Taking Responsibility for Volunteering - WTM 2013


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What can the industry do to improve the experience for volunteers and to ensure that the communities with whom the volunteers work benefit? Whose responsibility is it to ensure that the experience is not mis-sold, that the volunteers are well managed and cared for and that the work of the volunteers makes a useful contribution to local communities and their environment?

Here, I argue it starts with the volunteers, who must take responsibility first and foremost on the pre-confirmation journey to placements.

Published in: Travel, Education
  • you need to workon getting the message out there please Vicky - your research and information is important -volunteers need help to fight their way throuh the smoke and mirrors! @vicklousmith
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  • Thanks, People and Places. As you know. awareness is growing that there are unscrupulous organisations out there (unlike yours!), volunteers really need to choose carefully. It's not easy but it is possible - just takes a little time to review the offerings and often not jump at the first obvious big brands of commercial companies.
    Well done to you for winning the Responsible Tourism award in the past for volunteering, and this year for campaigning. Happy to support responsible organisations :)
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  • There’s been immense growth of volunteer tourism demand and organisations since I first volunteered abroad in the mid 90s.
    How do potential volunteers tell the difference between responsible organisations and those who are not when all the marketing copy appears to same very similar things?
    My MSc dissertation addressed this question, creating an analysis tool to differentiate responsible content and measuring results of a variety of NGOs, commercial businesses and social enterprises against each other.
    Today, I’m going to talk about that a little from the potential volunteer’s perspective, and the user journey they should follow for bringing more responsibility into volunteer tourism.
  • Marketing is key to Responsible Tourism as it influences perceptions, expectations and experiences of tourists and hosts alike.
    Organisations have responsibility to market and set expectations correctly. But this is too infrequently happening.
    Ultimately because volunteer tourism is a business, and not a charity
    as such, commercial marketing is employed
    Most definitions focus on customer need and satisfaction for profit, such as those from Kotler above.
  • Seemingly altruistic marketing messages mask commercial operations
    This creates Unrealistic demand-led, organisation-profit-based marketing
    largely inconsiderate of host community environmental and social costs,
    Creates dissatisfaction and negative consequences – for volunteers and destinations alike.
    it’s up to VOLUNTEERS themselves to take responsibility!
    It is volunteers who create the demand which shapes the product.
    First responsibility is being responsible in consumer behaviour & choice!
  • Without the regulation in the industry, organisations can take advantage
    There are a number of voluntary guidelines in the voluntourism market,
    Volunteers may be more confused by competing standards
    which do they follow?
    Volunteers (or parents!) need to understand for themselves to make SMARTER choices.
  • Research from Google shows 5 stages of travel
    Volunteers need to be smarter in each and every stage
    1) Travellers start with the dream
  • And go on to planning:
    85% of leisure travellers consider the Internet their main source for planning travel
    For volunteer tourism, I would suggest this is even higher, 95-100%
    voluntourism has grown and developed mainly in Internet days
    brochures and travel agent sales channels thus never developed
  • 1st, consumers need to be Smarter about their searches,
    where Dreaming and planning usually starts, most often google.
    More commercially-focused organisations have resources for SEM and are achieving higher ranks in search engine results, thus traffic & demand, their undfferentiated content responding to user searches.
    The volume of key phrases such as “responsible volunteer” and “sustainable volunteer” are a mere drop in the ocean compared to generic search key phrases used by potential volunteers.
    Volunteers need to be aware and take responsibility for how they search
    use defined key phrases which search out responsible operations
  • 2ndly, Consumers need to be smarter about the motivationsUnderstanding what motivates tourists to volunteer is key to their product and brand choices. They may be:
    Vacation-minded: adventure, explore; mental escape, re-vitalisation; friends
    Education-minded: personal or professional development, cultural
    Volunteer-minded: genuinely have a positive impact , be useful
    Volunteers need to be honest about their own motivations to find the right project match and not be disappointed.
