The Envelope Please: A Great Idea That Should Be Passed On

One of the hidden strengths of the nonprofit world is our ability to come up with a great idea that, because of its compelling emotional logic, allows people to change the way they view a situation --- and, in doing so, make a big collective impact. We call that the multiplier effect.

So my hat is off to Maria Shriver and A Woman's Nation, the women's advocacy nonprofit she founded in 2011, for a truly great idea.

Launched with Marriott International, one of the largest corporations in the hospitality industry, as its first partner, Shriver's The Envelope Please initiative asks people like you and me (particularly those of us who spend a lot of nights sleeping in a hotel room somewhere) to engage in one-on-one economic empowerment by tipping the room attendants who keep those rooms spotless for us.

What's particularly great about this idea is its simplicity. The fact is, these women (and they are almost uniformly women, in my travel experience) don't share the visibility (and the tips) of front-of-house personnel like doormen, concierges and wait staff.

Here's how A Women's Nation is rolling out The Envelope Please. The organization has developed branded envelopes for distribution in Marriott's hotel rooms (there are currently over 160,000 Marriott-managed guest rooms throughout the U.S. and Canada). Other hotel groups will be asked to join the initiative.

Guests are encouraged to leave a note of thanks as well as a tip. (Tipping guidelines from the American Hotel & Lodging Association are here.) It's voluntary, of course, but the guidelines are from $1 - $5 per night based on the room and left daily rather than at the end of the stay.

But a great idea deserves to be passed along.

Many of you are thinking, "But I DO tip the housekeeper when I am in a hotel." Some may be thinking, "Of course I leave a tip, but sometimes I forget." The Envelope Please calls on each of us to be more mindful of the contributions that other people make to our travel, our comfort, our lives. It raises the bar for us from leaving those crumpled one-dollar bills or a handful of change to recognizing the importance and difference that each person makes, and maybe, just maybe, making a small difference to them.

The Association of Junior Leagues International, Inc. runs six women's leadership conferences each year. Our Fall Conference in early September was at a Marriott-run property in Nashville and our October conference will be at a Marriott in Kansas City.

These conferences bring together some of our 150,000 women members from around the world. I know that our staff members and delegates will be on the lookout for the envelopes, and if we don't see them, all of us will be more purposeful because of the envelope please. Thank you, Maria Shriver, for a great idea, that's relatively easy to execute and can make a real difference.