Trad. Non-Profits vs. Volunteer Sending Organizations

The voluntourism field seems to be divided when it comes to the non-profits versus for-profits, but what about within the non-profit sector? I have heard a lot of companies describe themselves in different ways – some are development organizations some are volunteer sending organizations. Now that defining your marketing message is more important  than ever, how do you describe your organization?

Never one to stay away from controversy, I found this blurb in an email I received from a friend in the industry and wanted to get your thoughts on it.

My experience in the non profit world has lead me to see that there two main types of non profits who work with volunteers.  On type is non profits whose mission is centered around a volunteer and the goal is that they have a meaningful experience while make a difference.  Typically these organizations main source of income is the volunteer who pays for the service of the non profit.  Then there are organizations that are more like what has traditionally been a non profit.  Their main mission is the project/cause itself and volunteers are simply a part of accomplishing the mission overall.  It is important that the volunteer help the cause/project first, a meaningful experience is secondary, thought important.  These organizations primarily are funded through grants and donations rather than fees for services.   Grants and donations are to accomplish the cause or the mission and volunteers are one of many ways to accomplish this.

Volunteer Sending Organizations

Primary Mission:  The Volunteer Experience

Secondary Mission:  Sustainable Project/Cause

Primary Income:  Primarily fees for services

Secondary Income: Donations

Traditional Non Profits

Primary Mission:  The Cause/Project  (the orphanage, school, park etc)

Secondary Mission:  The Volunteer Experience

Primary Income:  Donations and Grants

Secondary Income:  Fees for services

Want a better, safer world? Volunteer

Voluntourism covered in the Christian Science Monitor again! Who says this story is dead???

Want a better, safer world? Volunteer By Michael Honda and Thomas Petri

To say that the Peace Corps changed our lives, our perspectives, and now our modus operandi as members of Congress, is a sweeping understatement. Serving in El Salvador and in Somalia respectively, we returned to the United States fundamentally transformed.

The impact was so profound that we are eager to urge every young American to consider serving in the Peace Corps or a domestic equivalent. Aside from the potential personal influence programs such as the Peace Corps can have on the individuals who volunteer, the capacity building is exactly what the world needs during these economic times.

If we could make assignments available to the 15,000 some Peace Corps applicants who applied in the past year, we would. If we could provide all the countries, who would like to host volunteers but don’t, with the human resources necessary to be successful, we would. If we could appropriate sufficient funds so that returning volunteers could continue to give back to underserved communities in the US, we would.

At the crux of this is the concept of service – service to our neighbors, near or far, in desperate need of a helping hand.

This is the ethos that was at the epicenter of Sargent Shriver’s work when he became the first director of the Peace Corps, as well as when he founded VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America), the domestic equivalent. The model for these and other service programs is to recruit, train, and fund volunteers to work in local communities, enhancing skills, capacity, and knowledge in the areas such as education, health, business development, environment, youth, and agriculture.

While the Peace Corps is rightly oriented toward helping the global poor in the far reaches of the developing world, here in our own American backyard we have ample service opportunities – especially in the midst of our economic recession.

America is struggling. It ranks highest among developed nations in inequality levels and poverty rates.

Since joblessness often stems from lack of skills and poor education, one way of increasing employment is to better fund capacity-building service programs within high-need, low-income communities. By doing this, we can equip poor populations with the tools needed to better their economic situation.

Increased service in America can simultaneously make our country and global community safer because employment, education, and peace are interlinked. Statistics tell us, for example, that a 1 percent increase in unemployment is accompanied by a 6 percent increase in homicides. They tell us that a 10 percent drop in male enrollment in secondary school increases the risk of violent conflict by roughly 4 percent. And they show that the higher the percentage living in relative poverty, the higher the number of violent offenses.

Now apply these numbers to a city such as Baltimore, with relatively high unemployment and school dropout rates approaching near-pandemic levels. Baltimore maintains one of the lowest secondary school graduation rates in the country, only about 34 percent who enter, graduate. The fact that the city also tops the charts on violent crime with five times the national murder rate, three times the national robbery rate, and nearly three times the national aggravated assault and arson rates, is not lost on city educators and labor departments.

Or apply these numbers to the US security quagmires, such as the tribal regions between Pakistan and Afghanistan, where unemployment rates are staggeringly high, educational enrollment is low, and average income rates are as meager as $15 per month. The violence there, too, is not coincidental.

Why Pay to Volunteer – How do you answer that question?

‘Why pay to volunteer’ – probably the question we all hear most from potential travelers – how are you answering? If you have a link on your site that explains it then copy and paste below in the comments so we can all learn.

This article is by Le Ann  Joy Adam and I’ve seen it used a lot – my questions are: 1. is this still valid? 2. what would we need to add to encompass the full experience?

Why Pay Money to Volunteer?

