As a driver of large conventions, social events, group travel and more, Discover Saratoga is working tirelessly to not only increase the county’s economic impact, but also find new ways to give back to local non-profit organizations. The program, known as voluntourism (#SaratogaGivesBack), is aimed to support these charitable organizations that sustain our community, provide help and security to our residents and further make Saratoga County a wonderful place to live, work and visit.

Chloejean Tedford Headshot The brains behind this program is Convention Services Director Chloejean Tedford. Chloejean started with Discover Saratoga in January 2018 in a role designed to enhance the experience of conference attendees in Saratoga. Her personal mantra for her career has always been “meetings that matter” and strives to always “plan with a purpose.” She saw a real opportunity for Discover Saratoga to be the leader in community giving by creating this program and engaging group business. She was first inspired to plan purpose driven meetings during her time in NYC working for the Clinton Foundation CGI Annual Meeting as well as their Day of Action program created in response to the effects of Hurricane Sandy.

I sat down with Chloejean to get the low-down on everything voluntourism.

Q: What is voluntourism exactly?

A: Voluntourism is the combination of volunteering and tourism.  It’s using your time and energy to help others while exploring a new destination. In our case, it’s our meeting and convention attendees giving back to the Saratoga community while they’re here for their conference or event.

Q: Which organizations are involved in voluntourism?

A: Our goal with the voluntourism program is to highlight 4 community organizations per year.  This year we’re proud to be working with Code Blue Saratoga, Wellspring, Franklin Community Center and Rebuilding Together. Our major hospitality partners will be participating in this program by hosting donation collections at their property and engaging in a volunteer activity with each organization.

Q: Why should more groups consider giving back during their meeting?

A: Voluntourism is not a new concept but it’s certainly gaining traction within the meeting and events industry. It’s important for groups to consider giving back to the local community they’re visiting to leave a lasting impact on the destination. Small acts of good such as collecting specific donations at registration, team building activities, and general awareness of the organizations that are in the area are things that will make a big difference in the community our conferences are meeting in.

Q: In what other ways can locals give back to these organizations?

A: Locals can certainly get involved with any number of organizations by reaching out to them directly and asking, “how can I help?” Some may need monetary support while others may need people to give a few hours of their time.

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