GeoVisions Blog

Is Voluntourism Really A Compromised Industry?

Posted by Randy LeGrant on Tue, Nov 29, 2011
On 24 November, cnngo.com ran an article by Richard Stupart entitled "Voluntourism does more harm than good."  The tag line read, "Orphan-huggers create a market for orphans; well-builders take work from locals; and other things ethical travelers should know."

I'm going to approach Mr. Stupart's article from two perspectives:
  1. He's right.
  2. But the focus really should be on "The result has been a boom in tour companies offering voluntourism opportunities in a wide range of destinations, catering to all levels of commitment."
cashing in on voluntourismI have noticed that everyone is cashing in on Voluntourism (including the press) and I wish some great writer out there would do an article on the damage THAT causes.  Bugger the "goodie-two-shoes" articles. Those people are just there and will insert themselves into a situation abroad and at home because they simply have nothing else to do.  Resorts, cruise lines and hotels offer 2-3 hour voluntourism projects and call it sustainable tourism.

Mr. Stupart sums it up nicely and as accurately as I've ever seen it put.  "There can be no easy decisions when attempting to weigh up how to volunteer, or whether to volunteer at all.  Nevertheless, there is a world of difference between ill-considered decisions taken for the purpose of stroking a traveler's ego, and subjective decisions to volunteer after properly considering as much of the moral and practical detail of your engagement as possible."

For quite sometime, GeoVisions has provided a document, "Where Does My Money Go" in answer to that exact question by some of our volunteers.  And on many of our program pages, we actually provide a list of items that get paid with a volunteer's money.  This activity came with trying to be "all things transparent."

How wonderful would it be if all of the responsible voluntourism providers (really, there are a few) wrote their own document explaining why volunteers participate on their projects and precisely (measured objectively) what good comes from it.
  • How will your work be more beneficial than sending money?
  • If you and your friends invested money in a project abroad (after doing research and interviewing project directors), would that be more sustainable?
  • On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the highest, how much of wanting to go abroad is all about your ego?  Or that you had horrible parents?
  • Why aren't you voluntouring in your own country?
  • Why are you taking a tax deduction on volunteering abroad? Why aren't you spending money in your own country, and giving up the tax deduction to pay your fair share?
  • How much research did you do about where you're going and why you should even be there?

Those are questions we have been asking ourselves here at GeoVisions over the last year.  And what are the answers? 

When we answered these questions we closed 50 of our voluntourism projects.  We have only a few now and most of them are hands-on medical for people going into or already in the medical field.  We have a last few remaining "long tails" and most will be fading away over the course of 2012.

But GeoVisions is in business, right?  So what are we doing instead?

two people communicatingGlad you asked.  We invented programs that focus on cultural exchange first.  Then, if you want, you can do some volunteering like teaching a family conversational English or helping kids with their homework.  Something that first of all exchanges two cultures, something that then focuses on communicating with one another.  And finally, something that allows for a little local volunteering and sharing.

Of course our most innovative programs were copied.

Last year I even saw 8 volunteer abroad senders providing the same program in India, all sending to the same receiver.  All of the programs were packaged differently, all charging different prices.  Never let it be said that some of my friendly competitors have but one brain shared between them all.

2 years ago GeoVisions could market our programs with two online search engines (we refuse to participate with Google Ad Words).  Now we have a minimum of four additional search engines for volunteer and teach abroad.  There are a multitude of online review sites…mini TripAdvisor sites trying to ratchet up online traffic and therefore dollars.

GeoVisions has double the competition we did from 2009.  Double the senders, and probably more than double the receivers.

There are operators who start their Google Ads with, "Volunteer Abroad For $160" and "Volunteer Abroad - $180. American volunteers wanted for affordable volunteer trips abroad!"

When we all cash in, we ethically bankrupt ourselves.

