IMEX Group donates $250,000 to MPI’s coronavirus hardship fund

Trade show owner IMEX Group has donated $250,000 to MPI, the international association for meetings professionals, to help members facing financial hardship as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Most of the money will go to the MPI Foundation, which will direct funds to distressed members, with the balance going to MPI’s 11 European chapters for programmes designed to help the industry recover.

“We believe that during this difficult period it is imperative for us to support the industry at a grassroots level,” said Carina Bauer, CEO of IMEX Group. “We all know the impact that this pandemic is having not only on the global industry, but on each one of us personally, on our friends and colleagues.

“No one has been spared and anything that we can do to assist those in the most need to continue their professional development and professional connections will be money well spent. Individuals who are able to retain their memberships and involvement with organizations like MPI will be best placed to come out of the pandemic in the best possible shape.”

The MPI Foundation, which provides grants and scholarships to the MPI community and funds innovative research, has distributed more than $5.1 million to chapters and individuals over the past five years. Just since April, the Foundation has distributed more than $250,000 specifically towards distressed members. The ripple effect equates to more than 1,200 individuals in five months, said Kevin Kirby, executive director of the MPI Foundation.

“When I learned of this donation, I was speechless,” he said. “Considering the backdrop of the global pandemic, consistent negative economic news and watching our industry suffer, you can only imagine our surprise. Candidly, the timing is critical to our ongoing efforts to help industry members retain their memberships, access education and maintain their professional networks. It’s an amazing gift.”

Since February, the global tourism, meetings and live events industry has been significantly impacted through layoffs and furloughs, creating an economic hardship for meeting professionals wanting to sustain professional education, networks and membership.

“Never has robust chapter, member and community engagement been more essential to assuring career support and economic recovery,” Kirby added. “Chapters are key beneficiaries because they keep members active and introduce new professionals into our network.”

Kirby said the Foundation will launch One Million to Meet, a campaign to raise $1 million to help member and non-member recovery efforts. With the previous contributions from the Foundation and the IMEX grant, “we’re over halfway to our goal. It gives us an opportunity to continue the momentum and impact so many individuals in distressed situations,” he said.

The IMEX Group and MPI have partnered together on industry initiatives for almost 20 years and are in the fifth year of a formal strategic alliance. In recognition of the donation, MPI is honouring Bauer and Ray Bloom, chair of IMEX, as “Industry Champions.” They will be recognized during the President’s Dinner at MPI’s World Education Congress (WEC) this November in Grapevine, Texas.

“COVID-19’s abruptness and ability to render any type of gathering a dangerous scenario made lockdowns and face-to-face interactions an unfathomable situation,” said Paul Van Deventer, president and CEO of MPI. “To watch our community and our members struggle when these are the individuals representing a top 10 global economic driver is heart wrenching.

“Unsolicited support, like this, demonstrates how simple acts of generosity and kindness between organizations can aid one another and their mission towards recovery. Our members, our industry and our world benefit from gracious people like those at IMEX. We don’t take this for granted and know that we are indeed stronger together.”

Both MPI and IMEX are working together on bringing the industry back through education events beginning with WEC Grapevine. MPI’s signature European education event, the European Meetings and Events Conference, is scheduled for Feb. 21-23, 2021, in Brighton, England, the home of the IMEX Group.

“We are really excited to be hosting EMEC in Brighton in 2021 and at least half the IMEX team are on the host committee,” Bauer said. “We are confident that we can still produce an exciting and experiential event for those who are able to attend, with a strong hybrid component for others. Brighton is such a vibrant, independent spirited community and we can’t wait to show our industry friends around.”

Bauer said the IMEX Group is planning “confidently” for IMEX in Frankfurt 2021. Both the IMEX Frankfurt and IMEX America events this year were cancelled.

“We’re working really closely with Messe Frankfurt and the German Convention Bureau to review every aspect of the shows and ensure that we provide a safe and secure environment that delivers the business, education and fun that you expect of an IMEX show,” Bauer said. “We truly can’t wait to welcome the industry back to IMEX.”

Members facing financial distress can renew by contacting the MPI engagement team at to confirm eligibility.