ResponsibleTravel.com Temporarily Removes Orphanage Volunteering from Listings

Just saw this post fly by–ResponsibleTravel.com has temporarily removed orphanage travel programs from its listings. From their blog:

The removal of trips is a temporary measure, whilst, over the coming weeks we work with industry leaders to develop best practice guidelines and criteria for the child-focussed volunteer trips we offer via responsibletravel.com.

We want to ensure we only market volunteer trips that we have 100% trust in and that, as a community of responsible operators, we are leading the way and raising standards around best practice in this industry. We hope that by being independently created, the new criteria will help sustain the exemplary operators while removing those that may potentially tarnish the sector.

You can read more about the decision here. Be sure to scroll down to the comments as well, where there’s some lively discussion going on.

To our volunteer trip provider friends—whether you send volunteers overseas or host them in your own community—and especially those who offer orphanage programs, what steps have you taken to continually evaluate those placements? Have your practices changed in recent years or months?

And to those of you who receive requests for partnership from orphanages, how do you respond?

Have You Changed Your Program Offerings Due to the Economy?

From our state of the volunteer travel survey responses, to LinkedIn discussion groups, to forums and beyond, I’ve noticed volunteer travel providers worldwide becoming frustrated with their recruitment rates, which appear to be dropping from recent years. A few alternatives some have been developing—particularly smaller, niche ones that can’t quite compete monetarily with the behemoth ones we all know:

  • Internships abroad with a volunteer component
  • Longer-term volunteering
  • Service-learning (or learning service, as the case may be)
  • Career- or degree-based placements (e.g., veterinary training abroad for degree fulfillment)

Before I left my own volunteer travel company last year, I had the chance to start recruiting volunteers and interns for some new partnership programs in Central America; every single person who signed on during my time there wanted a semester-long placement or a career- or degree-related one (e.g., medical placement abroad for professionals in the field). In my interviews with potential volunteers and interns, all of them noted they very much wanted to travel, but as they had tiny, tiny budgets, they had to make sure it was absolutely worth their while: a longer-term placement abroad that satisfied degree requirements or helped build their careers was a two-for one deal in their book.

In speaking with other providers lately, many have noticed the same thing—short-term “volunteer vacation”-type projects just aren’t cutting it lately.

So friends: what have you noticed? Have you felt the need to change your volunteer placements to accommodate this new(ish) wave of travelers? How do your short-term programs stack up against your long-term ones, if you offer both? And if you have skills-based or unskilled programs, is one doing better than the other?

Volunteer Travel Operators: Get Off Your Asses and Help Your Industry!

Our goal at Voluntourism Gal is to provide insights into and facilitate discussion about the volunteer travel industry. And aside from a few wonderful, vocal people, you’re all clamming up—and that makes the whole “facilitating discussion” thing incredibly difficult.

In 2009, the State of the Volunteer Travel Industry Survey polled 28 U.S.-based organizations with a few short questions, which we’ll get into below. This survey allowed researchers, media, and stakeholders to understand where we were that year and what you guys projected for the future of your own industry.

Well, the landscape has changed and the information on the previous publication is outdated. This spring, we asked you five questions that would allow us to release a brand-new report with updated, relevant information. This report is intended to help the community grow and understand where we’re headed.

As of today, we haven’t received nearly enough responses yet to compile the 2013 edition. Many of you are interested in seeing the report, but you’re not actually participating in the research. Do you want to have a solid answer when someone asks, “Is volunteer travel growing?” How about, “How has your industry fared during the recession?” Do you want something to actually back it up? Do you want to see the most popular countries U.S.-based organizations are sending their volunteers to? How about an average return rate to see how you stack up against the national number? I know I did when I operated my own volunteer travel company. I built the 2009 report into my freakin’ business plan.

Those are answers we want to provide for you—and unfortunately, we can’t release or report on anything until more of you get back to us.

So! As a reminder: all participants’ information will be kept strictly confidential and only the results and a total list of companies that participated, will be produced. Your competitors will not know how many volunteers you specifically are sending abroad, or what your company’s return rate is, or any other information about you individually.

Please take a couple minutes to answer the following five questions (plus the optional ones, if you have time) and send them to me directly at Sarah@FrayedPassport.com or to Alexia at alexia@lassocommunications.com.

And to those that have already responded: Thank you!

MAIN QUESTIONS

  1. To which countries do you currently send volunteers?
  2. What is the most popular activity for your volunteers? Building; Community Development; Conservation—Environmental, Wildlife, or Heritage; Scientific; Health Care; Skills Based Professional; Teaching; Other (please describe)
  3. How many volunteers did you send abroad in 2012?
  4. Do you expect to send more or less volunteers abroad in 2013 than you did in 2012?
  5. What is your return rate for volunteers?

OPTIONAL QUESTIONS

  1. Do you feel the economy is affecting your business positively, negatively or unaffected? What, if anything, have you done to counteract the effects of the recession?
  2. Are there any valuable insights or lessons learned you would like to share with the industry?
  3. Which term do you most associate with your organization? Voluntourism, volunteer tourism, volunteer vacation, volunteer travel, volunteer abroad, or other?

To qualify as an operator in this survey, you must have a U.S. office; send U.S. volunteers abroad; not be faith-based in any way; require that volunteers must pay for their placement; and require that travelers work for more than four days of straight volunteering (e.g., cannot be an adventure travel placement with a volunteer component).

