Employee Engagement

How to Put the "FUN" in Fundraising And Engage Your Team For A Great Cause

By Mary Rudd and Matt West

Mary Rudd is the Talent Acquisition, Development and Corporate Responsibility Coordinator and Matt West is the Director of Talent Acquisition, Development and Corporate Responsibility at Real Hospitality Group, a partner of ECPAT-USA and member of The Tourism Child-Protection Code of Conduct (The Code).

Real Hospitality Group embarked on a mission this summer to put the “FUN” in Fundraising as well as to engage with our associates and come together for a great cause.  To do this, we decided to hold Real Hospitality Group’s first ever Fete en Blanc Eastern shore and RHG’s second Cycle for Freedom with SWERVE Fitness.

Fete en Blanc 2019:

Modeled after Dîner en Blanc held in Paris, a Feté en Blanc is an event in which picnic-goers gather in a public space to set up a temporary, chic dining experience.  An invitation-only, popup feast to celebrate our associates, the community where we live and work, and the summer solstice. Party attendees must provide their own provisions, table set ups and decorations and are required to be dressed “to the nines” in all white.  To build excitement and pique interest, there is a mysterious twist in that the location is kept under wraps until 24 hours prior to the event.  

As a hotel management company, RHG is working relentlessly to raise awareness and to help eradicate child trafficking in the hospitality industry and the hotels we manage.  We aspired to create a unique and whimsical event that would get the word out and maximize the monies donated to our chosen cause – ECPAT USA. What a better way to symbolize the innocence of children than with an all-white, decadent popup picnic?   

ECPAT USA’s mission is to protect every child’s human right to grow up free from the threat of sexual exploitation and trafficking, placing a strong focus on the hospitality industry.  Working one-on-one with communities throughout the nation, the legislatures and corporations, ECPAT-USA is leading the charge to end human trafficking around the world.   

Attendees received an email on Friday, May 31, to reveal that the first Annual Real Hospitality Feté en Blanc (scheduled on June 1) was to be held at the Windmill Creek Winery in Berlin, MD.  Guests arrived in their finest white regalia and were greeted at registration with a fantastic gift bag full of “all white” goodies donated by our very generous vendors. Activities included entertainment throughout the night, lawn games, henna tattoos, silent auction, selfie station, food trucks and of course delicious food.  Our MC closed the evening with the award to the group with the most grand and opulent “all white” table set up.  

This was a great event which brought together the community and RHG Associates, helped raise awareness of the issue of Human Trafficking and Exploitation and got various vendors involved in this cause. Our first Feté was a huge success with 75 attendees.  We are looking to build on to next year’s event and are now scouting for the venue for the 2020 Feté.

RHG Cycle for Freedom 2019:


In New York, we hosted our second “RHG Cycle for Freedom” on June 29th 2019.  Our first Cycle for Freedom last year was a great success and very popular with our Associates.  Real Hospitality Group rents a studio with 48 bikes at SWERVE Flatiron District. Associates across our hotels can register a team of up to five people to take part.  The event is completely free for associates to register – all we ask is that they raise as much as possible using our Crowdrise fundraising page and ask friends/family/colleagues/vendors and communities to donate to the team.  The Cycle for Freedom is a fun filled 45-minute rhythm ride and the bikes are arranged into three teams. The team dynamic keeps you motivated, supported, and accountable, without ever singling you out. This was a great event to bring associates together from various hotels who may have never met but are on the same team – just like RHG working together towards a common goal.  Again, this event created a lot of awareness with our vendors making kind donations towards the cause. We can’t wait to do it again next year!

The goal of all of our fundraising activities aside from raising money for ECPAT-USA is to bring people together, have fun and raise awareness.  With these two events, we believed we were successful in achieving our mission.

To learn more about how to incorporate employee engagement and corporate responsibility activities to your company, check out our blog or email info@ecpatusa.org

Global Business Travel Association Highlights ECPAT-USA’s Work Preventing Child Sex Trafficking

At this year’s annual convention, our partner Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) put the issue of child sex trafficking front and center. In addition to a convention-wide presentation about the exploitation of children, GBTA and American Airlines sponsored an Awareness 5k Run and Walk that helped raise $20,000 in support of ECPAT-USA’s work. Recently, Michelle Guelbart, ECPAT-USA’s Director of Private Sector Engagement, sat down with GBTA to discuss the impact of their efforts and how the travel industry as a whole can help put an end to child sex trafficking on their podcast The Business of Travel.

“The spotlight shone on the issue is something that you can’t even measure,” said Guelbart. “I had people sending me messages on LinkedIn and on email saying that we’ll never travel and look at the world the same way after seeing the presentation on the main stage. That’s incredible.”

The interview also touched on ECPAT-USA’s campaign in support of the reauthorization of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, which GBTA joined previously by adding their name to a corporate sign-on letter urging Congress to pass the bill.

“There’s so much to be said about raising awareness of this issue,” Guelbart said. “I haven’t had a point yet where I’ve walked into a room or done an event where there wasn’t one person who said they’ve never heard about this before. You might believe that you’re talking about it enough because you talk about it once a year, but that really isn’t enough.”

Listen to the full episode below, and learn more about our partnerships with travel and tourism industry here.

