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David Clemmons, Publisher/Editor of The VolunTourist, responds to some of your questions and emails. (Additional questions and responses are posted on the VolunTourism.org Blog)
Volume 4, Issue 3 Reader Comments & Other Mail
Thank you for your email. An excellent question you have proposed here!
When it comes to fundraising, I recommend looking in two places: 1) How the professionals fundraise, and 2) How others, making a similar effort to what you have proposed here, have approached it.
There are fundamental elements that you can identify by visiting folks who specialize in fundraising, for example, the Association of Fundraising Professionals. You may find an AFP chapter, or an individual representative, located near you by browsing their web site. Direct contact will give you a chance to share your story and see if they will provide you with some "free" advice.
Speaking of stories, you need to craft a compelling story as to why this individual's trip is important to the planet. What unique approach is s/he taking, how does s/he envision spending her/his time in the destination, what skills, personal attitude, etc., is s/he bringing that "no one else" can - - these are the questions to which you want to have sincere answers that inspire people to dig deep into those pockets to support you.
Keep the "donation requests" at a small level. I came across a blog post when I was searching for some items to include in a more thorough response to your query. The program featured here, "The $10 x 10K" initiative, offers a promising model for viral marketing to help raise funds for a cause or issue at a minimum expense to supporters. Yet, when all the monies come in, the entire group will be able to celebrate in the achievement.
This is the other part of what you create in your "ask/pitch" - - make certain that you have a delivery system in place as to how you will share the story of your participation in the experience with your "donors." Telling the actual story upon your return must be part of your promise to them. Remember, they are paying your friend's airfare and expenses to go on the trip. S/he must be willing to give them a full report on their investment. In this case, ROI (usually "return on investment") becomes Report On Investment.
If your friend has an alma mater, school from which s/he graduated, this is always a good starting point. Members of her/his class who may be working in companies and can represent a "warm" call or email option of getting a more company-wide response. This may be especially promising if the individual whom s/he contacts has also been on a similar trip.
If you are using the story-telling medium, you may find a company that specializes in story-telling - a communications/PR firm or advertising firm, a software company, etc. - these folks may want to use their story-telling capabilities to share your experience because it will serve their customers or be a unique way for them to "advertise" their products and services.
In terms of connecting with folks that may have done something similar to what you are proposing, speak to the organization with which your friend plans to travel. Ask them if other clients have fundraised to defer the costs of the trip. Likely they will have a list of items they have used or will be open to connecting you with folks who have done so.
These are some initial thoughts which may prove helpful. Good luck in your efforts!
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[Editor's Note: I recently received these two queries on the same day, no less, and posted one answer to both.]
Dear TJS and MS,
Thank you for your emails on the subject of VolunTourism in Australia.
Australia presents a very interesting opportunity for even those who may be novices on the VolunTourism track. You may decide to start your review of the potential by reading up on some of the published writings of Dr. Stephen Wearing, University of Technology Sydney or his colleague, Dr. Kevin Lyons, at The University of Newcastle. Lonely Planet, with headquarters in Australia, also has covered the subject of volunteering on holiday. Both of these will provide some background on the subject and give you some insights that other VolunTourists to Australia may not have at their disposal upon arrival.
VolunTourism in Australia is rooted in conservation - both on the land and in the sea. The organization most often recognized, therefore, is Conservation Volunteers. This organization has a solid track record and you can certainly connect with past participants to satisfy your curiosity.
But the inherent beauty of Australia is that it offers the added prospect of being able to organize your own VolunTourism journey with confidence in the vetting process of the organizations with which you may be engaging. (Not every country offers this luxury, of course, so why not take advantage of it if you are willing to put in a little more work.)
With this in mind, there are a couple of websites to review in your planning process. Start with the largest database of voluntary service activities in Australia, Volunteering Australia. The website is an excellent resource for anyone who wants to give the do-it-yourself-approach a try. You may also be interested in connecting with an international effort that followed in the footsteps of the novel, Pay It Forward, by Catherine Ryan Hyde. There are a number of initiatives in Australia that fall under the category of the Pay It Forward Movement, one such group is Pass It Forward. Connecting with local Australians that are dedicated to "paying it forward" may be a grand way to experience voluntary service and the destination itself.
