Maximizing CSR into your Meetings and Events – 2022 update


“It’s so good to see you again,” was the most common phrase I heard at an employee volunteering program last month. As restrictions around COVID have now relaxed, more and more company-sponsored gatherings are taking place. Meetings and events are migrating out of virtual-only world and actual in-person gatherings are gaining serious momentum. Even with rising costs (inflation, supply-chain, staffing) for in-person meetings and events, nearly 85% of all meeting planners now describe conditions as favorable for in-person meetings and events (MPI, 2022 Summer Outlook report).


Bridging Gaps between Meeting Planners and CSR Teams – an Opportunity

A great opportunity exists for CSR professionals to incorporate meaningful social impact or volunteering programs into company meetings of all sizes. However, communications between these groups is not always consistent and bandwidth for planning (on both sides) is often limited. Here’s a few tips to help bridge the communications gap between these two groups.

  1. Reach out and re-introduce yourself. Meeting planning teams suffered both high staff reduction and turnover in the past two years. There may be many new faces to connect with that could help bring value to your CSR goals in terms of hours served, budget potential and community impact.
  2. Establish criteria for meeting and event planners to understand when looking to incorporate CSR into their meetings. Here’s where common gaps exist between the two departments
    1. Clear understanding of company CSR pillars (which can change from year to year)
    2. What are the existing nonprofit relationships (national and local)
    3. Knowing the criteria for vetting potential new partners
    4. Foundation/Department resources that may be available
  3. Participate in the planning. By collaborating in their process, you will build empathy towards their challenges and goals when planning an event. Most times, social impact programs are only a small part of meetings or event. Gaining a good understanding about how they need to integrate this into their meeting, and you will be a valuable participant in their process—and they will gain knowledge of your role as well.
  4. Replace the silos. With the importance that all good companies are placing on engaging their employees in meaningful social impact at all gatherings, it’s now more important than ever enhance collaboration between CSR and meeting planning teams (and HR, and marketing, and…)


Understanding the New Normal in Meetings and Events

Even though there is a big uptick in meeting and event planning, these are not your 2018 meetings. Meeting and event planners are adjusting how they plan in the post-pandemic world. Increased costs for travel, accommodations, food, and beverage combined with mostly flat budgets have caused a reduction in the overall size of these meetings. As I mentioned earlier, most meetings have a hybrid component to them these days and we’re seeing more frequent, but smaller meetings. Here’s a few things to keep in mind when collaborating with your meeting and event planning teams:

  1. Millennials make up the majority of the workforce. These groups adapt well to change and love options to customize their experience. Some have yet to even meet their colleagues face to face.
  2. Gain senior leadership buy-in from the start. When senior leadership is onboard, they see CSR programs as an investment in their people and the community, rather than a cost center. This can help increase your budgets for social impact programs at meetings and events too.
  3. Don’t expect nonprofits to stop everything they are doing to design you a program. Typically underfunded and understaffed (especially after the past couple of years), many nonprofits do not have the bandwidth to do the heavy lifting. Work with them to figure out their needs and make their lives easier by delivering the program to them with their goals in mind.
  4. There are support options. Hands On Network, Give To Get, We Hero, United Way and others are able to support your social impact programs as part of meetings and events.
  5. Be flexible and get creative. Many times, meeting and event agendas are stacked to the minute. If you don’t have dedicated time for a CSR program, consider:
    1. Hosting a pop-up program before or after a meal (social impact breakfast is a great program).
    2. Have an optional program live on the side of an evening reception.
    3. Offer a program during event registration to help kick the meeting off right before the event begins.
    4. Stand up a program that lives on the side of the whole meeting.
    5. Enlist the support of local champions or Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) to help stand up a program that they are passionate about.
    6. Seek donations—ask participants to bring an item to the meeting (books, food) that can go to a good local charity.
  6. If there is time to take a group offsite to a local nonprofit, make sure you’re aware of the updated COVID restrictions. You may need to plan much farther in advance and take waves of participants rather than one large group.
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