When most people consider the idea of taking a vacation, one word tends to comes to mind – relaxation. With the hyper-busy lifestyle that exists today, a vacation offers a much-needed relief to the everyday hustle-and-bustle of the business world. For many, the vacation objectives are simple: to get as far away from reality as humanly possible, to leave all work-related issues and stressors behind, and to enjoy the time off relaxing with family and friends. While many Americans still prefer the more "traditional" type of vacation, a relatively new trend is gaining much popularity in the travel industry today: voluntourism.
What is voluntourism? As the name implies, voluntourism combines vacationing and volunteering at the destination visited. Instead of extravagant beach getaways, some Americans are sharing their time with people in need. In fact, according to some recent studies, the number of organizations offering volunteer vacations has doubled over the past few years. One of the many great things about voluntourism is that people of all ages and lifestyles can participate and offer something unique to the cause.
For those who aren't too keen on traveling overseas or simply want to volunteer their time to causes within the United States, there are many voluntoursim opportunities that exist here in your own backyard. The US government has a site (serve.gov) dedicated to helping Americans connect with volunteering opportunities. Websites like these offer a starting point for those interested in giving their time and efforts to a cause like yours.
In this article, we cover a few helpful tips for those interested in launching a voluntourism event.
Keeping It Affordable
Keeping expenses low can make a voluntourism trip even more enjoyable. Every effort should be made to reduce the expenses incurred by your volunteers. Think creatively for ways that your organization can partner with other local nonprofits and businesses to reduce costs. For example, contact local restaurants or churches to see if they would be willing to provide reduced-cost or free meals for your volunteers. Ideas like these are great ways to reduce costs and make the experience that much more enjoyable for your participants. After all, providing a memorable experience will help to build a lasting relationship with the individuals involved in your cause – and make them that much more likely to return in the future.
Research Fun Things To Do In The Area
Your location may have more to offer than you think. Don't rule out your organization as a potential voluntourism destination just because you believe that you live in a boring city. Often times, people overlook the many interesting sites in an area. Do your research. Request travel guides for your state, search the Internet, and maybe even take a road trip to explore your location with an open mind. Recreational parks, monuments, historical sites, and even sporting events are great attractions to keep in mind. Remember to look beyond your backyard – you may find something of interest as much as a couple hours from your location.
Develop A Strategy For Volunteer Management
Volunteer vacations are quite different than normal volunteer opportunities. With volunteers traveling from different states (perhaps even countries) and staying for weeks at a time, a lack of organization on your part can quickly result in a negative experience for participants. For this reason, it is important to consider how your organization will manage, track, and communicate with volunteers. If your nonprofit still relies solely on a paper-based event management system, it may be time to consider updating it to an electronic volunteer management system . With an electronic system, your organization can publish volunteer opportunities online – enabling participants to browse and sign up for events on their own. Nonprofits across the globe are turning to cloud-based systems to reduce administrative labor and costs as well as streamline the entire volunteer management process.
Promote Your Volunteer Vacation
A key step in the formation of your volunteer vacation is to develop an effective marketing plan. How will you spread the word about your event? Marketing is all about coming up with creative ways to sell your product, or in this case your "vacation", to your target audience. Put yourself in the shoes of those whom you are trying to attract. Think about the things that would draw you to a volunteer opportunity. When designing an online ad or promotional brochure, remember to include important information such as: required skills (if any), duration of event, and any additional arrangements that have been made to reduce your participants' costs (ie food, lodging). Also, include a list of area attractions so voluntourists can plan their free time in advance.
If you take a moment to think outside of the box, your organization can easily come up with inexpensive or even free ways to market your volunteer vacation. For example, networking with organizations outside of your area is an effective (and free) method that can help to attract people from a different geographic region to your event. Likewise, be sure to promote your opportunity on your own website and check out the possibility of getting listed on other voluntourism sites. Consider using social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkdIn to get attention too.
Get Started With Your Voluntour Event
When well-organized and strategically planned, volunteer vacations benefit everyone involved. Providing a positive and memorable experience can help your organization develop lasting relationships with voluntourists and keep them coming back for more.