  • 3rdly, travellers are increasingly booking via the Internet, which offers greater transparency.
    If consumers shop around extensively for holidays:
    With volunteer tourism, why are people less discerning?
    Is it because it appears “charitable” so you can’t question motives & value?
    Is it unethical to ask about the actual delivery of marketing promises?
    Shouldn’t you have consumer rights over mis-selling or fraudulent claims?
    Volunteer apathy is what is letting many organisations take advantage.
  • Caveat Emptor is a legal concept that says “let the buyer beware” ;
    that the buyer buys at his/her own risk and therefore should examine a product himself/herself for obvious defects and imperfections.
    in many other areas, modern consumer protection laws have minimised the importance of this
    The lack of regulation of voluntourism means it is imperative to protect yourself as a volunteer.
    Volunteers must not let themselves be bitten on the bum!
  • Shopping around is not just about price, but the VALUE of the potential placement - for everybody involved.
    Potential volunteers therefore need to be much smarter in assessing how responsible an organisation is.
    It’s not easy, but it is possible.
    Volunteers: it’s your expectations, your money, your experience, your responsibility to assess and accept a suitable partner, project and place.
  • 4thly, travellers expect a more informed and collaborative travel experience
    Volunteers’ pre-placement information and training is part of the experience, of a brand, product, the project and the place too.
  • The one thing that all marketing is about is relationships
    It’s about messaging and connecting multiple stakeholders to achieve a mutually beneficial result
    Every volunteer touch point has ability to cultivate or damage relationships.
    The sending agency is like a dating agency; match-making projects & volunteers
    They are the important first impression, introduction and support.
    Those who are responsible volunteers will take time to court,
    focus on sincere intent, spend quality time together to establish a true meaningful connection, compatibility and partnership
    based on true motivations and mutual benefit for the sustainable long term.
    (or realise they’re wrong for each other)
    Volunteers who don’t take any personal responsibility inputting for the right match are heading out on a blind date,.
    They may be lucky, but with the number of organisations in the marketplace vs the number of responsible ones, more than likely they may not;
  • - Relationships are bound to fail if not built on trust.
    - Trust requires honesty.
    Honesty is transparent, clear, specific, unquestionable, factual, consistent , congruent, aligned (policies, products and placements)
    - Realistic expectations can be set about what each party will bring to the relationship & the difference it will make, so no one is let down, disillusioned
    - So trust builds longer term reputation and relationships (CRM!)
    - Organisations can gain sustainable competitive advantage for potential repeat business & testimonials for new business
  • Transparency will offer supporting evidence
    If an operator makes a claim, is there evidence?
    If there’s a claim, potential volunteers need to question HOW?
  • 5th Stage of travel from Google is Sharing.
    Social Media offers the current travel marketplace great opportunities
    for inspiring and informing
    through reviewing and sharing
    This is great marketing for specialist responsible tourism businesses to reach their target markets.
  • Volunteers needs to be smarter with reviews, both reading and writing.
    Social media sharing holds organisations to account!
  • Voluntourism is a business which responds to demand
    - It’s up to volunteers to demand responsibility.
    Volunteers thus need to choose wisely.
    To make SMARTER choices….
