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The VolunTourist Publisher/Editor, David Clemmons
October 2005 - So You May Know

The VolunTourist™ is a premium Newsletter for the Travel Trade. For those interested in dis-covering what is happening in the world of VolunTourism and seeking emerging practices, general information, and case studies, this is your Source.

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So You May Know...

The Philanthropic VolunTourism Model

Check-writing has been a common practice amongst corporations as a means of demonstrating their philanthropic support of social issues and concerns in a given destination. Check presentations to nonprofit organizations (NPO) and NGOs during lunches, dinners, or other social engagements in conjunction with meetings and events holds a long track record of implementation for the business tourism sector. Attendees view a short video or hear a speech from an executive director touting the magnanimous services provided to the community and its residents. Attendees also hear of the marvelous opportunities that will be created through the “generous” contribution and how it will support changes in the destination.

What, however, does check-writing have to do with VolunTourism?

Some members of the tourism industry have determined that developing the capacity of NPOs and NGOs to provide volunteer activities for their clients is an excellent use of philanthropic dollars. A philanthropic contribution can be earmarked to pay for a part-time or full-time employee that will dedicate her/his time to identifying service opportunities within a destination or in conjunction with an NPO or NGO. The task of this individual is to assist, for example, a tour operator in creating a project that will suit the needs of their clients while meeting a direct need of the community and its residents.

Whether a tourism entity utilizes marketing dollars or monies from a corporate foundation or giving program, the financial “gift” is given directly to the NPO or NGO to support the hiring and training of an individual for the explicit purpose of developing and coordinating VolunTourism experiences. This type of philanthropy improves the capacity of the NPO/NGO and also helps the organization become more self-reliant. This approach is particularly beneficial to tour operators that bring a significant number of travelers to a destination, especially those destinations outside of the United States.

(Kindred Spirits Tour & Travel - see this month's Supply Chain article - has created an incredible version of this model!)

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But the opportunity is far greater in international venues. Depending on the destination and the currency exchange, cost of living, etc., it may be possible to assist an NGO in hiring a local resident to craft VolunTourism products and services at a relatively low cost. The simple fact that the philanthropic dollars offered to an NPO/NGO will pay to support the livelihood of a resident and her/his family makes this model incredibly appealing to tourism companies.

What to Watch For...

The biggest challenge to be addressed by this model is to observe whether the “VolunTourism Coordinator” is creating projects just to fulfill their obligations to a tourism entity or is actually connecting with a community and its residents or the local environment to truly address social challenges in the destination. Fear of losing a job may cause an individual to select options that are questionable in terms of the contribution that they will provide in support of the destination.

To avoid such an issue it may be good to select an individual to work directly with a destination marketing organization (DMO), convention and visitors’ bureau (CVB), or other such entity. A DMO or CVB may easily create a “Director of VolunTourism” position to support the demands of all of the inbound operators and even some of the in-market suppliers – hotels, etc. In lieu of such an option, it will be important to conduct sufficient research on NPOs/NGOs in the area to determine which might have a regular need for voluntary services.

Conclusion

The Pilanthropic VolunTourism Model is a great example of how to make an investment in a destination. Such an investment will pay dividends to your operations, to your clients, and, most important of all, it will serve residents of the destination and/or the surrounding environment. When philanthropy serves multiple purposes, it has an increased chance of acheiving longevity and sustainability.

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