October may be Breast Cancer Awareness month, but for many spas, social responsibility is a 365-day commitment. From supporting local charities to contributing to national fundraising efforts, the wellness sector knows the joys of giving back. According to the International Spa Association’s 2011 industry study, 85 percent of U.S. spas donate products and services to a good cause, while 69 percent hold events at their facility and 62 percent participate in charity benefits. And that sense of civic duty hasn’t faded in the intervening years—for members of the service industry, it just comes naturally, says Carol Ford, director of Agave, The Arizona Spa at The Westin Kierland Resort & Spa (Scottsdale, AZ). “It’s in our character to take care of people and places,” she says. Ford notes a direct link between a business’s vitality and the vitality of the communities in which it operates, and her counterparts are in agreement. Being a good neighbor is paramount. “Our local and regional community has done so much for us,” says LaRae Verros, spa director of Sanctuary Spa at Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain Resort & Spa (Paradise Valley, AZ). “You are only as strong as those who surround you, so it’s important to come together with other area organizations to create a better quality of life for those in need.” Indeed, for the Mandarin Oriental, San Francisco, the desire to improve the community is a driving force behind charitable endeavors such as fundraising for the American Cancer Society (ACS) and the American Heart Association (AHA). “No business or person is an island,” says general manager Donald Bowman. Earlier this year, during the two-month Hotels with Heart campaign, the property’s spa donated 10 percent of both the cost of a signature therapy and the proceeds from Bloom product sales to the AHA. The effort promoted healthy living and raised awareness about heart disease, netting more than $10,000 in the process. The key to such a great return? Choosing a cause that has special meaning for you and your team, says Bowman. “These initiatives are always most successful when everyone has a vested interest and holds the cause close to their heart,” he says.
That personal connection is a surefire way to improve engagement, and accordingly, many spas turn to events and charities that speak directly to their core customer base: women. For the Jurlique Spa at FireSky Resort & Spa, A Kimpton Hotel (Scottsdale, AZ), that means half of each admission fee for its December Spa-lidays goes to Dress For Success, a nonprofit organization that provides women with work-appropriate clothes to help them thrive professionally and achieve economic independence. “Kimpton believes in empowering women and doing everything we can to encourage and support their aspirations,” says spa director Rachel Rock. “Beyond our own hotel employees, a high percentage of our guests are businesswomen who like to call Kimpton home when they’re on the road. We couldn’t think of a better partner to align with our values.” Agave has both a therapy room and a signature treatment that benefit Fresh Start Women’s Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to enabling women to make positive changes throughout their lives with engagement and education. “Fresh Start is a natural fit for Agave, as the spa works to help people focus on their journey to overall wellness and renewal,” says Ford. “Plus, a majority of our clients are local women, and this partnership gives them the opportunity to help other women thrive.”
In fact, tapping into what appeals to a native crowd can pay big dividends. In February, the staff at Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain raised $9,500 toward a yearly hiking trip to the Grand Canyon for kids from a children’s home in nearby Mesa, AZ. “This opportunity helped to benefit a local Arizona-based charity that aligns so well with our spa and wellness programs, providing for the emotional, social, physical, educational, and spiritual support of children,” says Verros. “And the proceeds shared the beauty of our state’s natural landscape with young people, instilling in them a sense of pride for themselves and their environment.”
On the opposite side of the country, The Spa at Whiteface Lodge (Lake Placid, NY) sponsors the Tri-Lakes Humane Society, a nearby no-kill animal shelter from which more than one member of the spa’s crew has adopted a furry friend. Last year, during the course of a single girls’ night, the spa accepted an “overwhelming” array of cash donations, as well as animal food, toys, dog beds, leashes, and collars, says Jamie Costa, director of spa operations. The spa itself contributed 10 bags of linens, such as microfiber sheets, towels, and robes. “We appreciate what they do for our community as a whole,” says Costa. “Lake Placid is small, and we are firm believers that it is important to support other local businesses and organizations. We take advantage of giving back to local charities in need.”
While matching philanthropic efforts to a market’s pet causes can be a winning strategy, other spas choose to go big, aligning themselves with national charities that advocate for millions. A collaboration of heavy hitters, the Look Good...Feel Better program brings together the Personal Care Products Council Foundation, the ACS, and the Professional Beauty Association (PBA) in an effort to help women manage the appearance-related side effects of cancer treatment, with workshops led by professionals such as Paola Berrios, owner of Bellezza Spa (Centreville, VA). Intraceuticals and The Spa at Four Seasons Hotel Seattle are working together to offer complimentary treatments for cancer awareness in October, and Joya Spa at the Omni Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Montelucia (AZ) also selected the disease as one of its causes. In addition to combining forces with a variety of organizations benefiting children and single mothers and preventing domestic violence, the spa fundraises for Susan G. Komen during Breast Cancer Awareness month. Year to date, the spa has solicited some $6,000 in total donations. “We are always blown away by the contributions,” says spa director Erin Stewart.