When you look for ways to make money from an industry rather than looking for ways to serve that industry, you add to the problem.  What am I writing?  You ARE the problem.

holding the world in your hands

When you use price to round up self-serving volunteers to attend flim-flam projects, you add to the problem. When you copy programs and other people's ideas, you add to the problem.  When you don't belong to global organizations focused on building best practices, you add to the problem.

I have heard a few of my competitors say, "More volunteer abroad senders?  Great, that means more volunteers out in the world."  To that I reply, "Hogwash."  The industry is watered-down because of those who have piled on and thought this might be an easy way to prey on well-meaning people and cash in.  And on this, I am being very kind.

I continue to read publicly that "Voluntourism will likely always remain a compromised industry."  Mr. Stupart even wrote that last week.

I do think it is interesting to note, as I end this post, that Save The Children does not allow volunteers on their projects.  That is to say they do not allow you to call up, and explain that you want to go volunteer in Ethiopia on one of their end child hunger projects.  You can volunteer in their Westport, CT or Washington, DC offices in marketing, finance and social media.  But you're not allowed on a Save the Children project as a volunteer.

I hope, if you're reading this, you are not asking yourself, "why"?

Tags: Responsible Travel, Volunteer Locally, Why Do I Have To Pay To Volunteer, Tax Deductions, Volunteering Abroad, Volunteer/Work Abroad Industry Updates, Randy LeGrant

Either Way You Will Pay To Volunteer Abroad

Posted by Randy LeGrant on Wed, Dec 01, 2010

A volunteer in s. africaA week or two ago, almost fearless, Christine Gilbert's Blog, ran a guest post entitled "Should You Pay to Volunteer Abroad?" The post was from Shannon Whitehead who took two years out to volunteer abroad and ended up not paying much at all for the experience.

I actually really did like Shannon's post, even as GeoVisions indeed charges for volunteer abroad experiences. We try to keep our fees among the lowest...sometimes we can, sometimes we can't. But what I liked about Shannon's post was that she demonstrated how she actually volunteered without having to pay a lot of money for the experience.

Shannon left alone the article that spawned the post...the article in the Guardian UK entitled Before You Pay To Volunteer Abroad, Think Of The Harm You Might Do. Shannon, instead, focused on what motivated her to volunteer, how it helped both her AND the communities and how she did it for next to nothing. I didn't find much of anything in the Guardian's article to write about, except to say I'd prefer journalists and researchers to actually go volunteer for a time and then write about it.

I was drawn to Shannon's post and I also wanted to thank Christine Gilbert for running it. It's true, you don't need to pay organizations to send you to volunteer.  But you are going to have to pay to volunteer...no two ways about it.

It is also true there are some organizations out there charging many thousands of dollars for a volunteer abroad opportunity. And it is no secret that you will almost always be able to find the same experience in the same community for the same length of time at half the price.

You don't need to pay to volunteer, but most people will. You don't need to buy vegetables at the market because after all, you can grow them yourself. But most people will buy their veggies rather than grow them.

You can volunteer abroad for (almost) nothing. And do all the work Shannon did. And personally, I applaud her for making this happen in her life. And you can also spend some time researching projects and the pricing of those projects.

a volunteer waving goodbyeShannon writes about her project in Cambodia. It is exactly that type of experience we tell everyone about in our Why Do I Have To Pay To Volunteer page on our website. "I would need to find my own housing and pay for my meals and transport, but [the organization's director] invited me to volunteer for “free,” pending I gave a small donation that would go directly to the children."

Either you go on your own and pay your airfare, housing, meals and transport or you pay someone else to grow the veggies for you.

Please read the post. It's really good. And if you're interested in a list of organizations who don't charge a ton of money to volunteer abroad, Shannon provides it along with the urls.

We would love to hear from you about this post in the Comments section below.

