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?

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Well, the landscape has changed and the information on the previous publication is outdated.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.

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!

New WSJ Article Out

In case you missed it, a new WSJ article came out today on voluntourism, “Best Volunteer Options for Any Budget” – it outlines the different price ranges that are out there and different volunteering/giving levels. Brings up the point, as a company when was the last time you reviewed your pricing? How much does pricing effect the number of volunteers you recruit?

If you are a potential volunteer reading this as a result of the WSJ article and have questions feel free to ask me.

Voluntourism as a Honeymoon Option?

Interesting article about honeymoons and voluntourism – it seems to be a growing trend, are you finding that with your company? Is it possibly a market you should considering targeting?

http://www.dailycamera.com/lifestyles/ci_13271856

(and yes I admit this is a shameless plug for an article I helped with, but on a FAM this week and no time to write a real post =)

To Have and To Hold – and to Help

Many newlyweds opt for candles, champagne toasts and rose-petal-covered beds, but Meghan Courtney and Rich Shaner had a different idea of romance.

Their honeymoon was a little dirty. And sweaty. And exhausting. And not at all what you’re thinking.

Courtney and Shaner, who were married Aug. 1 in Pennsylvania, honeymooned in Boulder to help build a house with the Flatirons Habitat for Humanity.

“We wanted something other than the standard Hawaii trip, a different take on the honeymoon,” Courtney said. “They had some pretty elaborate honeyteering trips abroad, but they were too extreme for us, so we looked to create our own and give back.”

Honeyteering. That’s the media-coined phrase for volunteer honeymoons — lumped in with another word fusion: voluntourism.

Despite the economy and its gloomy tourism numbers, voluntourism is still booming, according to the State of the Volunteer Travel Industry survey by Littleton-based Lasso Communications. In fact, 61 percent of travel companies surveyed said they expected to send more volunteers abroad this year than last, and 16 percent expected the same amount.

About 9 percent of these people travel with their partner, according to another study, Volunteer Travel Insights 2009 by GeckoGo.

Not many. Yet one of the greatest complaints about volunteer vacations is that people get lonely and want someone to decompress with, the studies found. Not to mention, the GeckoGo study found that 99 percent of participants thought their trip was meaningful or very meaningful. Some respondents said it was the best experience of their lives.

Sharing that with your new life partner can deepen the relationship, advocates say.

Alexia Nestoria, of Littleton, is a consultant for the volunteer travel industry who writes the blog voluntourismgal.com.

She attributes the volunteerism growth to an extension of the green movement; a weak job market that has pushed graduates to look for alternate kinds of experience; and layoffs that have left Americans with more time on their hands.

“I think honeymoons are changing, to be honest. It’s no longer a booze cruise or lying on the beach,” Nestoria said. “Budgets are tighter, and people want every dollar to count.”

Plus, the generation that is getting married right now is more aware of the need to help. They are savvy travelers who ask questions and want to know where their dollars are going.

http://www.dailycamera.com/lifestyles/ci_13271856

American International Volunteering Time Valued at $3.5 Billion

Paul Joss sent me this press release that the BBC put out in conjunction with the Hudson Institute – interesting figures below, what do you make of them? $3.5 Billion in volunteering time!

American International Volunteering Time Valued at $3.5 Billion

WASHINGTON—Based on an analysis of data from the U.S. Census Population Survey’s (CPS) annual volunteering supplement and Independent Sector’s annual calculation of volunteering time, Americans contributed an estimated $3.5 billion in volunteer time to the developing world in 2007, according to the recently released Index of Global Philanthropy and Remittances published annually by the Hudson Institute’s Center for Global Prosperity (CGP).

This year’s Index reports that in 2007 more than one million Americans traveled abroad to volunteer, contributing $2.7 billion in volunteer time. Additionally, 341,000 volunteers contributed their time to international organizations in the U.S. amounting to $780 million.

“This recent data from the Index of Global Philanthropy and Remittances reinforces what we are seeing and what we’re working for,” says Paul Joss, Managing Director of the Building Bridges Coalition, a consortium of 210 member organizations working to increase the number, quality and positive impacts of international volunteer efforts.  “As more people volunteer their time towards global causes, the size and impact of this force for good becomes enormous.  There are so many well-run programs that opportunities for international volunteering exist for nearly anyone who is interested.”

