Adding Meaning to Meetings: Group Volunteering in Local Communities
By John Hess Director of Sales & Marketing, Omni Bedford Springs Resort | September 25, 2016
Social responsibility enables a culture of caring within organizations in all sectors of business, including the financial services, manufacturing, and retail industries. At organizations of all sizes, from large Fortune 500 companies to small startups, individual team members find satisfaction in helping others and often appreciate the opportunity to do so, because acting with purpose provides a shared experience that is positive and contagious. As the groups business continues to evolve and sales professionals and corporate planners explore the latest bells and whistles, such as 3-D Selfie Stations, to get meetings attendees engaged and excited – it's important not to forget that the reason groups come together in the first place is to build relationships through shared experiences.
To remain competitive, meeting planners must look beyond fine-dining options and high-tech offerings to add an emotional, high-touch aspect to their gatherings. Group volunteering and community service activities provide these types of enriching experiences, creating a memorable event and contributing to team building.
Recently, Omni Hotels & Resorts announced a partnership with Feeding America® to help end hunger with a "Say Goodnight to Hunger" initiative. Today, more than 48 million Americans live in food insecure households, including 15 million children; the "Say Goodnight to Hunger" initiative is just one small way a hospitality brand is giving back, benefitting local members in the 42 communities where Omni Hotels & Resorts properties are located. Even before this initiative went live, one-third of Omni properties were actively supporting food banks in local communities, from volunteering at facilities and fundraising to hold food drives and gathering donations for the local organizations. One such property is my own resort, Omni Bedford Springs Resort & Spa. We have activated this partnership in almost all segments of our business, including corporate sales. Omni Bedford Springs Resort has volunteered at two local food banks with several group business clients joining in on the volunteer work. On August 23, 2016, Omni Bedford Springs Resort joined with Omni William Penn to hold a volunteer event with clients at the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank. Both Omni team members and clients participated, coming together to give back to the local community.
After planning several off-site group experiences focusing on giving back to the local community, we have continued to receive requests from clients and associates asking when the next event will take place. There are already two additional events in the pipeline as a direct result of these requests.
This feedback isn't a surprise to me or my team. Volunteering in local communities encourages positive engagement at work, making it an ideal activity for company retreats and meeting breaks for days-long corporate meetings. Engaged employees are productive employees. In today's fast-paced, up-to-the-minute, technology driven world of business, we often overlook the families around us and in our own communities who are struggling to make ends meet. As we move through our daily routines sorting through hundreds of emails and analyzing a multitude of reports, others are wondering how they will find their next meal or where they will sleep tonight. The most common challenge for hotel executives in particular is time; reservations are made with shorter booking windows than ever before, making forecasting an increasingly challenging process. Groups that used to book a year in advance are now booking 90 days out. Client demands and expectations have reached an all-time high. This all leads us to a high-paced, frantic mode of operation with little time for thinking long-term or focusing on our own well-being. So the challenge remains, how workers find time to commit to efforts that fall outside of their daily demands? The answer is group volunteering through work.
A culture of philanthropy also changes an organization's image within community and can become part of the company's values, if conducted on a consistent basis. For example, Procter & Gamble prides themselves in working for the greater good. The company has two core focus areas for their social responsibility corporate and brands programs: Health and Hygiene and Comforts of Home. For hospitality professionals, there's an incredible opportunity to take advantage of shared values to achieve a common goal and build a more meaningful business and personal relationship.
Business to business relationships that stem from social responsibility tend to be stronger as they are based on a common purpose that does not directly benefit either party. Having a common goal with another organization helps to create a level of trust and vision that is often difficult to attain. Working for a previous employer, I had the opportunity to work with an individual that was a general manager for a government defense contractor. He ended up holding his 400 person annual meeting at our property. He most likely would never have considered our property had we not met through the charitable organization. We have maintained connection through both of us changing employers and expect to work together again in the future. I believe the common goal shared through this charitable organization helped develop a relationship built on trust, honesty, and the desire to do good things. This helped establish a bond that extends beyond our positions and our employers.