“Volunteering is an act of heroism on a grand scale. And it matters profoundly. It does more than help people beat the odds; it changes the odds.”—Bill Clinton
How are you spending your summer vacation? Are you going to the beach? Will you explore a new city? Do you have plans for a “stay-cation” at home to get things done around your house? Or perhaps you’re planning to take a “volunteer vacation.” Lying on a beach is nice, but sometimes using your vacation time to make a difference in the lives of others is even more nourishing.
“Voluntourism” is the term for short-term service opportunities abroad or in another culture or destination at home, providing a unique, “non-tourist” glimpse of daily life in the host community. The main purpose of a volunteer vacation is to put yourself at the service of the host community, and toto community-driven work projects. On a volunteer vacation, you serve others on a wide variety of meaningful work projects, and use your skills and interests in an unconventional setting to benefit others.
Where to Start
While there are dozens of organizations that offer volunteer vacations, here are a few to consider:
- Global Volunteers (globalvolunteers.org, (800) 487-1074): Offers a wide variety of two- and three-week service programs in 18 countries, including the U.S.
- Habitat for Humanity (habitat.org, (800) 422-4828): Offers a variety of house-building trips through its Global Village Program and RV Care-A-Vanners program.
- Earthwatch (earthwatch.org, (800) 776-0188): A global nonprofit that offers one- and two-week expeditions that focus on environmental conservation and field research projects all over the world.
- Globe Aware (globeaware.org, (877) 588-4562): Offers one-week volunteer vacations in 15 different countries.
Bringing it Back Home
Whether or not you spend your own summer vacation volunteering, chances are you work with volunteers at your own organization. Over 60 million people volunteer their time to more than 1.5 million nonprofit organizations in the US alone. Baby boomers are retiring, the unemployed are looking for activities to hone their skills for resumes and simply to fill their free time, and Barack Obama is the most recent president to issue a massive call to action on the volunteer front.
Based on these three streams of supply, nonprofits are currently seeing an unprecedented demand for volunteer opportunities. So how does a nonprofit integrate these volunteers into its overall structure and strategic plan? And what rules and regulations govern the volunteer’s involvement with the nonprofit?
The Volunteer Leadership and Management Handbook addresses these critical issues designed to complement and support the organization’s efforts to achieve and sustain excellence.
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