Check out Hopify, a New Platform for Volunteering – Or a Scam???

Below is the initial post and then I realized that half of this video was stolen from Daniela Papi and PEPY Ride’s work. So clearly, like many things voluntourism, Hopify is not what it appears to be. They also have no contact information anywhere. So let’s all stay away.


Hopify’s aim is to create an independent platform, not connected to project or tourist operators, to link potential voluntourists to meaningful projects.

Check out their presentation video

Watch this space! These guys seem to have a good grasp of what’s needed.


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Well, the landscape has changed and the information on the previous publication is outdated.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 or to Alexia at

And to those that have already responded: Thank you!


  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?


  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 or to Alexia at

Attention all PhD / Masters Thesis Voluntourism Researchers!

Daniela sent me the below, I totally agree – we get these emails all the time!
It seems that every few days I get an email from another person who is doing their PhD or masters thesis on the impacts of volunteer travel, orphanage tourism, pro-poor tourism, etc…. Is there a place on the web where all of these people can post up a list of what exactly they are focusing on in their research, as I think it would be so interesting to see where there is overlap, what people are interested in, and what gaps there are.  If there isn’t already a place for this…… how about we make this it?!?!  Let us know what you are researching as it relates to voluntourism/travelers philanthropy/or other related topics, where you are studying, and any other things you want to share!
Maybe some of you who are doing all this research want to start a blog or a share center and we can refer everyone that calls/emails us to it???

If Everyone Loves Your Travel Marketing, It Isn’t Any Good

Love this article by Alexi, had to share – view the full article here:

There is an old adage that has long been a barometer used by travelers (as opposed to tourists) when choosing a destination:

Bad roads = good tourists.
Good roads = bad tourists.

Until now, that is.

The World Tourism Organization reported over a billion tourist arrivals in 2012, up from 350 Million in 1987. The fastest growing segment of the tourism industry? Geotourism, which includes ecotourism, cultural tourism and adventure travel is growing at 17% per year while mainstream tourism is growing at only 4% per year.

The increase in global tourism combined with the growing popularity of Geotourism has been a financial success for tourism suppliers and destinations that cater to this market. That’s good news.

The bad news is that those bad roads (or no roads) leading to awesome destinations are a lot more crowded than before. Tourists are no longer perched in rental cars at the edge of the concrete where it meets the dust, afraid to lurch forward and discover what’s past the bend. They know what’s past the bend.

Why? Because we told them.

As travel marketers, we’ve all been trained to think of our marketing efforts as a tackle box of lures—travel marketing as an attractor. People pay lip service to the importance of a target audience but in reality most travel marketers are chumming the waters hoping for a bite, no matter what kind of tourist they drag in.

But great travel marketing is not about being a bigger lure. It’s about being a better filter.

Admittedly, there already exists a fair amount of filtering in travel marketing. Unfortunately, it’s filtering by price. The result is that places eventually become exclusive domains for the wealthy or overpopulated resorts for the price conscious. Think Monaco versus Daytona Beach.

Travel is a contact sport. Who we see in the hotel bar, on the chairlift or out in the lineup affects the experience. In travel, the experience is the brand. In other words, who you invite to the party determines what kind of party you’re going to have.

And homogenization of any kind makes for a very boring party.

Walking the Walk

Travel marketers need to look deeply into their brands and uncover their true sense of purpose. While this may sound philosophical, it is in-fact exceedingly pragmatic for filter marketing.

If your purpose is to “create memorable experiences for travelers frustrated with the airline industry,” like it is for Nature Air, then delaying a flight to transport an injured dolphin is on brand. If a passenger complains? Here’s a full refund and the telephone numbers to the other airlines you should fly. “Thanks, but no thanks.”

We must tell stories that are effective in attracting the right travelers and alienating the wrong ones. For years, research indicated that the average traveler’s perception of Montana was, “There’s nothing there.” So, how do you turn a potentially negative perception into a meaningful marketing campaign? You tell your audience what they already know—“There’s Nothing Here.” That campaign ignited the interest of the core audience and let the state’s non-core audience know exactly what to expect (and not expect) from a trip to Montana.

How do we know filter marketing works? Because the wrong types of customers just stop calling. This is where most travel marketers get freaked out. Influencing some people to stop calling is simply not in their DNA. It runs counter to everything they try so hard to do (i.e. get the phone to ring), particularly in a seasonal business like travel.

What’s the alternative? Getting people to buy who don’t value your purpose. These travelers will never be happy with whatever you deliver and more importantly they’ll make every other traveler around them miserable as well.

We don’t just advise clients on filter marketing. We do it for ourselves. For example, we publish our manifesto on our site. If you like what you’ve read, we’d love to hear from you. If you don’t, you probably won’t call, and that’s fine by us.

A Billion Baby Turtles

We all have done or offer to clients a sea turtle project – everyone loves them and the imagery associated is great. Below is an article written by an expert in the field I thought you might enjoy!



A Billion Baby Turtles

-Dr. Wallace J. Nichols

If you’ve watched Animal Planet you know that odds are generally working against sea turtles.