Perhaps such generosity can be attributed to the fact that most people have had personal experiences with widespread diseases like this one—supporting such charities can be therapeutic, not to mention rewarding, for all involved. This September, for the fourth year running, Massage Envy Spa participated in Healing Hands for Arthritis, raising funds for the Arthritis Foundation’s research. More than 1,000 Massage Envy locations donated $10 from every one-hour massage or facial performed to the organization. This year’s take is still being tallied, but since 2011, the one-day national event has brought in more than $2 million. Last year alone, Massage Envy raised $898,000 to put toward finding a cure for the 50 million adults and 300,000 children affected by arthritis. “I’ve seen other companies choose charities for the sake of choosing them and going into it with an annual type of view, but I believe that when you adopt a national charity or cause, you really have to look at it as a long-term relationship and not as a one-year contract,” says chief marketing officer Susan Boresow. “Sometimes it doesn’t end up that way, but the beauty and success of working with these organizations is seeing the relationships evolve. Partnerships take time.”
For the socially minded bodycare company Zents, an annual event wasn’t enough. In 2013, a program called SEVA Selfless Service was instituted to the year-round benefit of an array of carefully chosen agencies. “Giving back is a fundamental and crucial part of our company and who we are,” says founder and president Cord Coen. “We started with a variety of causes that are dear to our hearts—health, mindfulness, caring for the environment, supporting arts and culture, uplifting children, and protecting animals—and underwent a lengthy selection process, gathering as much information as we could about each charity, including its ratings and level of transparency. Then our entire staff voted for the charities we felt most passionate about.” Zents events, which have ranged from three-hour “cocktails and consultations for a cause” to full-day soirees, have proven successful. Though the company won’t be releasing any details on the funds raised until after the holiday season, it has donated $1 for every order placed on its website since the charitable initiative was introduced, in addition to 10 percent of product sales at partner events. “We have been given so much in our lives, and we want to pay it forward,” says Coen. It’s hard to see a downside to such a noble concept, especially one that fosters goodwill with customers and community alike. Whether you keep a narrow focus or go with a more wide-reaching initiative, the benefits to a charitable partnership are more than just skin deep.—Maya Stanton
Our generous pros share advice on implementing a charity initiative.
“Get the staff on board with the cause early on. Spread the word on social media from the beginning, and align it with any printed collateral in the spa—utilize hashtags or Twitter chats to position your spa with the conversation happening online, especially for those who might not be able to come in but want to take part virtually. Offering a month-long or week-long promotion gives guests the ability to participate on their own time, and beginning the campaign with a mini event or a spa happy hour can be a great way to announce the cause and get guests excited about taking time out to spa for charity.”—Gary Adkins, The Spa at Four Seasons Hotel Seattle
“Once you’ve decided on a charity or cause, reach out to your vendors, and let them know. Many times they’ll be willing to offer some form of support to help the initiative, whether through product gifting or discounts on product purchases. Have a launch event to mark the occasion, let your guests and clients know what you are involved in, and be certain to celebrate your successes.”—Donald Bowman, Mandarin Oriental, San Francisco
“It is important to ensure a strong marketing strategy is in place for a successful event, not only as a resort but also as a collaborative effort with the charity organization. Agreeing upon and communicating the same message is key to reaching your goal. Get to know the organization on a personal level. Talk to the founder, visit the organization headquarters, and build a relationship with them.”—Erin Stewart, Joya Spa
“Plan on doing it more than once. Make the event an annual activity so that interest grows and the results are long- term.”—Rachel Rock, Jurlique Spa
“Choose a charity with which you would like to have a long-term relationship. It is important to build a strong foundation with a charity whose mission aligns with your own so that you can leverage the partnership to have a meaningful impact within the community.”—Carol Ford, Agave, The Arizona Spa
“Provide your staff with as much information as possible about the initiative, and offer them ample opportunities to participate, taking their work shifts into consideration. Also, be clear about where the proceeds are going, and encourage staff members to group together and join the fun.”—LaRae Verros, Sanctuary Spa
“Advertise your charity, and be very specific about what is in need so members of the staff and community can all be encouraged to join in.”—Jamie Costa, The Spa at Whiteface Lodge
“Make sure the partner you select is open-minded to evolve, and have passion for whatever cause you choose. Your franchisees, your managers, your therapists—everyone has to be united and behind it. It’s also important to make sure your cause aligns with your brand, your mission, and your vision.”—Susan Boresow, Massage Envy Spa