Tags: Why Do I Have To Pay To Volunteer, Make Something Happen, Volunteering Abroad

All I Need Is A Really Cool Flag

Posted by Randy LeGrant on Mon, Oct 11, 2010

A former student of mine posted this today on his Facebook Wall:

Happy Columbus Day! I think I'll celebrate by storming the neighbors house and claiming it for the good of the cul-de-sac. All I need is a really cool flag.

He made me laugh, and I noticed someone else wrote back that he would also need a horse and a small ship. Others added to the list and on a lazy Monday, it made me think of what we need to do to really make things happen.

One of the highest read pages on our website is, "Why Do I Have To Pay To Volunteer?" People read it because they truly do want to connect the dots on why they are volunteering their time and also paying a fee and in some cases paying for a visa and an then there's the airplane ticket and all the rest that goes with volunteering abroad. Others go to that page to see if there are any hints on fundraising, or maybe ideas on how to volunteer for free.

Everything I ever really wanted and could not have immediately, started with a photo. I literally will photograph what I want, or perhaps find a photo in a magazine or newspaper and rip it out and then I'll tape or tack it to a wall in my office...or in my bedroom where I'll see it when I turn out the light and see it when I get out of bed each morning. I take a photo of the photo and make it my wallpaper on my iPhone. My eyes see the photo of what I want all day and well into the night. My brain sees it too. After a time, it's mine.

*Disclaimer: Obviously there are limitations. It has never worked for me when I put a person's photo up. And if I see a photo of a hungry child my brain won't cure world hunger. But it might help me figure out a way to do my part.  I'm just sayin'...

I had a goal sometime ago to climb one of Colorado's "fourteeners."

  1. I took a photo of Pikes Peak. It's iHiking to the summit of Pikes Peakn Colorado, and the summit is 14,110 feet (one of the smallest fourteeners in Colorado) and I looked at it everyday. ( You can take a look at one of my old Blog posts about hiking up Pikes Peak.)
  2. I added to my photo by taking a walk or a hike several times a week and I tried to make my hike more difficult each week so I was getting in shape physically. Looking at the photo all the time was getting my mind in shape too.
  3. Depending on the time of year you make the assent of your mountain, begin to purchase the gear and put it by the door you use to come in and out of your apartment or dorm room or house. Make a list of items you'll need and tape that up next to the photo. Check off each item when you get it, and the date. Add it to the pile. And so on.

Maybe you want to volunteer in Nepal or run a marathon. It really doesn't matter. See a photo of it everyday. Your mind will see it...even when your eyes are closed. And you'll literally make it happen. Your mind will find a way.

I'd love to see your comments below, telling me how this has worked for you. And sharing what you have taped up to the wall right now. A lot of people don't leave comments, but I hope you will. They don't all have to be about volunteering abroad.  (Sometimes it's nice to write outside my chosen genre.)

Me on Greenwich Ave.So I guess this forces me to share what I had up there until recently.  That's me, the old guy, standing in front of a building in Greenwich, CT.  102 Greenwich Ave. to be exact.  That is where I started doing this work over 30 years ago and I wanted to show my kids where I started.  I'm heading off to China in 3 days, and it's always emotional at my house when I take off for an extended trip.  2 of my 4 children are small, and young enough to miss Dad when he's gone awhile.  And so it was important after all this time to carve out time in a day when I could drive them to Greenwich and share those beginnings with them.

So put a photo up and even if you have to leave it up a long time...as long as you have it there, it's important to you and you'll make it happen. It might be just like a long hike to the summit of Pikes Peak. As long as you enjoy the journey, it's worth the wait.  And take a really cool flag with you!

Tags: Why Do I Have To Pay To Volunteer, Make Something Happen, Volunteering Abroad

You Want Me To Pay To Do What? Paying To Volunteer Abroad

Posted by Randy LeGrant on Fri, May 21, 2010

The 10th most popular page on our website is Why Do I Have To Pay?  This page is always in the top 10 page views.  Why? It's a valid question.  And on that page we attempt to be as transparent as possible with how we spend your hard-earned money.

