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Could volunteer tourism be a part of your stewardship strategy?

Howard Lake | 24 June 2008 | Blogs

One of the ways NGOs in developing countries mobilise resources for their work is through attracting paying volunteers to spend time with them. Colobus Trust on the East Coast of Kenya is a good example. Volunteers stay for periods from a few weeks to several months and help with the conservation work of the trust. http://www.colobustrust.org/trust/volunteering.html
Mafaniko, also based in Kenya has a similar offering but this time in the area of community development.http://www.mafanikio.com/WorkCampBrochure2008.pdf
As well as volunteering holidays some NGOs organise eco-tourism and community tourism trips. I rember visiting an Oxfam partner in Brazil which was developing community tourism in the north east of the country. A WSPA member society in Armenia who we are working with currently is just venturing into the ecotourism field. http://www.ariah.am/ecotourism/index.html
In fundraising we know that there is no more powerful experience for a donor than seeing the work first hand. But for larger charities working internationally this is a challenge. The staff time and other costs involved in taking donors to see programmes overseas can usually only be justified for a small number of major donors.
Working with partners interested in developing volunteering or other tourism initiatives as resource generating projects might offer a win-win for all parties. The local partner NGO gets an additional income source, reducing reliance on grants, the donor NGO is able to offer its donors volunteering and travel opportunities at minimal cost to itself, and the donors get access to life changing experiences.
Cautious fundraising managers may fear donors will defect and start funding local partners directly once they are put in touch. I doubt this. I think they are more likely to increase their giving.