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?

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

Can Social Media Truly Increase Travel Sales?

Some great new stats out from Reuters and Bloomberg! Granted this is more for hotels and canned package vacations but it will start there and grow to niche markets. Read the full article here, highlights below:

  • Facebook linked 15.2 million visitors to hotel websites in 2010, a 35 percent jump from the prior year, according to a 2011 study by travel researcher PhoCusWright. Of that number, about 568,000 resulted in a booking—a conversion rate, in industry parlance, of almost 4 percent. That’s higher than the conversion rate from travel review sites.
  • Almost 118 million Americans alone will research travel purchases online this year, up from 114.5 million in 2011; online bookings will jump from just over $100 billion to almost $120 – to the tune of 98 million bookings.
  • First-time visitors to five-month-old Trippy are invited to sign in using their Facebook credentials and then are prompted to select a destination. The site combs data streams of relatives and friends to compile a list of recommended hotels and restaurants.

One Company Sets Standard for Volunteering in Haiti

Thought I’d share parts of a paper written by by Andrea Atkinson, Urgent Service Director at Elevate Destinations. Their trip to Haiti won a Nat Geo Tour of a Lifetime Award in 2011 so below is a little about how they did it.

Is it time for everyone to open Haiti up as a destination? Probably not. But are there ways to do it effectively? Yes, see below as an example.

Effective Volunteer Travel Creating Relationships for Meaningful Service in Haiti & The Gulf

Volunteering and service abroad have become very popular for individuals and groups. Developing a volunteer program that both benefits a community as well as positively impacts volunteers is not as easy as just sending a group of people into a “community in need”. In order for one to two week stints of work to be effective and create meaningful change, it is important for travel providers to know how to create experiences that actually give back as well as provide a platform for travelers to serve in solidarity.

Effective Volunteer Program Components

Address sustainability: Understand the environmental, economic, and social benefit for communities. Sustainable development is a norm of the development world. When we bring volunteers into the service world – we need to prepare them for this direct contact. It is important to ensure that the work being done provides a well-rounded and aligned support of sustainable development goals.

Assess long-term impact and ensure that the programs supported have plans for positive impact in the long-run. There are so many programs that have been started and then abandoned by well-meaning volunteers and organizations. Find an organization with a long-standing commitment to the country and cause and find out what their long-range plan is.

Work with well-established organizations: Work with well-established non-profit organizations that have track records of success, transparency and long-term commitment to the community.

Help raise funds: Provide fundraising support to non-profit partners. Each of our travelers is tasked with raising $500. Some have raised over $4000. This has multiplied their effect in the program. Our initiative has raised over $30,000 for causes in Haiti and has engaged hundreds of small donors that now have invested in Haiti.

Employ and engage locals: Employ local labor, making certain that local jobs are not displaced. Volunteering to get something done that could be done by a local employed to do a job is not effective. Neither is bringing in an expert to get a job done and then not providing transfer of knowledge (ie not teaching a or many locals some of the skills to provide this service in the future as well as not learning from locals).

Work in solidarity not superiority: Working side-by-side with locals, learning from them and supporting them while maintaining respect for their culture and knowledge. Developing cross-cultural relationships is one of the most effective things that can come of a volunteer program. It is important to create introductions and work with locals to develop real relationships and create solidarity.

Haiti Case Study:
A year and a half after the January 12 Haiti Earthquake, Haitians are still picking up the pieces, making a new life out of less than the little most people once had. The emergency stage is over, and the long-term rebuilding has begun. Ensuring Haitians have the resources for education is one of the critical elements of long-term recovery. Community engagement in Haiti offers the opportunity to participate in rebuilding a nation, one school and orphanage at a time.

Programs we have developed in Haiti support the rebuilding of orphanages and schools as well as support youth empowerment and the environment.

Elevate the Gulf Case Study:
On April 20th, 2010 over 185 million gallons of crude oil began a three-month gush into the waters off the Gulf Coast of the United States. So began a national tragedy that not only affected marine and coastal flora and fauna, but an entire fishing economy, culture and ecosystem. The sheen on the water has dissipated, as has the media attention, but the long-term repercussions have only begun.

Programs we have developed in the Gulf are in partnership with The Ocean Foundation, to support an area of our country that has suffered economically, culturally and ecologically. Volunteers have worked on replacement or restoration of the oyster reef, seagrass bed and coastal marsh habitats has long-term benefits in helping to improve on-going problems in Mobile Bay.

Is There a Need for a New Voluntourism Association?

I know, I know, don’t roll your eyes… This conversation has been had by many of you, many a time at many a conference. However, there is a real push now by a couple key players to start a new ‘Global Voice’ association that would unite folks like the ATTA, Year Out Group, BBC, APTA, WYSTC under one umbrella and address voluntourism issues on a global scale. All of the current organizations focus mainly on their specific niche or their geographical market – is there a need for an association that has a broader reach?

An association that wouldn’t just be a place you pay dues to every year but something that focuses on two aspects: 1. how to help you grow your business, 2. how to grow the industry as a whole.

There would be webinars on the latest marketing techniques/legal issues/country problems, opportunities to post job openings, regional conferences for in person get togethers, a leading media spokesperson to promote the industry, forums where people from all over the world can discuss issues, etc.

People have been talking about this forever and they’ve been rallying around me to start it as I’m ‘neutral’ and not associated with a big volunteer company. My question is… would this be useful or just yet another place to send dues in every month?

Feedback please!!!



UN’s State of the World’s Volunteerism Report 2011

Seen this??

State of the World’s Volunteerism Report 2011 – Universal Values for Global Well-being

Complete report
Foreword, Preface, Acknowledgement and contents
Chapter 1 – Volunteerism is universal
Chapter 2 – Taking the measure of volunteering
Chapter 3 – Volunteerism in the twenty-first century
Chapter 4 – Sustainable livelihoods
Chapter 5 – Volunteering as a force for social inclusion
Chapter 6 – Volunteerism, cohesion and conflict management
Chapter 7 – Volunteerism and disasters
Chapter 8 – Volunteering and well-being
Conclusion: The way forward
Errata print version

Report overview

Press Releases
Message from the Executive Coordinator
Volunteerism should become an Integral Part of the New Development Consensus
Reliable data and the addressing of misconceptions are vital for moving volunteerism forward
New Forms of Volunteerism Contribute Significantly to Human Development
Volunteerism Plays an Important Role in Overcoming Barriers
Volunteer Action is an Essential Asset in the Face of War and Disaster
Well-being should be an Essential Part of a New Development Architecture
Volunteer Action Essential for the Way Forward

Biography UNV Executive Coordinator Flavia Pansieri
About the UNV programme and the State of the World’s Volunteerism Report
Countries and territories

Report presentation
Report Presentation