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The VolunTourist Publisher/Editor, David Clemmons
November 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 Partnership VolunTourism Model

According to Webster’s Online Dictionary, partnership is defined as follows:

  1. The state of being a partner.
    1. A legal contract entered into by two or more persons in which each agrees to furnish a part of the capital and labor for a business enterprise, and by which each shares a fixed proportion of profits and losses.
    2. The persons bound by such a contract.
  2. A relationship between individuals or groups that is characterized by mutual cooperation and responsibility, as for the achievement of a specified goal: Neighborhood groups formed a partnership to fight crime.

We’ll get back to this definition in a moment.

Here is the definition of partnership from Investor.com:

A type of unincorporated business organization in which multiple individuals, called general partners, manage the business and are equally liable for its debts; other individuals called limited partners may invest but not be directly involved in management and are liable only to the extent of their investments. More generally, a relationship of two or more entities conducting business for mutual benefit.

I particularly like this last bit: “more generally, a relationship of two or more entities conducting business for mutual benefit.”

In the Webster’s definition, item #3 resonates with our discussion of VolunTourism: “A relationship between individuals or groups that is characterized by mutual cooperation and responsibility, as for the achievement of a specified goal…”

What is it about partnership that enables the participating members of said partnership to more readily avail themselves to the implementation of VolunTourism in a given destination? This is the important question.

The Partnership Model of VolunTourism has two very distinct classifications. The first involves a partnership between inbound or outbound travel & tourism industry operators and suppliers. These are individuals and/or businesses that specialize in bringing people to a destination or shipping them from one destination to another. For the sake of clarity, we will call these “corporate partnerships.” The second model is classified under the heading of “social venture partnerships.” These partnerships are formed between nonprofit organizations.


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Corporate Partnerships

The risk involved in the start-up phase of developing VolunTourism operations can be more easily accepted, as we have mentioned previously, if that risk can be shared. This is the case with any business, of course, but in the case of VolunTourism, it is most notable.

Often, for-profit companies do not have an expertise in philanthropy and especially in the realm of addressing social challenges. But by sharing resources, financial and otherwise, the risk can be reduced significantly. For example, several tour operators that serve a destination can form a VolunTourism Partnership and hire a local resident to act as their VolunTourism liaison in that destination. The individual may have a degree in community or international development and can be trained to identify voluntary service projects for the members of the partnership. These experiences can then be offered as VolunTourism options for would-be VolunTourists on a scalable basis. Should it prove that each operator finds a genuine market for its respective VolunTourism products and services, then it can be determined whether to build on the partnership or dissolve it.

A Corporate Partnership can also serve its members through peer-to-peer interaction and discussion of VolunTourism challenges and success stories. Having a social challenge around which to rally gives the members an opportunity to concentrate on an aspect of their business that is cooperative rather than competitive.

Social Venture Partnership

For non-profit organizations, risk is perceived as an expression of what potential revenues and donations will be lost if the entity fails to attempt to cultivate practices that lead toward greater self-reliance and sustainability. A social venture is a non-profit organization’s attempt at developing a revenue stream that leads the organization toward sustainability, in other words, to generate a profit. These profits, in turn, are utilized to meet operational and program expenses as opposed to relying on the traditional “beg-and-ask” approach to garnering financial support.

Under the terms of this partnership, several nonprofit organizations may cooperate and share resources to develop the internal capacity to book groups, create a hosting facility, identify social challenges that can be addressed by inbound groups, or market VolunTourism products and services. The primary purpose of the social venture partnership is to share responsibility, reduce operational expenses, and create economies of scale.

Another Partnership?

It can certainly be argued that NGOs can partner with tourism operators and suppliers; but this partnership does not typically serve to reduce financial risk. This partnership enables VolunTourism products and services to be created and successfully delivered as “consumable” options for participating VolunTourists. These partnerships also provide a mechanism by which VolunTourists can receive a tax deduction for the portion of their experience that can be directly tied to a contribution of materials and services by the NGOs that made the experience possible.

The key to the Corporate Partnership and the Social Venture Partnership is that these are established with the explicit intent of reducing initial capital infusion by partners with the ultimate goal of minimizing loss should the venture fail.

What to Watch For...

Partnership is based upon trust. If you have any hesitation about whether you are fully trusting of the motivations of potential partners, then, as Robert Deniro would say, "There is no doubt."


VolunTourism IS AN INVESTMENT! Make no mistake in your understanding of the nature of the combination of voluntary service and travel. The resulting venture is meant to be sustainable. It is a product and/or service being delivered to consumers that have traditionally thought that volunteerism was something for which one would gladly render service but never, ever offer financial remuneration.

When combined with the “value-added” of travel and tourism, volunteering becomes VolunTourism – a consumable product for which a price can and should be paid by participants. Nonprofit organizations make a sizable financial investment in the process that ultimately delivers service opportunities to would-be volunteers. By sharing this investment with other NGOs, these organizations can lower the internal costs associated with the development process.

Likewise, tour operators and suppliers can share this same investment risk with partners. By doing so, it is likely that they will be able to address a broader scope of social challenges and support a greater number of projects in a destination.

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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