Reflections from Nicaragua on the Benefits of Arranged Volunteerism by Le Ann Joy Adam

There was a time when I fully shared the thinly veiled suspicion behind this frequently asked question. At a time when many young people have some of the most sought-after skills in a booming job market, it is easy to understand a student’s reluctance to pay to volunteer. One of the most common requests from my advisees is for assistance finding volunteer opportunities in developing countries, so the issue of why one should pay for placement in a volunteer internship comes up again and again. It would be easy to simply explain that the placement organizations have certain overhead costs. But instead I try to educate them about the realities of short-term volunteer work that I have learned from experience.

Last summer I was a volunteer in Nicaragua for six weeks. The year before that (after Hurricane Mitch), I worked to send medical supplies and other aid to the needy throughout Central America with community groups and Central Americans in the San Francisco Bay Area. I found my niche as an organizer, information resource, and fundraiser, and I felt that I was making the best contribution I could.

I lacked technical knowledge and experience providing aid to victims of natural disasters and feared I would be more a hindrance than a help if I went to Central America then. I did, however, make plans to spend the summer as a volunteer in Nicaragua, after the worst of the crisis had passed. I wanted to use a Spanish language school as a base so I could improve my Spanish, benefit from a homestay, and also have an established connection with the local community. I felt I was experienced and resourceful enough to arrange a volunteer internship on my own and imagined I could save a lot of money with the extra effort. I also wanted to be completely independent of any political or religious affiliation that might influence my experience.

Using the Internet, I searched for nongovernmental development organizations seeking volunteers. Estelí, the second largest city in Nicaragua, has two Spanish language schools, numerous nongovernmental organizations associated with the women’s movement, and a long history of contributions by international volunteers. The organization seemed to offer the potential to work with a variety of community issues: domestic violence, street children, and hurricane recovery efforts. After one phone call and limited email correspondence with the organization, I committed to spending the summer working with them, hoping to learn and to contribute.

When I arrived in Nicaragua, the organization I had planned to work with had fallen victim to a lack of funding and interference from government bureaucracy. However, determined to make good use of my time in Estelí, I studied Spanish in the mornings and in the afternoons worked with members of the community in development projects and political and social action groups.

The Importance of Continuity in Volunteering

Overall, it was a powerful learning experience. But having learned the hard way that the kind of relationship you envision cannot always be established in a short period of time, I now encourage everyone I talk to about volunteer internships to go through a well-established placement organization. Organizations establish long-term relationships with community groups and help compensate them for the time they spend mentoring volunteers. This is particularly important in poor, grass-roots settings.

In Nicaragua, I often heard the comment that “volunteers come and go” without apparent regard for the importance of long-term, sustainable development. I also learned that volunteers are sometimes “more a burden than an asset” to many organizations because of their lack of technical knowledge, language skills, and cultural sensitivity. Yet volunteer programs do benefit the host country’s economy, promote positive values, enrich lives, and serve the important purpose of strengthening the people-to-people ties that have proven such a powerful instrument of international mutual understanding. Placement organizations have invested the necessary time, patience, and resources needed to build trust and ensure safe and appropriate placements for volunteers.

The Benefits of Volunteer Organizations

While going through an organized program can also have its pitfalls the benefits include:

  • Orientation. This usually includes important predeparture reading material as well as on-site orientation on local culture, history, and customs.
  • Language and technical training.
  • Arranged accommodations. A supportive and caring homestay environment provides an important connection to the culture and a first-hand view of social and political events in country.
  • A Safety Net.Staff are there to provide logistical and emotional support.
  • Clear Expectations.The volunteer’s responsibilities are clear and well-defined.
  • Affordability.When you calculate the difference between traveling to a country on your own and the cost of participating in a program, you might be surprised by how little the difference is. Of course, many people successfully arrange their own volunteer internships. But in virtually every case, those who come away with a satisfying experience have strong ties in the host country as well as technical experience or specialized skills in areas such as medicine, teaching English, construction, and agriculture. Even with an organization, there is no guarantee that the experience will be 100 percent trouble-free. Those who want such guarantees should probably consider a vacation on a cruise ship.

My advice to the would-be volunteer with good intentions, great organizational skills, and a real interest in international development and cross-cultural education is to allow an experienced organization to channel that energy, intelligence, good intentions into an established internship program.

LE ANN JOY ADAM worked as the Overseas Resource Coordinator at Stanford Univ. Launches

Global travel discount card now available exclusively for volunteer travelers


 January 27, 2009, Burnsville, MN — Experience all the rewards of volunteer travel and save some money at the same time.volunteercard


International Volunteer card ( has launched a new product that offers volunteer tourists with discounts on travel essentials from guide books to insurance, and 24-hour traveler assistance  from anywhere in the world.  


Voluntourism has surged in popularity among travelers of all ages.  Gen Y and retirees alike are attracted such travel for the opportunity it provides to see the world and make a difference in the local communities they visit.  According to the Adventure Travel Trade Association, 15 million (4%) of US travelers, have taken a volunteer vacation.  In spite of the softening economic climate, this segment is growing three times faster than any other in the travel industry.  