From the moment an egg is deposited in a sandy nest on a tropical beach, to the first time a baby turtle touches the sea, to decades later when she returns as an adult to lay her own eggs on very same beach, life is an endless series of life-and-death challenges for a sea turtle.

Nature is stacked against survival, which is why a mother turtle lays thousands of eggs during her lifetime in order to simply replace herself. Predators include dozens of species of crabs, beetles, ants, birds, fish, and sharks. Jaguars, pigs, wild dogs, and raccoons are even on the list of turtle eaters.

For millions of years, sea turtles handled it all just fine.

Yet, when you add modern humans to the mix, the balance suddenly tipped towards oblivion. Over the past century all seven species of sea turtle and their eggs have been hunted, carved, and eaten to the point that many populations are considered vulnerable to extinction. Getting caught accidentally in fishing nets and on hooks just adds to their woes. Throw in plastic pollution, boat collisions, and runaway coastal development on their nesting beaches and you’ve got a situation requiring intervention on a global scale.

But this isn’t a bad news story. That’s because over the past several decades a massive global network of sea turtle scientists, advocates, conservationists, and even lawyers has evolved to work day and night to bring them back. These heroes have been literally working around the clock, saving one egg-—one baby turtle-—at a time. At other times they’ll invest months to rehabilitate a single adult animal before returning it to the ocean. Every turtle released into the ocean is a moment of joy for everyone involved. It never gets old.

Think about it—while you sleep tonight, thousands of scientists, technicians and volunteers are saving sea turtles on the beaches of the world.

These projects are run on “Turtle Time.” Slow, steady, and tenacious wins the race. It takes as long as twenty-five years for a turtle to reach maturity, and return on that turtle-y kind of investment can come slowly.

Turtle people are above all patient and hard working. Many projects have been steadily protecting turtles for more than thirty years. Their work is paying off. Some turtle populations are now on the rise after nose-diving to near extinction before that.

The Black Sea Turtle Project in Michoacan, Mexico celebrated its thirtieth anniversary this year and is experiencing its best season since its inception after watching the numbers of nesting female turtles bounce along the bottom of the graph for a decade.

Its sister project, Grupo Tortuguero, working to safeguard black turtles in feeding grounds a thousand miles away in Baja, is turning fifteen in January.

Turtle hunters and poachers in Mexico have had a change of heart and are now turtle protectors and guides. Everyone reports seeing more sea turtles in the ocean and on the beaches.

Now is not the time to let up, though. To get sea turtles back to their former abundance and to restore their ecological role in the ocean this is just half time.

We know exactly what to do. We just need to continue to execute the game plan.hatchling

Along with my friends Brad Nahill at SEEtheWILD and Fabien Cousteau at Plant a Fish, we came up with the idea of the Billion Baby Turtles, an initiative to help support groups working on the sea turtle front lines. To make a million more adult turtles we need a billion more baby turtles. It’s a one in a thousand situation out there, roughly speaking.

By creatively connecting individuals and small businesses with grassroots projects working to increase sea turtle production, we are helping overcome donor fatigue, burn out, and other second half challenges.

In the coming years we will collaborate widely to further expand the global sea turtle tribe, widen the base of donors through micro-philanthropy, and throw our support behind the men and women working for turtles on the front lines in their coastal communities around the world.

Forty years ago sea turtle pioneer, Dr. Archie Carr, described what it would take to save sea turtles.

“In the long run, marine turtles, like the seas themselves, will be saved only by wholehearted international cooperation at the government level. While waiting for it to materialize, the critical tactical needs seem to me to be three in number: more sanctuaries, more research, and a concerted effort by all impractical, visionary, starry-eyed, and anti-progressive organizations, all little old ladies in tennis shoes, and all persons able to see beyond the ends of their noses…”

That is almost legendary substance.

While high-level official negotiations continue, and the large agencies and organizations fight for pro-ocean and pro-turtle policies, why don’t we all do our small part for sea turtles?

A billion baby sea turtles?


Why don’t YOU lead one to the water?

Join us on Facebook to Help Spread the Word About Billion Baby Turtles & Win Great Prizes.

Bio: Dr. Wallace “J.” Nichols is a scientist, activist, community organizer, author and dad. He works to inspire a deeper connection with nature, sometimes simply by walking and talking, other times through writing or images. He is co-founder of SEE Turtles, SEEtheWILD, & LiVBLUE among other organizations.

Welcome Sarah to the VoluntourismGal Team!

After chatting with lots of different parties about the fate of the blog, I decided the best thing would be to have Sarah Vandenberg join me as a fellow blogger! Most of you know her from the industry but in case you dont see below. Welcome Sarah!

Sarah Vandenberg is a volunteer travel researcher and consultant, providing advice and insight both for travelers and for volunteer abroad providers.

She is the founder of and former director of operations for Volunteer Global, and transitioned recently to editor-in-chief of Frayed Passport. She has written for Vagabundo, Go Overseas, and other publications and websites, and has provided volunteer abroad consultation services for providers in Central America and the Caribbean. 

Sarah has volunteered in the United States, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Jamaica, and Honduras, and has traveled in Asia and Europe. She is currently based in Brooklyn, NY and loves to take weekend trips to Boston and Washington, DC.

You can contact Sarah for questions, consultations, and comments at