Boycott Alternative SocialOffset Gaining Traction

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SocialOffset, a nonprofit designed to provide an alternative to boycotting destinations where local laws do not align with the principles of a meeting organization and/or its attendees, is gaining traction after one year in operation.

In today’s politically charged environment, it’s difficult to find a host city that doesn’t have some local or state law or regulation that a meeting organizer and/or its attendees don’t find objectionable. Instead of boycotting the destination to avoid financially supporting causes that go against their core values — which in addition to not being terribly effective also tends to hurt those who need the business most — the minds behind SocialOffset thought it would be more productive to provide an easy way to support local organizations that are pushing back against those regulations and laws.

Launched one year ago, SocialOffset now has worked with more than 60 events to help offset spending in destinations whose laws do not align with their core values raise money for local charities that support racial justice, reproductive freedom, LGBTQ+ equality, environmental sustainability, housing security and hunger relief. Each charity is vetted ahead of time by the nonprofit group, and event organizers can choose which charity they want to support. They then create a campaign to share with attendees, 100% of whose donations go to the designated charities that serve the destination’s local community.

Prevue recently caught up with SocialOffset Cofounder Elena Gerstmann, PhD, FASAE, CAE, to find out more about the nonprofit’s progress to date.

Prevue: As you cross the one-year mark, how are things going?
Gerstmann: We’re glad to have worked with more than 60 events so far — we have one association that just added 30 of their events to SocialOffset. We also have events and associations telling us they’re putting SocialOffset into their budgets for 2025 as well as 2024 — this is something they plan to use every year.

Prevue: What are some of the challenges you have faced so far?
Gerstmann: We have raised more than $15,000 for local charities so far, which is good, but we want it to be so much more. The percentage of attendees who are taking part is still smaller than we had hoped.

Our focus for 2024 is to find new ways we can help events that have partnered with us to better communicate with their attendees about the fact that these are local charities that are being supported, and that 100% of their donations go to support those local charities. For example, we’re working on providing a QR code to make it easy for people at an event to go to the website and donate — we want to find ways to make donating more viral.

And we want to make it clearer that they’re not donating to SocialOffset. We’re not taking any donations; we pass 100% of donations to the local charities. So instead of our logo, we want to provide the logos of the local charities they’ll be donating to, because that’s who we’re raising money for. Another thing we’re thinking about is to provide ambassadors who could go to the meeting and let people know that the conference has partnered with SocialOffset to give to charities of their choice that align with their values.

Prevue: How has the sponsor response been so far?
Gerstmann: We have 12 current sponsors — DMOs (destination marketing organizations) are telling us that event organizers are telling the DMOs that they appreciate their support of SocialOffset. We feel really good about the fact that we’re adding about a sponsor a month. In just the past six weeks, we’ve had several cities sign up as Gold level sponsors. To me, that says we have struck a nerve of industry need, and we’re happy to fill it.

Even cities that aren’t necessarily considered to be one of the more controversial destinations know that they’re just one incident or one election away from potentially having to face these challenges. And no one wants event organizers to give up and go back to virtual, because everyone loses when you lose the power and wonder of in-person networking and collaboration.

Prevue: And event organizers — what feedback are you getting from them?Gerstman: They say that it’s super easy to work with us, which is great, and the process is very streamlined and easy to use. Another thing I hear is that they consider it to be an insurance policy of sorts. If they’re going to a location they worry their members will complain about, even before they open registration they can quickly be able to explain about how they can offset the spend in that destination by donating through SocialOffset. They can say that they don’t want to just make some noise, they want to make a difference.

Prevue: What are some of your goals for this year?
Gerstmann: Our number-one goal is to increase the number of donations per event. Our second goal is to continue to have sponsors renew with us, even as we bring new sponsors on.

Communication and awareness are two of our biggest focuses right now so we can make more progress toward our ultimate goal, which is to make the world a better place. We’re making progress but there’s still so much more we can do.

To learn more, sign up an event or become a sponsor, go to

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