Now volunteer travelers can benefit from over 100,000 products and services offering up to 50% discounts with the International Volunteer Card.  Sample savings include:


·         International Airfare: discounts range across 13 major international airlines

·         Domestic Airfare: 5% on all domestic US flights. (United Airlines)

·         Travel Gear: 5% – 30%  off Backcountry, Rockport, Avis, Eddie Bauer, Sports Authority

·         Travelex Currency Exchange: No Exchange Fees (coming soon)

·         Park and Fly: 50% off

·         Travel Guide Books: 25% off Lonely Planet

·         Passport and Visa Services: 20% off A Briggs

·         Luggage and Travel Accessories: 5% – 25% savings at XSBaggage, Samsonite, Ebay

·         Car Rental: 5% – 30% discount at Avis, Alamo, Hertz

·         Electronics: 40% off Philips electronics

·         Shopping: 10% savings at Target

·         International Phone Card: $5 off eKit


Cardholders will benefit from 24/7 travel assistance from a dedicated service line. Whether they lose luggage, need emergency cash transfers, seek passport assistance, the Volunteer Travel claims team can help members with any travel issues no matter where they are in the world through a free collect call phone number. 


The Volunteer Travel card also includes travel insurance coverage for all volunteer trips taken within the annual membership period – not just for a single trip. Travelers can select from a set of insurance coverage options upon purchasing the card.


Six Volunteer Travel cards with varying ranges of benefits and discounts are available.  Prices range from $25 for a Basic individual card to $85 for a Premium family card.  The cards are valid for purchases made in the US, and are good for one year, renewable annually.  Visit  for more details and to apply for the card. 


Volunteer organizations can join the Volunteer Travel card affiliate program and receive commissions for the number of cards that they sell.  Affiliates will be provided with links to to help drive traffic to their own websites.  Volunteer organizations interested in becoming affiliates should call     877-865-6877     or e-mail for more information.




Sign the Petition to Expand the Peace Corps (please)

A note from Jonathan Pearson of the National Peace Corps Association, this is in everyone’s best interest – help spread the word!


NPCA and our MorePeaceCorps campaign has a major effort underway (through January 10th) to get signatures and on an online petition to President-elect Obama urging him to follow through with his pledges to expand the Peace Corps.  This effort is open to, and strengthened by any and all citizens signing (not just returned Peace Corps volunteers) who believe the Peace Corps is an important part of our outreach to the world.


Anything you and BBC members can do to help spread the word and help us collect thousands of more signatures (we’re currently closing in on 11,000) would be fannnn-tastic!  The petiton allows people to offer comments, but it’s not mandatory.  So, it only takes a few minutes to make a huge difference.


Here’s the link to the petition:  Please spread it as far and wide as you can!  




Ambassadors for Children – Targeting Niche Markets

Ambassadors for Children founder, Dr. Sally Brown, was nice enough to take the time and share part of her recipe for success: differentiating in a competitive market.


“Voluntourism for Ambassadors for Children has been led to niche markets that include humanitarian work as

well as adventure travel, yoga retreats, and women only programs.    


Adventure travel include trekking the Inca Trail to Machu Pichu in Peru along with working in a local villages on a feeding program.     Mixing yoga and humanitarian work have been very popular to trips to Rishikesh, India and Costa Rica.    In Rishikesh, the Yoga Capital of the World, a trip is offered during the International Yoga Festival late February each year.    


Women Only trips are offered to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico where camaraderie is built through working together with children and enjoying this destination.”    


Read more about AFC’s programs in the latest article on voluntourism that came out in the Indianapolis Star this week: as well as Biz Voice


Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!!

ProWorld – Mixing Study Abroad with Volunteering

Adam Saks of ProWorld Service Corps discusses the need for sustainability and community service in study abroad programs. 

Have a thought? Have a comment? Want to start a debate? That’s what the comments section is for. Just click on the blog title and then you will see space to leave a comment.  


ProWorld strives for sustainable study abroad.  We believe for it to be sustainable, study abroad must address economic development, social development and environmental protection. 




Commercial globalization outpaces our understanding of social, economic and cultural realities outside our own. Students must continue to be exposed to other cultures and other social, economic, and environmental imperatives before us. Study abroad offers an extraordinary opportunity to expose students to these global realities that are tied more and more to their own futures as the world’s changing social, economic and environmental well-being offers us one shared destiny.


Impact on Study Abroad

ProWorld positions its Study Abroad programs to engage in sustainability. We work to combine our year-round sustainable development work with high level academics and authentic cross-cultural exchange to offer deep cultural and socio-economic insights to our participants. The benefits and impact this has on the educational experience are profound. These growth opportunities allow participants to do more than bear witness to the struggles of daily life abroad. The nature of project engagement allows students to strive for and share in the periodic successes that are a part of our ongoing community outreach and development projects.


A Model of Sustainability

The ProWorld Service Corps is a social enterprise committed to social and economic development, empowering communities and cultivating educated compassionate global citizens. PWSC employs a self sustaining business model and not-for-profit organizations to fund 99% of its development efforts. As a social enterprise committed to sustainable development of its communities, it is also fundamentally self-sustaining and self-sufficient in its means of funding its own work within the communities.