By Mary Tucker, Sr. PR/Communications Manager
Mark Zimmerman, CEO of Zimmerman Consulting LLC, has chaired and co-chaired several charitable committees within IAEE and beyond. His strong commitment to participating in, and promoting, activities emphasize the industry’s year-around social responsibility in domestic and global issues while also participating in community activities addressing a need outside of the industry.
Mark’s efforts include leading PCMA, MPI and IAEE’s Southeast chapters’ fundraising efforts to support, educate and stop human trafficking through the Atlanta Dream Center; serving on the Executive Committee of the Fulton County Schools Foundation, which focuses on disadvantaged students; chairing the Hospitality Business Network, whose primary focus supports The Shepard Center for Brain and Spinal Injury where he leads fundraising efforts with emphasis on wounded veterans; an annual commitment to the Navy Safe Harbor for fundraising; serving as a Board Member for Kennesaw State University’s program for young adult addiction and recovery; and as an outspoken advocate for safety and security, where he consults and leads by example in his daily contributions to assist the industry with education and awareness.
Mark’s dedication to social causes on behalf of the industry earned him the IAEE Humanitarian Award last year, for which he was recognized this past December during Expo! Expo! IAEE’s Annual Meeting & Exhibition.
Here, Mark shares with IAEE how his volunteerism developed over the years, his philosophy on helping meet needs of local communities and why he hopes to make a difference in the lives of others.
What inspired you to start giving back to the community and how has your sense of social responsibility developed over the years?
Mark: I was very fortunate when I first got into the business to have people that really took me under their wing and looked out for me as I learned about the industry. That made such an impact on me and made me want me to give back. I think social responsibility is for everyone. If you look back at anyone’s life, there is someone that helped us – perhaps that schoolteacher, coach, relative or neighbor, etc. These people make a real difference in a persons life. I don’t see giving back so much as a responsibility rather than it simply being the right thing to do.
You have such a diverse group of organizations that you work with. Do you have a selection process or specific way in which you find yourself working with them?
Mark: I have to say that I usually have a very personal connection to every group with whom I work or volunteer. In my case, I am not necessarily “looking” for organizations to donate time to, but typically the opportunity comes about as people approach me and I am happy to help because I fully believe in the work they do. In fact, what I have to be careful about is making sure I can give them their rightful time because it is important to me to follow through with the commitment I make to each organization.
Why do you think it’s important for the industry to engage in social giving? And, what do you consider the best way in which it can do that?
Mark: Our industry is based on people – people that are helping other people whether they are planners, facility operators or contractors. We are in the “people business” and we are good at getting the job done. At some point, somebody will need a helping hand and we have the capabilities to make positive things happen. For example, we have a lot of leftover items from our events that we can donate to the local communities we visit. There is always something we can contribute and participate in while we are there. I also think we should make it a point to mentor and encourage people, whether through internships or volunteerism projects, to give back to the community because every community needs it.
Do you have a specific goal(s) you would like to meet in your commitment to helping others?
Mark: I always want to help. My main focus is for whatever foundation or group that I am volunteering with, to do everything I can to make an impact. My goal is that I do something positive and, hopefully, to change lives for the better.
What advice would you give someone who wants to actively participate in giving back to the community but is not sure of where to start?
Mark: It starts with just talking to groups within your community and finding out who really needs help. When you do that, it will be apparent very quickly what groups desperately need help. Whether administratively or needing “hands on deck” such as building a home or serving on a food line. Every community has needs and if you just take a look you will find the right place for you to land and make a difference.