When the American Society of Association Executives seeks out nonprofits for its CSR efforts, it doesn’t pick the big guys. Instead, it looks for those charities “that might be underappreciated and are more community-based,” says John Graham, CAE, president and CEO.
For its recent Annual Meeting & Exposition in Detroit in August, that meant working with Alternative For Girls, an organization whose goal is to provide resources and opportunities to homeless and at-risk young women. “It offers them things that your typical middle-class child might get at home—but they are not,” says Graham.
ASAE found the charity through the recommendation of the Detroit Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau, as it does for each annual convention. “We want to give back to the city in an area that the DMO views to be an important need.” Volunteers made bookmarks, read to the girls and created hygiene kits. In all, the organization raised $35,000 in donations. Each year, ASAE holds two activity days, usually on the Saturday morning and afternoon before an event and on the final day, a Tuesday afternoon, between the closing general session and the evening event. Graham estimates that about 10 percent of attendees participate, “but for those people who do, it is incredibly meaningful.” He sees that percentage growing as the younger generation joins the ranks of associations.
“If you look at the demographics going forward, you see that the Millennials want to make a difference. They’re looking for authenticity and they want to get involved in efforts like this.”
While Graham refers to ASAE’s efforts as modest, they have made a huge impact in each community where the association meets. Last year in Nashville, ASAE raised $23,554 for the Second Harvest Food Bank, resulting in 103,780 meals for the community. Volunteers prepared, sorted and packed food that was then distributed through the food bank’s programs, including BackPacks, which helps kids who don’t have access to food during weekends and school breaks. A similar program in Dallas in 2012 benefitted North Texas Food Bank and raised $61,442, far exceeding ASAE’s goal of $50,000. Other programs through the years have had attendees volunteering at L.A.’s Midnight Mission soup kitchen and clearing walking trails around Atlanta with Hands On Atlanta.
One nonprofit that still has people talking was Stray Rescue St. Louis. Participants went on-site, where they gave the dogs baths and groomed them. Some furry friends even made an appearance at the convention. Graham couldn’t confirm if any pets were adopted that day, but the love was palpable. “In many respects, what we do might be considered modest,” he says, “but there’s no doubt it’s from the heart.”
The Power of Associations
The American Society of Association Executives created “The Power of A” to promote the creative, innovative charitable contributions of its members in creating a stronger America. Each year, its award program recognizes associations for programs and activities “that have had a positive, measurable impact on the economy and/or our collective quality of life.”
One winner was the Million Dollar Roundtable’s Million Meal Challenge, its largest-ever volunteer event. Its goal was to package and send one million rice-based meals to children and families suffering from malnutrition in impoverished communities worldwide. More than 2,300 MDRT members from around the world—China, India, Japan, the U.S. and other countries—volunteered for a two-hour food packing shift during the event—meeting the goal.