Meetings

Tapping Into Attendee Expertise For Community Service Projects

By / May 19, 2017 (iStock/Thinkstock)

Your attendees have professional skills and specialized knowledge that can make a difference when they’re put to work in a conference-related community service project. Here are a few creative ways that associations have given back to their host cities.

Association conferences often feature a community service project—a chance for attendees to give back to the local community where the meeting is being held.

For example, at ASAE’s 2017 Annual Meeting & Exposition in Toronto in August, attendees will have the opportunity to support two local organizations: the Toronto Humane Society and the Royal Canadian Legion. One will have participants working on projects to improve the lives of the animals they meet, while the other will have attendees planting trees along a stretch of highway to honor Canada’s fallen veterans.

While these two service projects aren’t directly linked to the everyday work of association professionals, other organizations pick projects that allow attendees to bring their professional expertise to the local community.

For instance, the American Statistical Association sponsors Meeting Within a Meeting (MWM) during the Joint Statistical Meetings (JSM).

MWM is for local middle- and high-school science and math teachers who want to improve their statistics teaching. The program is taught by JSM attendees—mostly statistics professors from colleges and universities—who volunteer their time to provide the instruction over the course of three days. In addition to giving local educators a refresher on statistics fundamentals, these volunteers also provide suggestions for lesson plans and teaching strategies.

Then there’s the American Academy of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery, which teamed up with the nonprofit Neighborhood House during its 2016 Annual Meeting in San Diego. Around 10 ear, nose, and throat doctors conducted complimentary hearing screenings for underprivileged children in the area. (You can read more about this effort in the May/June issue of Associations Now, which will reach you by mail and post online the first week of June.)

The Association of Asthma Educators has done something similar. Attendees at past annual conferences have volunteered to be part of a two-hour education program that included free asthma screenings and fun, interactive asthma educational activities for the entire family.

A final example, which I stumbled across in Convene magazine, comes from the National Court Reporters Association (NCRA). During its 2016 Convention & Expo in Chicago last August, a team of court reporters volunteered to interview eight local Purple Heart recipients for the Library of Congress’ Veterans History Project, which records the stories of American veterans.

Since court reporters record a minimum of 225 words per minute, they are more than qualified to transcribe the stories of these veterans. However, NCRA members don’t limit their volunteer time with the project to the annual meeting. They work year-round with the Veterans History Project and, since 2003, have transcribed more than 4,000 interviews.

Whether or not your conference’s community service project is related to your attendee’s professional expertise, they all have the same goal: to give back while having fun and learning more about the local community at the same time.

How have you used your members’ and attendees’ professional knowledge and expertise to give back to the local community at your conferences? Please share in the comments.

Samantha Whitehorne

Samantha Whitehorne is editorial director of Associations Now. More »

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