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Volunteer Vacations: Be Part of the Solution
Kimberly Haley-Coleman

Globe Aware founder Kimberly Haley-Coleman

Globe Aware founder Kimberly Haley-Coleman was offered the opportunity to explain the attraction of volunteer vacations with Globe Aware to Perrault magazine readers. Kimberly uses her not-for-profit company’s Thailand destination to illustrate her points.

READ THE ARTICLE – perreault_magazine_March_2015

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An international corporate volunteering program can help your business

Mark Horoszowski, writing for Devex Impact, a global initiative by Devex and USAID in partnership with top international organizations and private industry leaders, examines how an international corporate volunteering program can help a business grow into new, growing markets and assist in staff recruitment and retention.

Why your company needs an international corporate volunteering program

By Mark Horoszowski

06 February 2015

The current state of the global economy shows that businesses have immense opportunity — not only by expanding into booming markets, but also by helping develop the economic potential of underdeveloped markets.

It was evident at the 2015 World Economic Forum, where “the stars of the show were from the private sector … people and business are stepping in where government is failing,” according to Richard Edelman, the president and CEO of Edelman.

One of the ways that companies are stepping up is by bringing the skills of their employees to bear through corporate volunteering programs.

corporate volunteering

One of the ways businesses can help develop the economic potential of underdeveloped markets is by bringing the skills of their employees to bear through corporate volunteering programs.

A great example of this is Microsoft’s presence in 17 countries across Africa with its 4Afrika initiative. By helping develop skills, increasing access to technology and supporting innovation, the tech giant is working towards its goal to empower every African to turn their ideas into a reality, which in turn can help their community, their country or even the continent at large.

Originally, 4Afrika focused on hosting educational events for students and entrepreneurs, funding startups, and providing technology grants. But as the program grew, Microsoft realized it had more to offer than cash and products. In 2014 the company started to contribute its most valued asset — its people — to volunteer their skills with nonprofits, startups, schools, and small and medium-sized enterprises.

In doing so, the 4Afrika program has demonstrated that an effective skills-based volunteering engagement — we call it experteering — can accelerate the progress of local organizations, can help increase the economic opportunity within a country, and can provide an invaluable learning experience to the volunteer. Microsoft is not alone in this realization.

There are three well-documented forces that highlight why corporations should embrace international corporate volunteering programs, and help explain why the programs are growing at a rate of 150 percent:

1. How corporations benefit from international corporate volunteering.

The stated benefits of international corporate volunteering programs can be traced all the way to the bottom line. While early benefits of these ICV programs tout recruiting and retention benefits, new research shows that is only the tip of the iceberg.

Recruiting and Retention

Indeed, the recruiting and retention benefits are massive. Considering the cost of replacing an employee can be equal to 150 percent of their salary, more should definitely be done to retain top employees. Research by Points of Light showed that 90 percent of its companies saw a drop in turnover after implementing skills-based volunteer programs. Benefit Group reported that its turnover dropped from 22 percent to 7 percent after implementing its ICV program.

Leadership Development

According to recent research by The Conference Board of CEOs, a lack of globally-minded leaders is a leading concern for CEOs. Corporations have responded by increasing their investment in leadership development by as much as 15 percent year-over-year. Increasingly, leadership development programs are looking to experiential programs that provide true growth opportunities.

A great research summary by McKinsey explains why experience is so important: “Even after very basic training sessions, adults typically retain just 10 percent of what they hear in classroom lectures, versus nearly two-thirds when they learn by doing.”

More than any other benefit, leadership development is recognized as a primary outcome of every report we’ve seen on ICV programs.

Performance and Engagement

In a program that we supported for Microsoft, both the participants and their managers shared that the program noticeably improved leadership-related skills, and 100 percent of the managers would permit other team members to participate. A little time away from the job doing relevant and meaningful work appeared to result in employees returning more engaged and higher-performing.

Additional research from George Washington University found that beyond “stimulating new insights,” international corporate volunteer “programs are a better investment than businesses school leadership programs, both in terms of cost and diversity of learning.”

Indeed, companies should give their employees time to travel and volunteer, and pay them to do it.

Innovation

While slightly more challenging to measure, program managers of ICV programs state innovation as one of the leading reasons to justify its expense. Not only does volunteering in geographic areas of strategic interest provide unique insights that can’t be taught in a textbook, it also provides unique customer insight, which can lead to new product and marketing developments. In addition it fosters engagement, which is proven to improve on-the-job performance.

According to RealizedWorth: “For companies where employees were more engaged than not, their profitability jumped by 16 percent, general productivity was 18 percent higher than other companies, customer loyalty was 12 percent higher, and quality increased by 60 percent.”

2. Why employees demand international volunteering opportunities.

Beyond the obvious desire to see the world, international exposure is a right of passage for up and coming business leaders. Harvard Business Review consistently writes about the value of international experiences for business leaders. In fact, of employees aged 25-34, more than 5 percent plan to relocate overseas to gain international exposure. In a recent article on the Society of Human Resource Management titled “Developing 21st Century Global Leaders in 2015,” the SHRM foundation was quoted saying, “to be effective, the leaders of tomorrow must be able to collaborate while navigating cultural, regional and political differences.”