That's why, when this week 2 Blog posts came out about this question, I was very pleased, to say the least.  I want to direct our readers to these two posts, because they each take a very different slant towards paying to volunteer, yet they both support it.  Again, supporting it for very different reasons.

700 Places To   VolunteerOne of the best articles on paying to volunteer comes from the Volunteer Before You Die Network.  Consistently, their posts and tweets are thought provoking and right on target.  Their recent post, "You Want Me To Pay To Do What? Thoughts On Paying Third Parties To Volunteer" was superb and explains how Nola Lee Kelsey (head of the Network) came from rejecting the idea, to understanding the reasons for paying to volunteer.  I encourage you to read the post and leave your comments.  I left some comments and I invite you to go to the post and read those as well.

By the way…Volunteer Before You Die has a new book coming out entitled 700 Places To Volunteer Before You Die and will be available July 1 this year.  If you have a twitter account, I recommend following @volunteerB4Udie and be a part of the conversation.

The next Blog post that came out was by Sarah Van Aucken who is the creative genius for Volunteer Global. She works tirelessly on all things "volunteering" and she is known as a bright spot in the field.

Volunteer Global"What To Ask Before You Pay To Volunteer On Your Career Break" is a great post.  Sarah decided to skip over the "why do I have to pay" argument and go straight for the "why do some organizations charge $15 per week while others cost upwards of $7,000 per week?"  She does a fantastic job answering the question and then ends the post with 10 questions you should ask the agency.

If you have reconciled that you are going to pay to volunteer…read Sarah's post and start asking organizations these 10 questions.  Sarah has done you a favor and if you'll take the time to ask sending organizations these 10 questions, you will choose the right organization and project.  Also, follow Sarah on Twitter for great insights on volunteering abroad.

I've been doing this work for 35 years.  I always enjoy telling people that the three Founders of GeoVisions have a combined 105 years doing this work.  Oh do we have stories to tell!  More importantly, we appreciate the work of Volunteer Before You Die and Volunteer Global and others who dedicate their time and money to moving this work forward, and expecting senders and receivers of volunteers to be responsible and innovative.  Through their work, even after we are gone, they are creating a legacy of volunteering, volunteering abroad and voluntourism.  We owe them a debt of gratitude.

Do you have comments about the posts we've mentioned or volunteering abroad?  We would love to read your thoughts.

Tags: Reasons To Volunteer Abroad, Why Do I Have To Pay To Volunteer, Volunteering Abroad

Why Do I Have To Pay To Volunteer-Part 2

Posted by Randy LeGrant on Sat, Mar 06, 2010

Randy LeGrant and 4 Thai orphansIn early January, 2009, I wrote a Blog Post providing some reasons people have to pay to volunteer.  Since that post well over 300 people have read it.  Comments have popped up in the last year and even the great people over at Brilliant Trips recently placed it on their own BrilliantTrips Blog site.

On the GeoVisions Website, we have an entire page dedicated to why people have to pay to volunteer.  We were surprised that it is the 8th most requested page on our site.  Since January 1, 2010 that page has been viewed over 4000 times.

That page has been updated with figures from GeoVisions' official 2009 audit.  We have added a couple of pie charts and have tried to make the page more transparent and explaining how we spend your money.  We hope you will become one of the many thousands of viewers to look over the updated Why Do I Have To Pay To Volunteer page on our site.