    As this blog post says…
  • Taking Responsibility for Volunteering - WTM 2013

    1. 1. Taking Responsibility for Volunteering Vicky Smith WTM Responsible Tourism 7th November 2013 1
    2. 2. A little bit about me.. • 18 years in travel industry • From rep/resort manager • Late 90s > web development & online marketing manager • Tour ops, OTAs, aggregators • Personal voluntourism • FGASA ranger qualified • Charity challenge/ project marketing & trip guide • Organise #RTUnite • MSc Responsible Tourism Management • MSc Thesis: Marketing Responsible Volunteer Tourism Online 2
    3. 3. Marketing is… “the science and art of exploring, creating, and delivering value to satisfy the needs of a target market at a profit…” (Kotler, 2012) ...focused on volunteer & financial satisfaction 3
    4. 4. Organisations can too easily ignore… • • • • • • Destination needs Project requirements Stakeholder governance Financial accountability Impacts on the environment and culture Enhancing society well-being …Unless the target market demand it 4
    5. 5. Especially with no clear regulation http://xkcd.com/927 The target market needs to be SMARTER! 5
    6. 6. The 5 Stages of Travel: 1 Dreaming ...Volunteers need to be SMARTER in each stage 6
    7. 7. The 5 Stages of Travel: 2 Planning Starting at source with the Internet 7
    8. 8. Be Smarter with Search Common Keywords Used •Like much marketing: •Vague, undifferentiated •Focus on CV, financial, destinations •Responsible or sustainable key phrases rarely figure •Use them to find operators who claim to be so! Keyword volunteer abroad volunteering abroad projects abroad original volunteers gap year programs teach english abroad teaching english abroad volunteer abroad for free charity work abroad working holidays gap years volunteer work abroad voluntary work abroad internships abroad volunteer africa volunteer jobs voluntary organisations volunteering jobs free volunteering abroad volunteering abroad for free voluntary service overseas voluntary jobs volunteer holidays responsible volunteering sustainable volunteering 8 Avg. monthly searches 9900 6600 4400 4400 2900 2400 2400 1300 1300 1300 1300 1000 1000 1000 880 880 880 720 590 590 590 590 590 10 10
    9. 9. Be sMarter about Motivations… • Vacation-, educationand/or volunteer-minded Volunteer needs Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs ↓ based on • Destination needs Volunteers genuinely want/need to positively contribute & help, for own higher needs …so not be disappointed 9
    10. 10. The 5 Stages of Travel: 3 Booking Compare for project transparency & value… 10
    11. 11. Volunteers are complicit too! Volunteers must take personal responsibility 11
    12. 12. Be smArter Assessing responsibility • Appraise project objectives vs. your real motivations • Assess skills required vs. skills offered • Assess project content against the RT policy • Audit what’s included vs. what’s not • Assess price levels between organisations • Ask what’s not evident • Make organisations answerable to gaps • Hold organisations accountable for claims • Own skills assessed • Seek appropriate match …assume nothing! 12
    13. 13. The 5 Stages of Travel: 4 Experiencing More informed & collaborative travel expected 13
    14. 14. Nurture smaRter Relationships …find your match! 14
    15. 15. Be smarTer – look for Transparency 15
    16. 16. Be smartEr – review the Evidence •No mention of skills, costs, objectives, impacts, time... •No evidence of claims Scrutinise & ask HOW??? 16
    17. 17. The 5 Stages of Travel: 5 Sharing Review your own trips to inspire and inform 17
    18. 18. Be smarteR with Reviews • Read Reviews when • Give back! Write return reviews dreaming & planning • Blog, Facebook, Twitter • Operator & review sites …hold operators accountable! 18
    19. 19. Volunteers - be SMARTER with Searching Motivations Assessing Relationships Transparency Evidence Reviews “As volunteers, we need to be “As volunteers, we need to be smarter. We need to dig deeper. smarter. We need to dig deeper. We need to hold ourselves, the We need to hold ourselves, the volunteer organizations and the volunteer organizations and the orphanages at which we’re orphanages at which we’re placed accountable. Otherwise, placed accountable. Otherwise, we readily become part of the we readily become part of the problem rather than part of the problem rather than part of the solution. We doom the very solution. We doom the very people we came to nurture.” people we came to nurture.” Lela Barker, Lucky Break Consulting Lela Barker, Lucky Break Consulting God’s Grace Orphanage in Uganda, Part 44 God’s Grace Orphanage in Uganda, Part 19
    20. 20. Thank You Follow @Vicky Smith For Responsible / Volunteer Tourism / Online 20