SocialOffset: An Alternative to Meeting Boycotts

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socialoffsetSocialOffset is a newly launched nonprofit platform for organizers and attendees who want to avoid meeting boycotts and cancellations.

SocialOffset, which counts Visit Salt Lake, Visit Austin and Visit Seattle among its backers, is designed to give both attendees and event organizers a new way to align their values — and their dollars — when meeting in states that have passed laws with which they disagree.

The platform is similar to a carbon offset model. However, instead of purchasing carbon credits to offset the environmental costs of a meeting, users offset the tax dollars they spend in the host state with directed donations to charities that do support their values.

“Attendees can be conflicted between needing to engage with their professional and industry networks and not wanting to support states that have enacted restrictive legislation targeted at specific groups,” explained cofounder and president Elena Gerstmann. “SocialOffset gives everyone involved a third way. At its most basic level, SocialOffset says ‘no’ to event boycotts and ‘yes’ to making a difference.”

SocialOffset is designed to provide an alternative to the usual options of canceling or moving a meeting, which can cost the meeting organizer; limiting potential host destinations based on today’s political climate, which can change between the time the event is booked and when it actually takes place; or holding it anyway in the controversial state and risk reputational harm and potentially losing attendance. And, while bans and boycotts may keep the show organizer on good terms with attendees, some argue that cancelling an event due to political actions in that destination are ineffective at best, and can actually hurt the very people who the organization intends to support, especially those who work in the hospitality sector.

Once an event organizer or a destination partners with SocialOffset to host their offsetting campaign, 100 percent of the funds donated by meeting attendees are donated to one or more vetted, local nonprofits that deliver programs, services and advocacy for racial justice, LGBTQ+ equality, hunger relief, housing security, environmental sustainability and reproductive freedom.

SocialOffset charges event organizers $500 per campaign to help defray the cost of operating the platform. Additional support comes from destinations, convention centers, hotels, speakers, entertainers and other supplier companies that make annual investments ranging from $5,000 to $20,000, depending on company type and size.

Among the destinations that immediately stepped up with financial support as Founding Partners were Visit Salt Lake, Visit Austin and Visit Seattle. Other industry service providers that provided pro bono support include Tenenbaum Law Group LLC, WiredBrains, Association Chat and Flock Theory. The inaugural board of directors includes Marc Beebe, Treasurer; Beth Surmont, Secretary; Christie Tarantino-Dean; Erin Fuller; KiKi L’Italien; Rhonda Payne; and James Pogue.

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