Can you volunteer abroad and not pay?  Sure you can.  If you go on your own without paying, you will want to:

  • Research the project in full
    • where are they, exactly
    • how long have the been around
    • what is sustainable about their project
    • how many global volunteers are there at any one time
    • how many injuries in the last 2 years
    • where do they get their funding
    • how are the funds spent
    • will they provide references of other global volunteers on site now and who have been there in the last 12 months
    • do they have a community impact statement or brief
    • how many paid staff are at the project
    • do they have a mission statement and goals
  • You need health insurance
    • NO! The health insurance you have now will not cover you adequately. You need specialized insurance.
    • Do not buy only accident insurance...you need health insurance in case of strep throat, food poisoning and other ailments you can encounter on volunteer projects
    • Make sure you have repatriation and return insurance. If you become so injured or ill you must return home for treatment, be sure that return trip is covered. And if you die, don't be a further burden on your family. Make sure there are funds to return your remains.
  • A medical volunteer and 2 nursesAre you covered in case YOU injure someone or break an expensive tool or machine?
    • You need to be covered for liability. If you damage someone's property, if you cause an accident, if you break a tool or machine and you are not covered you can lose everything you own. Protect yourself and your family.
  • You need a backup plan in case your laptop, camera, back pack, passport, money is lost or stolen.
  • Check with the airline to make sure of your rights in case you miss your flight or it is canceled or delayed. You might create an issue at the volunteer project and want to be sure of the backup plan.
  • Is your accommodation nearby? On site? Safe? Clean? Is the food healthy? Safely stored? Ask for photos and talk to former volunteers about safety and food.
  • How close is a doctor or clinic or hospital? Are there emergency phone numbers you can use and your family at home can use?
  • Make sure you understand the number of hours expected of you to volunteer and make certain you have in writing the type of work you will be doing in advance. It is common to be told you will work with patients at a clinic and wind up stacking heavy boxes most of the time.
  • If there is a problem (communication, expectations) who do you go to for resolution?
  • If you want to leave early, how do you do that safely?
  • Do you receive an orientation? How long does that last? Are you qualified to do the task you are volunteering to do?
  • Do they have a website?

A GeoVisions volunteer and 4 childrenGeoVisions has an 8-page document we fill out and use when evaluating any project.  And we use it for ongoing as well as new projects. We suggest you do the same if you're going to do this by yourself and not pay.  Come up with questions you need answered before you commit to volunteer your time. Make sure this is the project for you.  One reason you pay GeoVisions is that we have visited the site already, and we have worked on eight pages of risk management issues to make certain you are safe and the project is everything it is supposed to be.

But flipping the coin to the other side, these would be some real reasons to pay a sending organization, like GeoVisions.  I'm kind of excited now to write Part III!

How about you?  Can you think of items I have left out for your research?  Have you done this before?  If so, can you share your experiences?  Because people are asking everyday, "Why do I have to pay to volunteer?

If you can take away something useful from this post, please consider leaving a comment (below) or subscribing to the feed (above) to have future posts delivered to your feed reader. You can also subscribe via email (in the upper right corner).  Over on the right we have made it easy for you to become a Fan of GeoVisions on Facebook and to Follow Us on Twitter.

 

Tags: Why Do I Have To Pay To Volunteer, Volunteering Abroad

Tax Deductibility and Voluntourism – It Should Go...For Now!

Posted by Randy LeGrant on Tue, Oct 13, 2009

Yesterday I reposted from various Blog sites on deducting your voluntourism program from your taxes.  The question was, "Tax Deductibility and Voluntourism-Should It Stay Or Should It Go." Today I'm making a case against tax deductibility and voluntourism in my own Blog.  It Should Go.  At least for now.

I don't want to rant, so I'm providing you 2 sources with independent links to use to evaluate on your own where you are volunteering and how you are spending your money.  Because if anyone is telling you that you can deduct the program fees or your trip because you're volunteering, they are leading you down the wrong path and setting you up for an unhappy financial outcome, should you be audited by the IRS.

