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September 2005 - Feature Article 2

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Outbound VolunTourism: 77 Million Reasons For VolunTourism! - - Part I
Do the years 1946 to 1964 mean anything to you? Well, if you happened to be born in that time frame in the United States you are considered to be a "Baby Boomer." Although 1/3 of you are volunteers, roughly 50 million are not. And the biggest reason you are not - - NO TIME!

The Opportunity

This past week I received a note in my "inbox" telling me about a $4 million challenge grant that the Corporation for National and Community Service is offering. The language in the grant says the following:

Purpose of Challenge Grant Program: The purpose of the 2005 Challenge Grant competition is to leverage "Baby Boomer" [those born between 1946 and 1964] volunteers to assist non-profits in community service:

  • Applicants must propose strategies that engage Baby Boomer in full-time, part-time, or episodic service designed to meet community needs.
  • Applicants must propose to either significantly expand existing services or implement new services.
  • Applicants must provide at least two dollars in private funding for every federal dollar. This match must be in cash and must be raised within the grant period. There will be a preference for proposals that exceed the required two to one match ratio.
  • The proposed program must operate in a minimum of three states.

There are approximately 77 million Americans born between 1946 and 1964, known as the Baby Boom generation, or “Baby Boomers”. In 2005, Boomers are between the ages of 41 and 59, and the first of this generation will turn 60 next year. Boomers currently volunteer at the highest rate of all Americans – with more than one in every three Boomers engaged in volunteer activities. Yet half of non-volunteering boomers cite a lack of time as the main reason for not getting engaged in their communities. As Boomers complete the obligations of child-rearing or fulltime work and move to new stages in life, they may be drawn to volunteering and service to address community needs in the areas of education, public safety, the environment, homeland security, and health and other human needs.

While older adults are often viewed as consumers of services and overlooked as a valuable resource, the first wave of the Boomer cohort includes a mix of retired, semi-retired, and still-working individuals from diverse groups with various levels and types of education, ex-periences and talents. This group of 77 million Americans has the capacity to tackle important community problems and great potential to meet critical community needs. The Corporation is committed to identifying and demon-strating strategies to effectively engage Baby Boomers in community service to this end.

Why am I sharing this with you, O Readers?

Well there are a few key words and phrases that occur in the language above that speak out to me specifically and here they are in no particular order of importance:

1) "Episodic service designed to meet community needs"

2) "Implement new services"

3) "There will be a preference for proposals that exceed the required two to one match ratio"

4) "Minimum of three states"

Episodic Service

When we discuss VolunTourism, we definitely know that the nature of the service activity is episodic. This is one travel experience in which a portion thereof will be dedicated to delivering service to the destination and/or its residents. The clarification added to the words "episodic service" is to distinguish between service that is simply service for service sake and service that actually "meets community needs."

Implement New Service

For any entity - tour operator, nonprofit organization, etc. - VolunTourism is the implementation of a new service. Whether it is a partnership effort between a tour operator and an NGO or a solo effort on the part of an NGO, the likelihood that you have already developed your VolunTourism products and services to this level of functionality is very slim. Therefore, you are likely to fall into the category of "implementing new service."

Exceeding the Match

When I look at this, I realize the significance of the VolunTourism model. It is meant to generate income. It is not meant to be something into which a regular stream of private donations or government funding is necessary to keep operations afloat. VolunTourism is a business strategy. It has been developed to support social needs while delivering a revenue stream. It is the combination of the two that leads to sustainability and self-reliance for NGOs.

Minimum of Three States

If this doesn't speak to travel, I do not know what else ever could. VolunTourism gives a tour operator or NGO the power to reach across state lines and even across international boundaries and borders. If you are moving VolunTourists from one state to another or through several during a VolunTourism trek, you are definitely fulfilling this requirement.

The Challenge

I think it can certainly be argued that VolunTourism can fulfill some, if not most, of the criteria established above, BUT we are not simply talking about one organization being involved in delivering a truly functional model of VolunTourism in a series of destinations. It really requires partnership.

We have touched on the nature of VolunTourism as a balanced approach to travel that integrates the best of service with the best of tourism. It is also noteworthy that "Baby Boomers" are the largest travel audience and will be for many years to come. And we cannot forget the "time" element. The argument that an individual cannot dedicate a portion of their travel time to volunteering is a bit absurd, No?!?

But can destinations, tour operators, and affinity groups join nonprofits to create VolunTourism experiences that are in alignment with the goals and objectives proposed by this challenge grant?

This is the relevant question. Whether grant monies ever exchange hands or not is a relatively moot point. The important point in all of this is to decide if the com-bination of travel, "free-time," and service via Volun-Tourism have the makings for satisfying a major objective of a branch of the United States Government.

If so, it is likely that additional funding opportunities via private foundations or other sources will eventually follow this track set forth by the Corporation for National and Community Service. Perhaps, if successful, a world-governing body would follow a similar track in proposing that funds be secured to support VolunTourism in other parts of the world.

Part II

But we have to start somewhere and create the appro-priate partnerships. In Part II of the series, we will discuss the various potential partners and determine what they can bring forth to assist in the creation of a "new episodic service that exceeds the match and impacts more than three states."

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