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Giving Back By Christopher Durso


Take Away


’Authentic Groups’


A hotel company takes its ‘VolunTeaming’ program global—offering meeting attendees the chance to work together to do some good.


Principal Financial Group always incorporates some sort of team-building activity into its incen- tive programs. The Des Moines–based company has alsodone “a few volunteer projects in the past,” according to Jenni Gardner, Principal’s director of meeting planning services. Principal found a perfect blend of the two


when the company decided to bring two incentive groups to theRitz-Carlton, Kapalua,ontheHawai- ian island of Maui, last month. For thepast two years, every Ritz-Carlton property in the United States—including Kapalua—has offered a CSR- related team-building project as part of the hotel company’s VolunTeaming program. And as of this month, VolunTeaming is available at all 77 Ritz-Carlton hotels around the world.


vancy, whose mission is “to rebuild and revitalize” Lower Manhattan’s 25-acre Battery Park, for example, while the Ritz-Carlton, Philadelphia partners with the hunger-relief organization Phil- abundance.Andthe Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua works with Jean-Michel Cousteau’sAmbassadors of the Environment program. “This is an educational program to engage


people with the environment,” Gardner said in an interview just before the two incentive events, which recognized Principal’s sales leaders. “Aswe talked further with them, we identified some potential projects and decided on doing a beach cleanup with a little competitive spin to it — which works well with salespeople.” Principal’s twooverlapping groupswere slated to stay at Kapalua on March 14–18 and March 16–20—with 150 employ- ees, spouses, and children in the first waveand275in thesecond. Eachgroup wasscheduled toparticipate in a cleanup of a private conservation area controlled by the Puu KukuiWatershed Preserve, with prizesawarded for “such things as the most unique find,” Gardner said. “They will also build a structure from their finds, andwe’ll give the teamwith the tallest structure a prize.” Each VolunTeaming project also includes an educational component,


“Often [groups]wanttogobeyondthe tradition-


al team-buildingactivities [and] leisure activities,and really want tomake a contribution to the destina- tion that they’re visiting,” said Sue Stephenson, vice president in charge of Ritz-Carlton’s Community Footprints social-responsibility program. “That’s the premise behindVolunTeaming.” Under the program, each hotel partners with a


local community organization to offer a team- building project or projects “that really have a sense of place,” Stephenson said. The Ritz-CarltonNew York, Battery Park works with the Battery Conser-


Stephenson said, “so people aren’t just contributing physical activity but aretakingawaysomeknowl- edge of the location and what they did.” She added: “Theseareauthentic groups that aredoingworkin the local community. This is not something we’re outsourcing.Theseareour own partnerships.” It was something that Gardner was looking for-


ward to sharingwith her attendees. “It’s away for us to engage our field partners in these efforts as well as incorporate some team-building elements, too,”Gardner said. “We think itwill be a very fun and rewarding experience for everyone.” 


ON_THE_WEB: For more information about Ritz-Carlton’s VolunTeaming program, visit convn.org/VolunTeaming.


36 pcmaconvene April 2012 ILLUSTRATION BY ROBERT HANSON Much


Appreciated When a group returns to the Ritz- Carlton after com- pleting its Volun- Teaming project, hotel staff members are lined upto greet participants with “a wall of applause, just to show our appreci- ation for what they’ve done in our local community,” Ritz-Carlton’s Sue Stephenson said. “People are not expecting it. They’re tired, they’ve been working for hours— and they’ve got this thunderous applause when they get back to the hotel. Our meeting planners love that.”


 Christopher Durso is executive editor of Convene.





INTERNAL AFFAIRS: Ritz-Carlton employees have participatedin CSR projects as part of the company’s internal meetings, Sue Stephenson said, “going back well more than a decade.”


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