I went to several non-profit web sites to see how this is handled.  I found this quote from one website: “100% of the payments towards the program fee are deductible for federal income tax purposes.”  Another one has this on their home page: "All your program costs are tax deductible**"

What I want to do now is give our readers some actionable and independent tips.  Here you go:

1. PLEASE if you don’t do anything Publication 526 from the IRSelse, download IRS Publication 526, Charitable Contributions at http://www.irs.gov. That is your guide because if and when you are audited, and this deduction comes up, the IRS will follow, to the letter, this publication and will assume you have read it. Keep in mind the expenses must be directly related to the volunteers’ work, and incurred only because of that work. The expenses can’t be personal, for family, or for living items or activities such as meals. Volunteers must keep reliable written records of the expenses. Most importantly, The volunteer cannot gain significant personal pleasure, recreation, or vacation from the travel.  And there are total hours you must be working, etc.  Without good records and receipts, you'll pay the money back.

Download Form 9902. Next do your homework. Download Form 990 for each non-profit volunteer program provider you have an interest in. Any non-profit who takes your money should display a link to their Form 990 which tells you how much money they make, how much money they spend, who is on the Board and their relationship to one another along with other interesting tid bits required by the IRS. If you pay any money to any non-profit and you have not read their Form 990 you have thrown your money out on the street.

Because some non-profits will not want you to see their Form 990, they won't make it available on their website.  So here is a link you can use.  Click on this link below and type in the name of the organization you want to volunteer with and download their most recent Form 990.  Their expenses are there, salaries, benefits, what they spend on programs abroad, Board Members and any compensation, etc.  Look at their income (your money) and then total up what they spend on the projects.  Then ask them where the rest of the money went.  They are a public charity afterall.  Find them all right here:

Foundation Center Form 990 Finder

Here at GeoVisions we think it’s distasteful to deduct your trip.  At a time when our Government is Trillions of dollars in debt, and with rising unemployment, asking the Government to pay for your trip abroad is unthinkable.

For anyone to spend their hard-earned money and their precious time volunteering to make life better for someone else and then at the end of the calendar year hold their hand out to our government and expect the government to reimburse them for volunteering is unbelievable to me. It is the height of hypocrisy and the very definition of narcissism. To think that much of yourself that you offer to volunteer and then expect money back from the government because of your offer to volunteer is simply an act that reverses the very definition of volunteering.

If I donate $500 to your charity and then deduct that $500 on my taxes, I didn’t donate to you. I loaned you $500 until the government repays me. How is that volunteering or donating? It isn’t. You’re not a volunteer. You’re working because you’re getting paid. Not there on the spot. But you’re deducting what you paid “to volunteer” and you’re getting a financial consideration from Uncle Sam. You got paid. You didn’t volunteer. Even on my most generous day you put yourself out on loan.

In the end, GeoVisions made a conscious choice to be a for-profit company and not a 501 c 3 charity. We certainly had a choice. We provide great opportunities for people. And for host communities. And I am so proud of each and every volunteer that comes through our doors. THEY CANNOT DEDUCT A DIME. They are truly volunteering their money, their time and their talents. They are the true heroes that make the world a better place.

Tags: Why Do I Have To Pay To Volunteer, Tax Deductions

Tax Deductibility and Voluntourism – Should it Stay or Should it Go?

Posted by Randy LeGrant on Mon, Oct 12, 2009

Industry watch person and consultant, Alexia Nestora of Lasso Communications posted a blog post by Journey Etc. last week about declaring a tax deduction for a volunteer vacation.

Especially now, with the economy still bad and unemployment still rising, it is a valid debate.  I hope you'll join in.  I want to thank Alexia for putting up the original post from Journey Etc. on her own site and for keeping the debate alive.  And thanks to Michele Gran for making certain Global Volunteers is the model 501(c)(3) and posting not only IRS Guidelines but for having a strong policy and ethic on how hard you actually have to work to honestly and legally declare a deduction for volunteering abroad.  I wish the others were like Global Volunteers.

--------------------------------

From Voluntourism Gal: Notes on the Voluntourism Industry

The debate has always been around, should volunteer vacations be tax deductible? Does the mere word ‘vacation’ being used in marketing take away from the level of service that volunteers do in country? Or is the deduction in fact a marketing tool?