Americans are finding many different ways to contribute their time and energies to worthwhile causes overseas.  Many Americans volunteer through international volunteer organizations and faith-based mission agencies that connect volunteers with grassroots organizations in the developing world and manage all of the necessary trip logistics.  Students are taking service-oriented alternative spring break trips and volunteering during summer break. Corporate America is also involved.  According to a recent survey of 43 Fortune 500 CEOs by the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy (CECP), 42 percent of respondents had at least one International Corporate Volunteering (ICV) program.

The Index is the sole comprehensive guide to the sources and magnitude of private philanthropy from U.S. foundations, corporations, private and voluntary organizations (PVOs), volunteers, colleges and universities, and religious congregations to the developing world. This year’s Index finds that these sources contributed a total of $36.9 billion in 2007, over one and one-half times U.S. government aid for the same period.

For more information about the Building Bridges Coalition efforts to increase international volunteering, visit www.buildingbridgescoalition.org.  To view the new Index of Global Philanthropy and Remittances, visit Hudson Institute’s CGP on the Web at http://www.global-prosperity.org.

# # #

Hudson Institute is a nonpartisan policy research organization dedicated to innovative research and analysis that promotes global security, prosperity, and freedom.

The Building Bridges coalition is a consortium of leading international volunteering organizations, corporations, colleges & universities and government agencies working collaboratively to double the number of people volunteering overseas by 2010.  The Building Bridges Coalition is a project of the Brookings Institution’s Initiative on International Volunteering & Service.

Volunteer Vacations: Save the Sea Turtles, Save the World?

Awesome article just out from Julie at PeterGreenberg.com, I took her on this FAM back in the day to Gandoca – really interesting perspective and honest look at voluntourism.

On her last volunteer vacation to Costa Rica, Julie Manis was tested to her limits while helping to save the Leatherback sea turtles. Here, she explores how would-be voluntourists can thoroughly vet a program before signing away their vacation time.

“That’s crazy.”

This was my friend’s response when I told him about a recent trip to Costa Rica, where I’d spent my vacation trying to help save endangered Leatherback sea turtles.

He got right to the point: “So wait a minute. People pay their way there. They work for free. And they also pay for the privilege?”

Trying to explain voluntourism to a pragmatic person isn’t easy.

It wasn’t that he didn’t understand the desire to help. Everyone is aware that the world is full of hunger and hurt, and that our planet itself is in dire need of care.

The truth is, local volunteerism is at an all-time high. VolunteerMatch.com recently reported that they’ve made more than 4 million referrals to people who have visited the site looking for ways help out in their community.

Even President Obama is encouraging American citizens to engage in volunteer service. Free work is the new donation. But Americans shouldn’t confuse volunteer trips with charity, at least as far as taxes are concerned. According to IRS publication 526, travel costs can be deducted only if there is no “significant element of personal pleasure, recreation or vacation in the travel.”

But paying to work? And working during your vacation time? Some would say that smacks of workaholism. Of course, you’re not doing your own work, you’re in an interesting setting, and—given the right project—you have the opportunity to change, if not the world, at least a tiny part of it.

Those who have ever considered becoming a voluntourist, have probably shared some of my friend’s concerns. “How are you sure they even know what they’re doing?” and, “All this money you’re paying—where does it go?”

Actually, it’s hard to know who’s doing what. The first thing to realize when looking for the right volunteer trip is the over-abundance of possibilities.

Google a country and the word “volunteer,” or even a specific interest, and you’ll be overwhelmed with hits. Does a fancy Web site with all the bells and whistles mean the charity has its act more together? Does a plain Web page mean it’s more sincere, giving more of the proceeds directly to the project? Both are silly ways to evaluate an organization, but it’s hard not to be swayed by a poignant photo.

Read the full article here: http://www.petergreenberg.com/2009/06/22/volunteer-vacations-save-the-sea-turtles-save-the-world/