Group volunteer opportunities in Kansas City boost teambuilding, morale and event ROI
By Rob Carey
With every meeting, convention and event that arrives in a city, there’s significant financial benefit that comes to the hotels, restaurants, shops, transportation providers and many other businesses in that destination. But when a meeting or event group also devotes some time to volunteer actions that benefit other aspects of the host city, the results can be seriously impactful as well—not only for the community, but also for the group itself.
The term “voluntourism” encompasses the volunteer actions a traveler takes for the benefit of the community he or she is visiting. And the voluntourism movement in America is growing: In 2014, more than 1.6 million trips were taken by travelers specifically for the purpose of helping another community. But while this is impressive, consider the potential from the group-travel perspective: When dozens, hundreds or even thousands of event attendees focus on a volunteer project for just a few hours in the destination where they’re meeting, that effort produces a large and lasting benefit for that community, plus a strong bond between attendees who will remember their shared project for years to come.
In Kansas City, the tourism and hospitality sector understands the power that meeting/event groups have in the area of voluntourism. As a result, Visit KC partners with various local organizations to offer corporate social responsibility projects that meeting/event groups can easily fit into their schedule while they are in town. For example:
- Operation Breakthrough is the largest single-site early education, childcare and social services facility in all of Missouri, serving more than 400 children daily from the urban core. Its mission is to help children who live in poverty to develop their personal potential in a safe and caring environment, and to help the children’s families succeed through advocacy, referral services and emergency aid. Volunteer possibilities include the collection and packing of food and other necessary supplies for children’s families as well as hands-on experiences with the children and families, educating or entertaining them in ways that build their knowledge, confidence and hope.
- Harvesters is one of the only entities in the city that is a clearinghouse for the collection and distribution of food and household-related products. Meeting/event groups can help this organization by hosting a collection drive or by sorting food and other goods collected from other drives or donated by the food and beverage industry. Up to 200 attendees can go on site at one time to volunteer; larger groups could divide their effort into shifts for maximum impact.
- Heart to Heart International provides medical education and delivers medical aid wherever it is needed in the community. Groups meeting at the Kansas City Convention Center or at one of the nearby hotels could assemble supply kits right at their meeting site, while up to 20 volunteers can go to the organization’s facility at one time.
- Amethyst Place provides safe and supportive housing to women recovering from addiction, plus their children. Besides helping with child tutoring and mentoring, attendees can volunteer to help assemble furniture or paint and decorate apartments.
- Christmas in October brings volunteers into the community to improve the homes and lives of low-income, elderly, disabled and Veteran homeowners. Attendees could raise money for construction materials for home refurbishment, or assist in doing refurbishment of a home or yard.
But those are not the only opportunities for meeting/event attendees to “do good” in Kansas City. For instance, during a break in its meeting program, SkillsUSA painted and restored picnic tables at the historic Alexander Major House, helped with Habitat for Humanity projects in one neighborhood and formed community clean-up crews in another. The group also donated building materials and supplies from their exhibits to local refurbishment projects.
The national Omega Psi Phi Fraternity brought more than 80 young attendees to the J & D Wagner Boys & Girls Club to conduct a full day of youth mentoring; the group also hosted a community health fair during its conference. Mennonite Church USA provided personnel to assist at local homeless shelters, while the National Afro-American Corvette Club made a monetary donation to the Negro League Baseball Museum in Kansas City and also donated backpacks and school supplies across local neighborhoods.
In fact, there are even more ways for meetings and events to contribute to Kansas City, depending on the nature of a group’s business. The Romantic Times Book Convention worked with local libraries and donated books to schools after their conference; Mahindra Tractors donated a small tractor that had been on display at the Kansas City airport during their conference; and the National Council of La Raza hosted a free health care screenings, HIV testing, and eye exams for more than 13,000 local residents.
There is almost no limit on the volunteer possibilities that groups can take on in Kansas City or any event destination. So what could your group do to strengthen local communities—and strengthen the bond between attendees?