Journey Etc wrote an article on this topic addressed at travelers, what do you think about it? Let’s start the debate again.

##

Voluntourism – A Vacation with Tax Benefits

You probably know that business travelers can often deduct all or a portion of their travel, even if they are having some fun. But did you know that  you can also get a tax benefit from your vacation? You can  if you are willing to do a bit of work as a volunteer with a non-profit organization.

“Voluntourism” is becoming a popular option for travelers that want to make the most of their vacation.  By volunteering with a non-profit organization a person can travel to almost any global destination, experience the  culture of an area in a whole new way, and have a sense of purpose and of doing good with their vacation time.   And then to top it  off, some or all of their vacation expenses can be deducted on their income tax returns.

To get the tax deduction on your US  Return you must volunteer with a US non-profit corporation.  Habitat for Humanity is one organization that has volunteer opportunities both local and abroad. You could also contact an organization that specializes in voluntourism such as  Cross Cultural Solutions in New York or Global Volunteers which is based out of Minnesota.

There are a number of factors that determine if you can deduct some or all of your travel expenses.  In general the amount deductible will depend upon how much time you spend doing strictly volunteer activities, versus how much time you spend doing strictly vacation activities.

Whatever your skills or talents, there is a volunteer opportunity for you. You can help children and adults with their English. You can provide medical services, or you could help build a home.  You can work, with children, seniors, teens and adults.

When working with a volunteer agency expect to pay your own airfare, plus a program fee that will generally include lodging and meals.   Prepare to be flexible and open to new experiences. Do not expect classy hotels and fine dining.  To save money volunteers are often housed with local families or budget hotels and eat the local food.

If you want a vacation with a purpose, one where you get to really know the local people and culture, and one that comes with a tax benefit, consider voluntourism.  You’ll be glad you did!

-------------------------

Michele Gran Says:

October 4th, 2009 at 3:23 am


Thanks so much for the mention! I’d like to make one important correction to your article regarding tax deductions for U.S. taxpayers.

In fact, the IRS has very strict requirements for volunteers to average 8 hours per day on the volunteer work project, and that any “tourism” added to the service program may void the tax deduction. (That’s why we eschew the term “voluntourism”) For over 25 years, Global Volunteers has adhered to these requirements, and offers only full-day work projects, while advising that any “add-on” travel will require an opinion by a tax attorney regarding the tax deduction.

Our volunteers have never been challenged by the IRS on this policy. You can read our guidelines here: http://www.globalvolunteers.org/faqs/faq9.asp

Thanks again for your interest in this important way to give while you learn about another culture!

Tags: Why Do I Have To Pay To Volunteer, Tax Deductions

Lower Program Fees To Volunteer Longer

Posted by Randy LeGrant on Sat, Feb 28, 2009

So it only makes sense, doesn't it?  Volunteer longer and make more of a difference.  But staying longer costs you more and is much more of a commitment for most people.  So why are program fees more expensive the longer you stay?

GeoVisions is reversing this trend slowly.  Check out our Conversation Corps--China program.  The longer you stay, the lower the program fee.  If you can make a commitment to stay for 3 months, your program fee will be less expensive.

Think about it.  Your airfare is your airfare.  Stay a day, stay a month, stay 3 months.  The airfare is the same.  "L" visa?  $130.  It is what it is.  Stay a day or stay 3 months the visa fee is the same.  Because it is a Conversation Corps program, your room and board is covered already.  The GeoVisions advantage is that the program fee is reduced the longer your commitment.

It is true all of our other programs are just the opposite.  But we have started with China and we'll begin to make as many changes as we can.

We are including 2 weeks of Mandarin, 2 nights hotel in Beijing with room and board, a half day of orientation and a 1/2 day tour of Beijing.  Airport transfers, transport to the host family and weekly activities...just in case you need MORE to do.