Employers and Consumers Can be Instrumental in Fighting Child Sex Trafficking

When I explain to people what I do for work, they are often surprised and caught off guard. You would assume that my work isn’t great “party conversation,” but I find that people like to talk about human rights and protecting childhood. As the director of private sector engagement for ECPAT-USA, I work with companies to understand how human traffickers (with a focus on child sex traffickers) may use their infrastructure to exploit people.

People tend to assume that children are only trafficked outside of the U.S. They’re often surprised and distressed to hear how prevalent the problem is here in our country. People are also curious about the companies we work with in order to make informed purchasing decisions that protect children.

The International Labor Organization estimates that 40.3 million people are exploited in human trafficking. One in four of those victims are children. ECPAT-USA is the U.S. brand of ECPAT International, a policy organization that works to end the commercial sexual exploitation of children through awareness, advocacy, policy, and legislation. Corporate policy, awareness, and training play a vital role in our work. Our corporate engagement strategy is focused on the travel sector because children are exploited in local hotels through prostitution and moved via commercial airlines, buses, and on-demand travel companies.

We guide companies to implement the Tourism Child-Protection Code of Conduct, which is a set of six steps companies put in place to comprehensively address the issue. Code members implement anti-trafficking policies, training, clauses, awareness programs for travelers, engage stakeholders, and report annually. The Code is operational and weaves corporate social responsibility through many departments. Through our corporate engagement, in the last year alone, ECPAT-USA supported companies in training over 86,000 travel associates.

Before we started our work, these industries were anonymous and risk-free to traffickers and exploiters. Sometimes employees would see the signs of trafficking and not know what they were looking at—they would either continue with their responsibilities or kick the individuals off their premises. Neither response helped anyone except the traffickers, who could just move their businesses down the road.

In stark contrast, we now see protocols and response procedures implemented that empower employees to change the course of children’s lives for the better. When associates know what they are looking at and know what to do, they act.

One hotel brand that we work with had a well-informed and active security director at a U.S. property. To protect his anonymity, let’s call him Benjamin. Benjamin trained his whole staff on the issue and how to respond to indicators. Raymond, the head of a trafficking ring, checked into Benjamin’s hotel thinking it would be like the 400 (yes, 400) hotels where he sold children before. Instead of kicking Raymond out of the hotel, Benjamin’s staff went through their protocol for responding to suspicious activity. Their protocol led them to Jessica and Sam, two children who Raymond was planning to exploit in the hotel, but were instead reunited with their families.

To me, Benjamin is a hero. And he is proud of what he did and proud to work for a company that supports him in protecting childhood.

Beyond the travel sector

ECPAT-USA also helps companies outside the travel space implement travel policies that protect children and ensure their business travelers are trained on the issue. When a company contracts with a travel supplier on a large scale, they can influence the supplier to get involved through Requests for Proposals (RFPs) and contracts. Corporate travel managers are more comfortable knowing their business travelers are safer when they travel and the policy gives them a unique opportunity to weave corporate social responsibility into their work.

But we do not stop there. We understand that companies want to be directly involved in supporting survivors so we developed an interactive corporate employee engagement program. These programs open with a speaker from ECPAT-USA giving an overview of human trafficking, a representative explaining why it is important to their company, and often end with a reflective networking discussion. Event planners gather products before the sessions—from hair elastics to razors—and employees pack them into individual backpacks. Each backpack includes a note of encouragement and support for survivors, handwritten by participants. ECPAT-USA Packing Sessions help make survivors’ lives a bit easier by giving them backpacks full of hygiene and care products. All bags are donated directly to local service providers.

Our mission at ECPAT-USA is to create a world where no child is bought, sold, or used for sex. This compelling mission touches hearts, but the scope of the problem can be stunting. We give companies very specific and measurable goals so they can pass those on to different departments. When we see success, we celebrate together and would love for your company and employees to get involved.

This post was originally published on The Conference Board

SITE Northeast Announces New Global Effort to Help Fund ECPAT-USA in 2018

Challenge issued to all SITE chapters around the world to raise money for organization to combat scourge of exploitation

Carol Smolenski, executive director of ECPAT-USA and Caroline Pidroni, vice president of CSR for the SITE Northeast Chapter and director of sales and marketing for the Switzerland Convention & Incentive Bureau, announced a 2018 fundraising challenge for all the local chapters of SITE to raise money for ECPAT. The challenge is being issued to all 29 local SITE chapters around the world to donate a minimum of $500 to ECPAT in 2018. To date the SITE TexasSITE Southeast, and SITE Northeast chapters have all met the challenge.

“The problem of trafficking children is a social phenomenon that is global. Children are being bought and sold all over the world,” said Smolenski. “This is an issue that the tourism and hospitality industry should be paying close attention to as half of the exploitation takes place in hotels of every category, from budget to luxury properties and the transportation industry is also playing a role in trafficking of children.”

Smolenski made her comments during a CSR activity sponsored by the SITE Northeast Chapter that was the opening event of SMU International which took place at the 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge February 25 to 27. Over 75 of the 275 event attendees participated in the activity that created 100 goodie bags that were distributed to needy children in the New York Metropolitan Area. The event also raised awareness of the plight of children caught up in prostitution and trafficking around the world. “It’s a tragic and sickening reality that there are people out there to whom not even the innocence and humanity of a child is sacred,” said Pidroni. “But it is also true that each one of us has the ability, and responsibility to contribute in whatever small or large way we can to stop this practice."