Creative Contributions volunteer project
Providence Warwick CVB created a new turnkey volunteer program called “Creative Contributions” for groups to participate in local community service projects while booking the convention center. We spoke with Martha Sheridan, president/CEO of the Providence Warwick CVB to learn more.
Prevue: What is “Creative Contributions?”
MS: It is a program that pairs meeting planners with community-based organizations in Rhode Island. Together they set up community service projects that groups can do during their stay in the Providence area.
Prevue: What kind of groups are participating?
MS: The most recent group was a small group out of Boston called the Professional Convention Management Association. They worked with an organization that the CVB paired them up with called Child & Family Services. They went to a local school and worked with children and did a fundraising drive at a meeting in Boston. Another group was the Net Roots Nation, a group of political bloggers. They did a cleanup day at Roger Williams Park in Providence.
What’s the day like when participating?
MS: It depends on the group and what the extent of their volunteering is. We have some groups come in that do a half-day. They start with breakfast, an icebreaker and then they head out to the project site where they work for several hours…. This can easily take the place of a teambuilding initiative for a group.
Is it all physical labor?
MS: It’s not just limited to hands-on community service projects. We understand that some may not be able to add that extra time onto their convention schedule. We are also trying to encourage groups to participate in fund raising or product drives during the convention in Providence so that prior to arriving, they can encourage their attendees to bring socks, for example, for an organization that is collecting socks or collect donations for an organization that they are strategically aligned with. Our motto is: Serve, Supply and Support.
What size groups are participating?
MS: There’s no set size. We go from a group of ten all the way up to several hundred.
What’s the takeaway for groups who are participating?
MS: Recently our agency “walked the walk” of the program while we were launching Creative Contributions so that we could get a feel for what groups will be doing. We made lunches for the homeless on a Saturday morning and our personal experience was incredible. We felt like we got more out of the project than those that we actually served. We felt very fulfilled and that we did our share to give back. That’s part of what a group is trying to achieve when engaging in community service initiatives. The initial motivating piece is that they are making a difference, but what they find at the end of the day is that the group has fostered greater networking among members and has learned something new about a particular skill they might be working with or about a particular agency. We also hope that groups can form a longer, lasting relationship with the agency that they are volunteering with, especially if they have a national presence.
What are some examples of the organizations that Creative Contributions are working with?
MS: We have 14 organizations that we work with in the greater Providence area. The list includes Boys & Girls Clubs of Providence, Audubon Society of Rhode Island- Smithfield, Gotta Have Sole Foundation, Inc. and many more.
When does Creative Contributions begin engaging with meeting planners?
MS: We start working with the planners from the moment that the contract has been signed for the meeting and we work with them until they leave town. We can meet them at the convention center or at any local hotel.
What’s your overall goal?
MS: We hope that our meeting and convention clients become just as engaged as the hospitality members in the community. Because they see us in action, we hope they become influenced to participate as well. Any group can help our community based organizations if they become interested in volunteering. I hope it’s infectious.