We hope you will enjoy this program and this new concept.

Randy

Tags: Why Do I Have To Pay To Volunteer, Conversation Corps-China

Why Do I Have To Pay To Volunteer, Part 1

Posted by Randy LeGrant on Sun, Jan 04, 2009
The topic we are asked at GeoVisions most is "Why do I have to pay to volunteer?"  We have a page on the GeoVisions website dealing with paying to volunteer.  You can click here to read that page if you like.

I thought I might take some time over the next couple of weeks and get into the subject of paying to volunteer in more depth.

Gregory Hubbs, Transitions Abroad editor, answers the question on why volunteers have to pay this way: "Primarily because most volunteers are more of a liability until they are trained to help the local community. Often the money spent volunteering is best spent on the local volunteers/people, particularly if the outside volunteer does not have medical, teaching, technical or other useful skills which would allow them to “hit the ground running.” In addition, it is usually very important for there to be continuity in a volunteer project for it to truly succeed in helping those who need it."

I think the best way to understand another person or point of view is to stand in their shoes a bit.  So, as you read this Blog entry, see if any of my comments strike a chord.  You can always comment, and I'll try to address your issues.

We have a few Red Fox in the area of Guilford, Connecticut, where I live.  I've done a lot of research on the Red Fox and let's say I want to make sure our local Red Fox families can survive here in Guilford and can exist safely with humans and our pets.  So I establish my Protecting The Red Fox Association (including several local volunteers) and I quickly find I need to get someone from the Long Island Sound Study to give me some advice (they did a study on the Red Fox and received a $40,000 grant).  These people are now my "experts."

A few months go by and now and we have rasied a lot of local interest in the Red Fox and our new project and our new Association sounds pretty cool. I log on to my Association email account and low and behold I have people contacting me from other countries who would like to come to the U.S., live for a while in the Northeast, and who have some kind of interest in the Red Fox.  And they want to volunteer with our Association.

I really do need more volunteers!  But these potential volunteers need a place to stay, they need to be fed, I'm going to have to pick them up at JFK airport when they arrive in New York and get them here to Connecticut.  I have to make sure they don't bring with them some kind of negative police record.  I don't speak German, Portuguese, Spanish, French, Thai nor Korean.  And they tell me they do not speak (or write) English all that well.  They all want to come at different times and they all want to go back at different times and they all want to study some English while they are here.  And 95% of them have never seen a Red Fox, so they are going to need an orientation and that means bringing my friend from Long Island out here again to do a proper orientation.  Many times.  Now I see a lot of dollar signs in my mind.  $$$$$

But I really have no funds (except a few local donations) and I can't afford all this.  What am I going to do?  I need more volunteers.  It would bring a new dimension to our Association to have some global links...that's always a good thing.

All of these wonderful volunteers are going to have to get their own visa, their plane tickets, their background checks and then either I have to find host families for them or they have to do that when they arrive because no one in my volunteer Association has time to look for host families.  What if our global volunteers are not successful in finding a family?  What will they have to pay for room and board?  Local transportation?  Getting to the Shoreline of Connecticut from New York City?  And back?  And will they help pay the costs of my friend from The Long Island Study to come out for orientation?  And how will they get to and from the English lessons?  WHERE will they take English lessons?  How will we communicate with them?

This is but the tip of the iceberg.

GeoVisions' job in all of this is to find sustainable projects around the globe who are open to foreign volunteers.  Then, we need to find volunteers to help them.  And to help the agency abroad we do as much of the coordination as possible to make our volunteers' arrival and stay at the project rewarding to all, safe, and as unobtrusive as possible.  That means providing insurance so volunteers are not a burdon to the community.  Finding host families or housing.  Making sure the volunteers received safe accommodation and healthy meals.  Taking care of the transportation.  But we will get into more of that in Part 2.

Tags: Why Do I Have To Pay To Volunteer