Assessing Volunteer Tourism (Voluntourism) and Traveler Philanthropy

Volunteer Tourism (Voluntourism) Assessment
Posted on: February 28, 2009 Posted by: Kaia Smith Comments: 0

Assessing Volunteer Tourism (Voluntourism) and Traveler Philanthropy

At PEPY, participants volunteer time to a short-term project with the understanding that the most significant part of their contribution is the funds they provide to sustain ongoing projects. Additionally, they receive on-site education which, ideally, translates into future involvement.  We believe that everyone, even “unskilled laborers”, has the ability to contribute. Even if volunteers lack knowledge about the issue or program, they can contribute by learning more and promoting awareness to others, and by providing financial support.

For me, the essentials for successful volunteer tourism are honest marketing (ie: being open about what portion of participant fees are going to the projects they visit and the relationships involved), setting clear expectations both for the communities/programs visited and the travelers, and an understanding of the diagram above. If volunteers are not contributing resources otherwise unavailable (i.e. high-skilled labor), then funding is needed to maintain an overall positive impact.  Those organizations operating in the red area have a tendency to focus more on the needs/wants of the travelers, often conveying a false sense that their impact is extremely positive and necessary, without following through on the commitment to make that statement true. 

I would love to hear your thoughts on this. What do you think about this chart and these ideas?  Please comment below.

* If you are a voluntourism operator and would like to contribute to the creation of a self-check tool on Volunteer Tourism Effective Practices, please contact We’d love your input to help make all of us better volunteer tour operators and participants!