Please send all responses to Sarah@FrayedPassport.com or to Alexia at alexia@lassocommunications.com.

Reminder: State of the Volunteer Travel Industry Survey

Just a reminder in case you missed it: the 2013 State of the Volunteer Travel Industry Survey is underway!

You can view the previous one here (opens in a new tab as a PDF), or on our Voluntourism Research page.

With this report, we want to continue our research to see how the field has expanded, shrunk, or changed. Your participation in this survey will give us an accurate pulse of the industry within the United States, and will help us as we move forward with research, best practices, and more.

All participants’ information will be kept strictly confidential and only the results and a total list of companies that participated, will be produced—for free, and for all to see.

There are two ways to participate: wait until Alexia or I call and harass you, or just send me an email (Sarah@FrayedPassport.com) with your answers. We’d much prefer an email, as this will help us keep a record of your responses—from you directly—so that nothing gets lost in the mix, and so that we’re both completely on the same page about what you’ve reported.

Also let me know if you’d be willing to send the volunteer survey out among your networks, and I will send you a survey that is branded for your organization.

Criteria to qualify as an operator in this survey:

  • Have a U.S. office
  • Send U.S. volunteers abroad
  • Not faith-based in any way
  • Volunteers must pay for their placement
  • Travelers work for more than four days of straight volunteering (e.g., cannot be an adventure travel placement with a volunteer component)

Questions for operators that meet the above criteria:

  • To which countries do you currently send volunteers?
  • What is the most popular activity for your volunteers? Building; Community Development; Conservation—Environmental, Wildlife, or Heritage; Scientific; Health Care; Skills Based Professional; Teaching; Other (please describe)
  • How many volunteers did you send abroad in 2012?
  • Do you expect to send more or less volunteers abroad in 2013 than you did in 2012?
  • What is your return rate for volunteers?

Optional, if you have time:

  • Do you feel the economy is affecting your business positively, negatively or unaffected? What, if anything, have you done to counteract the effects of the recession?
  • Are there any valuable insights or lessons learned you would like to share with the industry?
  • Which term do you most associate with your organization? Voluntourism, volunteer tourism, volunteer vacation, volunteer travel, volunteer abroad, or other?

To be included in the report, we ask that you get back to us via email by this Friday, April 26. (Update: we’ve heard from those of you who’d like to send your answers along still–please send your surveys ASAP to Sarah@FrayedPassport.com and we’ll include you in the report!)

Thanks very much—we’re looking forward to hearing what you have to say!

Call for Entries: 2013 State of the Volunteer Travel Industry Survey

Alrighty, friends—we’re ready to start the 2013 State of the Volunteer Travel Industry Survey!

You can view the previous one here (opens in a new tab as a PDF), or on our Voluntourism Research page.

With this report, we want to continue our research to see if the field has expanded, shrunk, changed…well, you get the idea. Your participation in this survey will give us an accurate pulse of the industry within the United States, and will help us as we move forward with research, best practices, and more.

All participants’ information will be kept strictly confidential and only the results and a total list of companies that participated, will be produced—for free, and for all to see.

There are two ways to participate: wait until Alexia or I call and harass you, or just send me an email (Sarah@FrayedPassport.com) with your answers. We’d much prefer an email, as this will help us keep a record of your responses—from you directly—so that nothing gets lost in the mix, and so that we’re both completely on the same page about what you’ve reported.

Also let me know if you’d be willing to send the volunteer survey out among your networks, and I will send you a survey that is branded for your organization.

Criteria to qualify as an operator in this survey:

  • Have a U.S. office
  • Send U.S. volunteers abroad
  • Not faith-based in any way
  • Volunteers must pay for their placement
  • Travelers work for more than four days of straight volunteering (e.g., cannot be an adventure travel placement with a volunteer component)

Questions for operators that meet the above criteria:

  • To which countries do you currently send volunteers?
  • What is the most popular activity for your volunteers? Building; Community Development; Conservation—Environmental, Wildlife, or Heritage; Scientific; Health Care; Skills Based Professional; Teaching; Other (please describe)
  • How many volunteers did you send abroad in 2012?
  • Do you expect to send more or less volunteers abroad in 2013 than you did in 2012?
  • What is your return rate for volunteers?

Optional, if you have time:

  • Do you feel the economy is affecting your business positively, negatively or unaffected? What, if anything, have you done to counteract the effects of the recession?
  • Are there any valuable insights or lessons learned you would like to share with the industry?
  • Which term do you most associate with your organization? Voluntourism, volunteer tourism, volunteer vacation, volunteer travel, volunteer abroad, or other?

To be included in the report, we ask that you get back to us via email by Friday, April 26. (Update: we’ve heard from those of you who’d like to send your answers along still–please send your surveys ASAP to Sarah@FrayedPassport.com and we’ll include you in the report!)

Thanks very much—we’re looking forward to hearing what you have to say!

Changing the World on Vacation – New Voluntourism Documentary

Daniela Kon just sent me a link to her most recent documentary – I wanted to get it on everyone’s radar. I see this as possibly being a great tool to give to volunteers before they head out with you, instead of handing them a piece of paper that addresses some issues they’ll face have them watch a documentary. You’ll have more informed volunteers and I think a better labor force to effect change.

More info here: http://deedaproductions.com/ctwfilm/ and the trailer’s below