Strategies for developing a rationale for charitable giving

Strategies for developing a rationale for charitable giving

As a hotelier, the opportunities to support worthy causes abound. Our hotels could give away free stays every day and never fulfill all of the requests we receive. I expect that some of you, particularly in high-end properties in major cities and attractive resort destinations, find yourselves in the same situation. So how do you decide what and how much to do?

I suggest developing a clear-cut strategy for giving. With this in place, you will be able to efficiently handle any incoming requests and, more importantly, be proactive as a good corporate citizen. Set aside a couple of hours, assemble an internal task force and get the discussion going by answering a few key questions for yourselves:
  • How important is charitable giving to you, your hotel and your brand? Is it integral? Peripheral? Be honest in your assessment so that the resulting strategy is realistic and genuine.
  • If you’re part of a hotel chain, what, if any, corporate protocol has been established, and how does that impact your activity at a local level?
  • What level of participation appeals to you and best fits your corporate culture? Are you inclined to give away free stays? Engage staff in donating their time and effort? Host charitable functions in the hotel? Give cash donations? What sort of budget are you able to establish?
  • How much and what kind of recognition are you seeking in return for your efforts? This might include acknowledgement in event programs, on charity websites and in publicity campaigns. Perhaps you would appreciate a plaque that can be displayed in the hotel’s public spaces or staff areas. Or, a simple letter of thanks might do. Some endeavors, depending upon their impact, might qualify for award recognition. Define any desired quid pro quo before you make a commitment.
  • Depending upon your appetite for giving, do you want to support a single charity? Or two? Or several? Your answer will likely be driven by a desire to either 1) concentrate your efforts for greatest impact, or 2) spread the wealth among a number of good causes.
  • Will your hotel’s giving strategy support local, national or international causes? The answer may lie in your motivation. Are you most interested in benefiting your guests (in which case you may  want to support charities in your hotel’s key feeder markets), local citizens (a home-based charity) or your staff (who may want to suggest their favorite worthy causes)?
  • What kinds of causes appeal to you? Children? Environmental? Disaster relief? Disease-related charities?
  • What is your anticipated term of commitment? Will you make a long-term commitment to a cause? Re-evaluate on an annual basis? Or operate on a case-by-case basis?
I’m sure you’ll come up with other considerations as well, but these questions can serve as thought-starters for strategic discussion.

At Trump Hotel Collection, charitable giving is part of our DNA. Believing that charity begins at home, we encourage our hotels to be involved at the local level. 

Recently, Trump SoHo New York sponsored a photography contest with high school students in conjunction with Urban Arts Partnership, which targets underserved public schools with arts-integrated education programs that help close the achievement gap. Winning photos ? they are spectacular ? have been turned into postcards that the hotel sells, donating proceeds to the organization. 

In Chicago, our hotel is located on the Chicago River and has been involved, since opening, in environmental initiatives to preserve that important natural resource. The River Walk, our building’s beautiful shopping complex and landscaped grounds that opened adjacent to the hotel last year, allows Chicagoans and guests to get closer than ever to the river and to enjoy it as a vital amenity. 

Of course, each of our hotels evaluates free stay requests that are part of charitable auctions and events, and supports those that are part of their individual giving strategy.

At the corporate and family level, we have placed a strong emphasis on charities that benefit children. During the 2010 holiday season, Trump Hotel Collection put its brand muscle behind the Eric Trump Foundation and its support of St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. My brother Don is a big supporter of Operation Smile, the worldwide organization that is devoted to repairing cleft palates and other facial deformities. I am integrally involved in the UN Foundation’s GirlUp program, which benefits the world’s hardest to reach adolescent girls. Locally, my family is a strong proponent of the Police Athletic League, a wonderful children’s charity that provides kids with academic, artistic and athletic programs year-round. Check out my Facebook page and click on the “Must Give” tab to keep abreast of these current and future initiatives.

I’d be interested in hearing about your own giving strategy and how you have arrived at it.