This Spring, Travel+SocialGood Chicago kicked off Giving Social, a happy hour event series that gives a night out in the city a greater purpose.
Travel+SocialGood is a sustainability non-profit, with hubs that function on a grassroots level to support a global objective – to make travel a vehicle for positive global impact. The organization is currently unfunded and entirely volunteer driven, with projects and initiatives that reflect the needs of each locale.
Lena Kazer, Lead Coordinator for TSG Chicago, launched the Chicago hub for the organization in August 2015. Anna Henschel joined TSG as community coordinator in October, after the two co-hosted events at Hostelling International through Anna’s role as community liaison for the hostel. The team gained their third member, TSG events coordinator Kelsey Ford, in November.
The Chicago team initially used volunteering and participating in local non-profits to investigate the programs already in motion. After meetings, bike rides, and dozens of coffees with community organizers, non-profit leaders, and tech entrepreneurs, the team found a unique way to contribute. Between expensive fundraisers and the default bar-nights, there was a gap in the Chicago social scene for going out and giving back.
Lena explained, “The concept for Giving Social came from the feeling that as a newcomer to the non-profit world, our role was to absorb. There are thousands of organizations in the city making incredible advances in sustainability and social justice… we first needed a way to engage with those organizations, understand what their projects and goals are, and find a way to build a network while supporting those already on the ground.”
Giving Social events are unique in that each event features and fundraises for a different Chicago non-profit. Ticket sales for the events support specific projects within the organization that promote social justice and environmental responsibility.
“Play, Drink, Give” describes the three components of every Giving Social event: a featured non-profit that takes home all proceeds, complimentary drinks sponsored by local donors, and a unique activity that pays tribute to the Chicago organization. Ticket prices typically range from $10 – $20 depending on the event, a direct donation to the partnered non-profit – and a lot less than most Chicagoans spend on a night out.
Travel+SocialGood Chicago hosted their first Giving Social event, One Stroke, on April 7th 2016 with West Town gallery Woman Made. Woman Made Gallery is a feminist non-profit that provides exhibition opportunities, professional development, and public programs for female-identified artists.
The organizations chose “One Stroke” to emphasize coming together as a community to impact change, but also to celebrate how one person, and one stroke, contributes to a greater movement. One Stroke took a literal form the night of the event, as guests were encouraged to grab a paintbrush and add a stroke of paint to a shared recycled canvas. Once textured with symbols, lines, and tape, the painting was raffled off as a door prize and taken home by a lucky attendee.
Guests sipped on wine donated by West Town wine shop The Noble Grape, as well as craft beer courtesy of Chicago breweries Revolution and Lagunitas. Guests were free to wander with their drinks and explore the gallery’s current exhibit, One In Herself, which opened March 11th. The exhibit featured experiential artwork including films, light installations, sculptures, and constructed spaces. Set to end at ten, the event went over by an hour as guests said their final goodbyes. By the time the keg was cashed, the pilot event had raised over four hundred dollars for the gallery.
Sydney Stoudmire, Gallery Director for Woman Made, expressed her gratitude for the event and noted the easy collaboration between the two organizations. Just a few meetings and emails back and forth had the event in full gear, and the event was such a success that the two organizations may join forces for another gallery event in the future.
Anna Henschel, TSG Chicago’s community coordinator, was thrilled with the pilot event. The team planned Giving Social with sustainability in mind – choosing compostable cups, recyclable cans, and decorating marked receptacles to streamline waste management. Anna personally composted all cups from the event, and felt that Giving Social will satisfy a void in her usual scene.
She explained, “I am constantly getting invited to events that I know will just be networking, fancy food and drinks, and a lot of waste and overconsumption. As a young professional, I was looking for an event where I could meet like-minded individuals, do something good for the community, have fun and relax.”
TSG aims to use Giving Social not just to fundraise, but to showcase the organizations in a way that appeals to potential volunteers. With giving built into the series, the events offer a space for young people to explore new neighborhoods and get inspired by the positive changes developing across Chicago. The first event drew guests from Evanston to Hyde Park, and the team hopes that is only the beginning.
Lena shared, “We see Chicago as a city that desperately needs exploration and travel within its borders. We intend for Giving Social to go far beyond the Loop or the North Side – we want to work with organizations in the South and West sides, and take folks outside their usual stomping ground.”
Long term, as the team builds relationships with organizations that represent distinct Chicago communities, they intend to foster connections between those leaders, building an influential network of change-makers.
The team’s intimate involvement in planning events with directors and leaders within the non-profits opens a unique line of communication – discussions of history, obstacles specific to social justice organizations, and future projects. In helping one organization’s success promote the success of another, TSG aims to become a living breathing resource hub for sustainable non-profits in Chicago.
TSG Chicago events coordinator Kelsey Ford shared her optimism for the growth of Giving Social in Chicago.
“I’m excited for what’s to come. In the heart of the big city there’s endless possibilities to immerse your ideas. There’s so much vibrancy, so many resources for the non-profit environment and like minded people wanting to get their hands involved in doing good work.”
The team plans to host Giving Social events every season, with their next event in the works for Summer 2016.