by Brendan M. Lynch | May 01, 2006

David Scypinski

Dave Scypinski

Has a veritable glut of meetings industry foundations exhausted the generosity of charitable donors such as American Airlines, GES Exposition Services, Hilton and Hyatt? A “foundation funding task force” assembled by Dave Scypinski, senior vice president for industry relations with White Plains, N.Y.-based Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, posed this question at a tense April 25 sit-down with meetings industry leaders in Washington, D.C.
    “The question is, how can we change the funding model to not go into the same pockets, to broaden the fund-raising base and be more efficient?” Scypinski told M&C. “The big frustration is that typically there are 15 to 20 pockets that are always tapped -- hotel companies, airlines and the large exhibition companies -- but as you sit on multiple foundation boards, project funding inside each organization looks similar, with a degree of overlap and therefore a waste of money.”
    The meeting included representatives from the American Society of Association Executives, Destination Marketing Association International, the International Association for Exhibition Management, the National Business Travel Association and the Professional Convention Management Association.
    “The industry groups did not call this meeting, the hotel community called it,” said John H. Graham IV, CAE, president and CEO of ASAE. “But there has been interest for more collaboration among foundations where there might be areas of overlap.” However, Graham noted, “We at the Center for Association Leadership and ASAE do think we’re very unique in the community. Different organizations do represent different constituencies.”
    Foundations such as the CAL, MPI Foundation and PCMA Education Foundation conduct education programs and research to benefit their members and promote the meetings industry. As one example, the PCMA Education Foundation in 2005 supported scholarships; a textbook for the Certified Meeting Professional certification; programs for CEOs, senior planners and suppliers; and the Convention Industry Council’s Accepted Practices Exchange. Such efforts were funded by $797,162 in donations raised in the previous year at gala dinners and golf outings.
    What do the corporate donors, under pressure to show return on investment, get for giving to foundations? “We’re in these programs for two things,” says Scypinski. “To network -- to have our salespeople meet customers -- and we’re there to book business if it’s appropriate.”
    Industry foundations assert that donations provide real payback. “There hasn’t been sufficient consideration by donors about what constitutes return on investment,” says Steven Hacker, CAE, president of IAEM. “A foundation is a good place to build awareness, burnish a brand image and sponsor research. But if your objective is increased sales, maybe you should think about advertising.”