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

Yet ANOTHER Voluntourism Best Practices Group – via Tourism Concern

Yep, I didn’t believe it when I saw it either. Here is ANOTHER best practices group for voluntourism – why are there so many of these groups? Are they just ineffective or not good at communicating? I have a list of about 8 groups that are defining best practices in voluntourism – what differentiates them all?

http://www.tourismconcern.org.uk/givs.html

The vision of the GIVS Volunteering Standards Group

We aim to promote best practice in international volunteering, to maximise the beneficial developmental impacts in the communities where volunteering takes place, minimise the negative impacts, and to ensure volunteers have a worthwhile experience.

The aims of the GIVS Volunteering Standards Group

  • We aim to achieve our vision through continual improvement in member organisations’ business practice, including using GIVS principles as guidance.
  • We aim to develop and improve the GIVS standard and to establish practical ways of measuring compliance with its principles.
  • We will collaborate with members to collect and publicise personal stories, which demonstrate the benefits to communities of compliance with GIVS principles.
  • We seek to be inclusive in order to maximise the influence on the volunteering sector, but to be clear about members’ responsibilities and to exclude from membership organisations that fail to comply with agreed guidelines.
  • We will seek to identify measurable improvements as a result of the changes implemented by member organisations, particularly in impacts within the communities in which they operate.
  • Members will not behave in such a way as to compromise the reputation of Tourism Concern, or have any negative impact on Tourism Concern’s core activities.

New Voluntourism Stats in from the ATTA

Recently I worked with the ATTA (Adventure Travel Trade Association) to create a voluntourism survey of their membership. A lot of us know that Adventure has eaten voluntourism market share but I’m not sure anyone knew any figures of exactly how much, have a read below for some interesting statistics.

Some things I found interesting: their demo is older and the majority run their own volunteer projects instead of working with local NGOs. Read some highlights below or click here for the full report.

  • 61% of surveyed tour operators said that they offered voluntourism trips.
  • ATTA members reported their volunteer travelers to be 53.21 percent female and 46.79 male. Just over 12 percent of these consumers were younger than 20 years old, with 20-40 year-olds and 41-60 year olds coming in at almost 33 percent and  34 percent respectively.
  • Fifty one of the respondents run their own volunteer / voluntourism project “in-house”, while 44 work directly with external organizations.

Thanks muchly to the ATTA for giving voluntourism some research time!

 

Are You Giving the BBC Another Chance?

If you’re at all involved with the BBC you’ve been getting a ton of emails lately – my question is are taking the time to read them or just pressing delete? We’ve all been down this road before with the BBC – my question for you is, with the below outline as their Operating Plan, are you opting in this time???

-BBC Annual Operating Plan 2012-

Member Benefits:

  • Create and email survey to members to see what practical benefits might be helpful to them
  • Research possible areas like reduced airline and insurance costs.
  • Pursue 3-4 areas of shared member benefit

 

Events for 2012:

 

  • Work with Chair and later expanded Events Committee to plan and execute Sept event in DC for Harris Wofford Fellows.
  •  Also plan and execute December event to commemorate UN Year of the Volunteer in DC area.
  • Enlist members of the Effective Practices Group to support the DC training for Wofford Fellows

Media Initiative:

  • Begin canvassing members to see what kinds of articles in what kinds of publications would be helpful for BBC to move into media outlets
  • Prioritize list and create monthly schedule to move these articles into the media
  • Develop relationships with various media outlets to assist in getting articles out
  • Recruit writers or personally write articles that speak to the whole sector

 

Education Initiative:

  • Survey BBC members to find what topics might be of particular interest to members for Webinars.
  • Get training on use of IBM webinar system and learn how to implement
  • Begin conversations with Jim Lindsay of Catholic Volunteer Network and Ann Schodde of the US Center for Citizen Diplomacy on creating a series of collaborative webinars on topics of interest to members of BBC
  • Create monthly or every-other month list of webinars to be produced for members
  • Recruit webinar leaders on various topics
  • Develop evaluation instrument so that participants can give feedback

Working Groups:

  • Continue to work with chairs of working groups to convene at least every other month
  • Work with committee members to assess current relevance of each working groups
  • Disband less relevant groups, create new groups as needed, recruit new leaders for working groups that need them
  • Work with leadership of each group to create relevant agendas
  • Work with leadership of each group to create ways to evaluate the groups effectiveness

 

Fund Raising:

  • Continue calls and emails to last year’s donors that have not given this year
  • Ask why they have not given this year and what they need from BBC
  • Work intensively on the larger list of those orgs who are affiliate members but have never given to the BBC.   Ask board to take on a list of 10-20 organizations they know and ask for support
  • Recruit a group of at least 4 members who would work with me to research the kind of project we can go to foundations to support.
  • Determine if such a grant proposal should be solo BBC or joint proposal with several organizations
  • Do search for appropriate foundations
  • Write and submit grant proposals
  • *See asterisk below

Printed Materials:

  • Determine with board members what might be helpful printed materials for BBC to have
  • *Create special fund raising initiative to fund such materials
  • Ask BBC members if they have communications staff or interns who could help design said materials (Eric Mlyn has already offered the use of his staff in some way)
  • Create distribution channels for materials and make available to members to take with them to conferences they are attending

Three Special Focus Areas in 2012 and Beyond:

1)      Impact Tool for Assessing Volunteer Impact in communities

  • Continue to work with Effective Practices Working group (as expanded) to assess the possibility of creating one or more impact tools for members
  • Develop partnerships with development agencies that have created such tools for their long term development needs
  • In preparation for the 2013 conference at Northwestern,  intensify work with academics concerning possible parameters for such a tool
  • Determine if a separate conference might be warranted in early 2013  to flesh out more of what is possible with such impact assessment tool
  • Possibly plan for Spring 2013 conference

2)      Evolving Several Areas of Focus for BBC

a)      Members outside the United States

  • Work to identify possible member organizations outside the United States
  • Recruit a “task” group from among BBC members, empaneled for a specific period of time, to define what membership for organizations outside the U.S. means for BBC and determine if this is a direction we should begin to lead in
  • If task group decides yes to above, then BBC begins to build a coalition with organizations in other countries looking at this as a relevant approach to international volunteering
  • BBC begins looking for financial support in U.S. and abroad for such an initiative

b)     Creation of Network of Networks

  • Recruit “task” group from BBC members to determine what kind of leadership role BBC could take on in leading an international initiative on networks of organizations
  • BBC considers co-convening a domestic or international conference on International Network of networks and do so with the support of corporate and other partners
  • BBC could potentially put forward the creation an international secretariat on international networking and serve as its first facilitating organization
  • Work with David Caprara and others to include in this conversation how to work with “South-to-South” volunteer sending organizations

3)      Develop New Working Relationships

  • Clinton Global Initiative (Jennifer Zeisler via Charles Phillips)
  • World Bank/IMF
  • Interaction and its member agencies
  • Faith based groups working in international volunteer space
  • Other groups you might want to name