When most people consider the idea of taking a vacation, one word usually comes to mind – relaxation. With the hectic lifestyle that exists today, vacations offer much-needed relief from the daily hustle and bustle of the business world. For many people, the goals of the vacation are simple: to get away from reality as humanly as possible, to leave behind all the problems associated with work and stress, and to enjoy free time, relaxing with family and friends. While many Americans still prefer the more “traditional” type of vacation, today a relatively new trend is gaining popularity in the tourism industry: volunteerism.
What is volunteerism? As the name suggests, volunteering combines rest and volunteering in the visited destination. Instead of extravagant beach getaways, some Americans share their time with people in need. In fact, according to some recent studies, the number of organizations offering vacation vacations has doubled in the last few years. One of the great things about volunteering is that people of all ages and lifestyles can participate and offer something unique to the cause.
For those who are reluctant to travel abroad or just want to volunteer time for causes in the United States, there are many volunteer opportunities that exist here in your own backyard. The US government has a website (serve.gov) dedicated to helping Americans connect with volunteer opportunities. Websites like these offer a starting point for those who are interested in devoting time and effort to a cause like yours.
In this article, we cover some useful tips for those who are interested in starting a volunteer event.
Maintaining an affordable price
Keeping costs low can make traveling with volunteers even more enjoyable. Every effort should be made to reduce the costs incurred by your volunteers. Think creatively about ways your organization can partner with other local nonprofits to reduce costs. For example, contact local restaurants or churches to see if they would like to provide discounted or free meals for your volunteers. Ideas like these are great ways to reduce costs and make the experience much more enjoyable for your participants. Ultimately, providing an unforgettable experience will help build a lasting relationship with the people involved in your cause – and make them all the more likely to return in the future.
Research Fun things to do in the area
Your location can offer more than you think. Don’t rule out your organization as a potential volunteer destination just because you believe you live in a boring city. Often people ignore the many interesting sites in an area. Do your research. Ask for guides to your country, search the Internet, and maybe even take a trip to explore your location thoughtfully. Amusement parks, monuments, historic sites and even sporting events are great attractions to keep in mind. Be sure to look beyond your backyard – you can find something interesting within hours of your location.
Develop a volunteer management strategy
Holidays for volunteers are quite different from the normal opportunities for volunteers. For volunteers traveling from different countries (perhaps even countries) and staying for weeks at a time, a lack of organization on your part can quickly lead to a negative experience for the 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 online volunteer opportunities – allowing participants to browse and register for events themselves. Nonprofits around the world are turning to cloud-based systems to reduce administrative labor and costs, as well as optimize the entire volunteer management process.
Promote your vacation
A key step in shaping your vacation is to develop an effective marketing plan. How will you spread the word about your event? Marketing is about inventing creative ways to sell your product or, in this case, your “vacation” to your target audience. Put yourself in the shoes of those you are trying to attract. Think about the things you would draw You to volunteer opportunity. When designing an online advertisement or promotional brochure, be sure to include important information such as: the skills required (if any), the duration of the event and any additional arrangements made to reduce participants’ costs (ie food, accommodation) . Also, include a list of attractions in the area so that volunteers can plan their free time in advance.
If you take the time to think outside the box, your organization can easily come up with cheap or even free ways to market your volunteer vacation. For example, networking with organizations outside your area is an effective (and free) method that can help attract people from a different geographic region to your event. Similarly, be sure to promote your opportunity on your own website and consider joining other volunteer sites. Consider using social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkdIn to get attention too.
Start with your volunteer event
When well organized and strategically planned, volunteer vacations benefit all involved. Providing a positive and memorable experience can help your organization develop lasting relationships with volunteers and make them come back for more.