“Charity and love are the same. With charity you give love, so don’t just give money but reach out your hand instead.” – Mother Teresa
During the thick of the coronavirus pandemic, when hotels, conference venues, event pavilions, bars and restaurants sat empty, Association North hospitality and tourism members were unable to renew their membership dues. A group of association CEOs meeting via Zoom asked: “How can we support Associations North and our hospitality and tourism members facing financial hardship?”
Associations North’s Pay It Forward initiative grew out of this simple but weighty question. Pay It Forward is dedicated to helping Associations North’s hospitality and tourism members who have struggled with the economic fallout of the pandemic continue to afford their memberships. Donations to Pay It Forward will support Associations North membership dues for hospitality and tourism members, so that every professional can continue benefiting from the education, networking and experiences an association membership offers.
“This campaign is about helping Associations North members continue to receive valuable education, meaningful connections and relevant resources at a time when they desperately need them,” said Angela Kisskeys, co-director of Associations North. “This initiative is a tangible way Associations North can help accomplish our mission to move professionals forward and look out for who we can help during hardship.”
Associations North counts more than 90 companies that have asked to scale back or withdraw their memberships because of an inability to pay dues. At first, the association extended their payment deadlines by 90 days. They also developed a financial hardship application and offered assistance to qualifying members. In the end, however, the association has carried these memberships.
“We are proud to support our hospitality and tourism members as they are integral to the association community,” said Sarah Ruzek, co-director of Associations North. “Time and time again these organizations have provided resources, facilities, sponsorship and thought leadership. It’s our turn to step up and help them.”
Associations North set a goal to raise $50,000 for Pay It Forward. About one week in, they had raised one quarter of their goal thanks to the generosity of more than 25 individual and organizational donors. Every $500 donation supports one member organization. To help promote the campaign, Associations North is featuring testimonials from donors and recipients on their YouTube page.
The seed for Pay It Forward grew out of Associations North’s nascent CEOSync program. While that program was still unofficial, one participant asked fellow Zoom attendees what they could do to help friends and colleagues in the hospitality and tourism industries. “Someone wondered aloud, ‘What if I paid for someone’s membership?’” Kisskeys recalled. “It’s amazing that one new program with a goal of lifting each other up has already led to the creation of another with the same goal.”
Anna Tanski, CEO of Visit Duluth and a 25-year Associations North tourism member, noted in a heartfelt message, “We are so grateful for all the years we have been a part of this great organization. As we continue to recover and emerge from the effects of the pandemic, the networking, education and opportunities to connect at Associations North are priceless. As a direct result of financial hardships, Visit Duluth couldn’t afford to pay memberships dues. This is the harsh reality many allied partners are facing.”
Kisskeys and Ruzek are passionate about this initiative and making a difference. “Pay it Forward is already making an impact, but there’s more work to be done. We need the help of others, no matter the donation, to reach our goal. Let’s redefine generosity and build a stronger tomorrow,” they stated.
If you’re interested in donating to the Pay It Forward campaign, visit associationsnorth.com/PayItForward or email Angela Kisskeys at angela [at] associationsnorth.com.