If you want to explore other parts of Australia and the possibility of supporting cultural preservation with the Aboriginals, then you may want to work with a specialized group. There is a tour operator in Darwin, Mick Jerram, whom I met at the 2008 Educational Travel Conference. He has been working with Australian Aboriginals for a number of years and may be able to support you in identifying a community for which your particular skill-sets may be useful.
In terms of paying for your trip, this may be a much more difficult process. But if you look for a program in which you can acquire a work abroad visa, then you may be able to manage something to offset your airfare. For programs of this nature, there is no better place to start than WYSE Work Abroad.
Australia certainly offers a vast array of options for any VolunTourist, regardless of temperament or level of experience. If you conduct your due diligence, you should be able to identify a project that will support you in fulfilling your goals of service and viewing the destination - its history, arts, culture, and geography - and don't forget the recreation part, too!
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Thank you for your email. I appreciate you taking the time to send us your query.
Sri Lanka is a rich environment for engaging in VolunTourism.
I would like you to start your effort by connecting with Richard Brooks, a Board Member of Sarvodaya USA. He is also a member of the VolunTourism.org Advisory Council and is well-schooled in VolunTourism - having led numerous trips in Sri Lanka, Mexico, Japan, and elsewhere. He has been connected to Sri Lanka and the Sarvodaya Movement founded by Dr. A.T. Ariyaratne more than 50 years ago. He will know an ideal point of contact for you in Sri Lanka.
I think it would also be beneficial to connect with the folks at the Adventure Travel Trade Association. This organization has featured discussions on voluntourism at their annual conference for the last several years. They may have a list of peers with whom you can connect who either operate in Sri Lanka or in nearby destinations readily accessible to you. (When you are getting started, there is no such thing as "too" much information.)
After you speak with folks - both NGOs and tour operators - you may decide that spending time within the context of an existing operation is a good first step. Your skills are very specific and may benefit an existing NGO interested in expanding their voluntary service offering to include unique travel & tourism-related activities. Or you may find an adventure travel company, currently serving Sri Lanka, that would be interested in offering voluntary service engagements for young people as part of their corporate social responsibility. By doing a little extra research in the beginning you will avoid replicating what another group is already doing. You may also discover that there are those who would like to contribute to your vision and make it possible.
Good Luck in your effort!
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This certainly a great subject, so thanks for sending in your question!
I suggest that you start by reaching out to Kyle McCarthy at the Family Travel Forum. (Her team recently announced a surge in teen-based travel and volunteering in December 2008.) She has spent the last year compiling some resources on their website to support families in making such a decision. If you key-in the word "volunteer" on their website it should give you a number of hits. You may also want to listen to Episode #25: Family Travel & VolunTourism of The VolunTourist Webcast. Kyle was one of my guests for that show.
If you are interested in international travel, then you may wish to reach out to Debra Cummings. She, her husband, and two children spent nearly a year of traveling and volunteering around the world. They created the Lazenby-Cummings Blog to detail their numerous stops and activities along the journey. I also had a chance to interview Debra in December 2007 for Episode #19 of The VolunTourist Webcast. She spoke quite a bit about her trip with her family on the show.
Nicole Fancher wrote a detailed account for Travel Muse in June 2008. The article, "Family Voluntourism Strengthens Bonds and Local Communities," covered numerous subjects and provided some excellent insights and resources.
If you live in the US, Canada, Australia, or the UK, you also have the possibility of building your own "Family VolunTour." Working with volunteer coordinators with local nonprofit organizations or using an online search engine to find volunteer activities for children is much easier in these four countries as they have nation-wide databases to review. To my knowledge, UK-based World Wide Volunteering has the largest database of its kind on the planet. You should be able to identify service activities for children there. Then, you and your wife will be able to wrap a travel itinerary around the volunteer projects depending on your overall travel goals & objectives.
I particularly like this last approach, especially with teens and children. The flexibility that comes from starting off slowly, rather than trying to jump into a week-long experience, is supportive and nurturing of young people. It is easy for kids to say, "I want more;" it is far more difficult to shave time off the itinerary when they say, "We want less!"
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