Meetings

Ideas for Community Service Projects During Virtual Events

By / Oct 8, 2020 (mitay20/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Long a staple of in-person meetings, community service projects and social responsibility initiatives are being transformed for the virtual environment. A look at some possibilities.

A common way that attendees get to know each other at in-person events is by participating in service projects or other volunteer efforts that support the host city’s local community.

But, like so many aspects of face-to-face meetings, these efforts have had to be re-envisioned due the COVID-19 pandemic and the pivot to virtual and hybrid events.

But, not to worry, they are still taking place. Here is a look at how a few organizations have transitioned their community service projects and volunteer opportunities to the online environment:

Virtual meal packing. Since 2015, AARP Foundation’s annual Celebration of Service has engaged thousands of volunteers to pack millions of meals for seniors struggling to put food the table. The event is typically held on the National Mall in Washington, DC, but for Meal Pack Challenge 2020, volunteers are being asked to do the project from home and help reach the goal of delivering more than 2 million servings of food. Volunteers go online to request a box, shopping list, and prepaid shipping label from the AARP Foundation. Once the box arrives, they can shop for groceries and fill the box with items on the list. After shopping is complete, they have the option to either drop the box at UPS or schedule a pickup. The box will then be delivered to Capital Area Food Bank, which will distribute the food across the DC region.

Socially responsible session tracks. With industries focused on having social and ethically responsible leaders and members, some associations are putting a focus on session tracks that speak directly to this. One is the National Association of Realtors, which is hosting Social Good Sessions on topics like sustainability, socially ethical marketing practices, and more.

Virtual races. A common way that associations raise money for their related foundations or other charitable groups they’re supporting is to hold races during their conferences. This year, many have converted those to virtual 5Ks where attendees log their miles from any location of their choice. Among them: National Guard Association of the United States, Chicago Association of Realtors, New York State Occupational Therapy Association, and Association of Water Board Directors—Texas.

And even if associations aren’t offering specific community service activities or sessions during their virtual conferences, they are still encouraging attendees to give back to their communities. For example, the Eastern Association of Colleges and Employers suggested different ways people could help others during the pandemic, such as giving blood or showing appreciation to those on the front lines.

“The in-person conference would have provided a great opportunity to give back to the community, and although the conference is now being conducted virtually, the committee still wants to offer attendees an opportunity to make a difference,” the group said. “Share what you are doing to give back to your community on social media and tag #EACEGivesBack!”

What virtual community service opportunities have you offered your attendees? Please share in the comments.

Samantha Whitehorne

Samantha Whitehorne is editorial director of Associations Now. More »

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