including packing grocery items for distribution at the Food Lifeline Hunger Solutions Center, and other charitable options include ordering catering services from a nonprofit that provides job training and sends excess food to a local shelter.
Donating leftover food and goods
Since 2014, the Dallas Convention Center has offered a Good Neighbor Program, which shares leftover food and exhibit items with nonprofits that serve homeless families and children. The organizers of a recent Harry Potter convention, for example, donated a large box of leftover shirts, which were given to several local shelters. The convention center has donated more than 7.6 tons of food to its roughly 12 local nonprofit partners.
Read our cover story, ‘This is Something We Have to Fix.’