Beyond global experience, skilled-volunteering also acts as a tool to recruit top talent. According to research published by Net Impact, an average of 75 to 80 percent of respondents prefer to work for a company known for its social responsibility, 53 percent of working professionals state that the ability to make an impact is essential to on-the-job happiness.

Perhaps more telling was that 35 percent of students would take a pay cut to work at a company committed to CSR and 78 percent said money “was less important to them than personal fulfillment.”

3. How skills-based volunteering is building a better world.

According to the World Economic Forum, one of the leading barriers to progress is a “lack of access to quality talent”. This “skills gap” is becoming so large, that in some places like Brazil and India, it is being considered the leading barrier to progress.

In a recent campaign we participated in with Devex, Peace Corps and other leading global development organizations called #DoingMore, participants shared stories about how skills-based volunteering was:

    1. Essential to building skills of change-makers, like the MySkills4Afrika program which used volunteers to teach program management best-practices to startups and social enterprises working out of iHUB.
    2. Solving complex technical, creative, and/or business problems facing organizations, like the Microsoft Leaders in Action program which consulted with Kenya Red Cross to optimize its use of existing technology as a way to improve operations and measure impact.
    3. Addressing systemic issues by connecting skilled-volunteers not only to small, resource-strapped organizations, but also to international NGOs and even governmental institutions.
    4. Accelerating projects that lack human capital by bringing in skilled volunteers for very specific tasks.
    5. Empowering job creators by connecting skilled-volunteers to the most under-resourced organizations that also have the most potential to create jobs and end poverty.

Perhaps more than any business activity other than core operations, international corporate volunteering programs have massive potential to create positive business outcomes, positive personnel outcomes, and positive global development outcomes.

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Volunteer vacation creates fresh perspective, new career aspirations

A volunteer vacation can be a life-changing experience. Just ask Tacy Lambiase.  This  University of Maryland student’s recent trip with Globe Aware has forced her to shift here priorities and career path. Her story was related on the Drive the District website and blog. Enjoy:

Volunteer Vacations Break New Ground

HERO_volunteer

Tacy Lambiase at the CBF Oyster Restoration Center (Photo courtesy Meenu Singh)

Lounging on a beach or skiing snowy slopes is no longer a typical vacation. Volunteering is an increasingly appealing way to spend time off, whether it’s close to home or in an exotic locale.

A leader in this emerging “voluntourism” movement is Globe Aware, a Dallas-based nonprofit that sends volunteers to more than a dozen locations around the globe for weeklong vacations. Volunteers spend around 35 hours assisting with projects like building wheelchairs for landmine victims in Cambodia, constructing schools in Ghana or assembling adobe stoves in Peru.

The goal, said Globe Aware founder Kimberly Haley-Coleman, is to foster sustainability and build relationships between cultures. Spending a week side by side with people of a foreign culture creates a connection that tourist vacations don’t.

“Our volunteers are coming away really understanding the challenges of that culture,” Haley-Coleman said. “I would argue that’s more important than the physical projects that we’re working on – being able to make that human connection and understand each other’s view of the world.”

Haley-Coleman created Globe Aware when she couldn’t find an organization sympathetic to the packed schedules of professionals – like her – who couldn’t spend months at a time volunteering. Individuals, families and groups of all ages are welcome to volunteer with Globe Aware. Trips start in the $1,100 range (plus airfare), and are tax-deductible.

The benefits of volunteering, enthusiasts say, go beyond the tax break. Fostering good in the world refreshes a weary spirit, and cultural immersion breeds introspection. Haley-Coleman has seen relationships – even marriages – blossom following trips.

A service trip during spring vacation encouraged 22-year-old Tacy Lambiase, from Arlington, to consider a different career path.

Lambiase, a University of Maryland senior, spent two spring breaks volunteering for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation in Annapolis, Maryland. She camped on the beach near the foundation’s headquarters, learning about environmental sustainability. “It really was a life-changing experience for me, as cliché as that sounds,” she said.

A week of cleaning oysters, monitoring water quality, canoeing and visiting the legislature inspired Lambiase to add sustainability studies as a minor. Come graduation in December, she’s considering seeking employment with an environmental nonprofit or finding a job in corporate sustainability.

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Lambiase’s group camped on the beach (Photo courtesy Javier Vandeyar)

Lambiase’s group camped on the beach. Photo courtesy Javier Vandeyar.

Lambiase confesses she wasn’t the “outdoorsy type,” but venturing outside her comfort zone – living on the beach and engaging in physical work like planting trees – was an overwhelmingly positive experience. “Don’t be afraid to do something you’ve never done before,” she said.

She also suggests finding a project connected a social issue that holds personal meaning. “You’ll be able to benefit and find meaning in the work that you’re doing,” she said.

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Volunteer Vacations in Cosmo

Globe Aware’s volunteer vacations were featured in a article in the March edition of Cosmopolitan:

lndulge the do-gooder within by taking a 10- or 14 day service expedition in the Caribbean through Discover Corps. You’ll work with other volunteers to improve local communities and get a chance to explore the D.R.’s diversity, from the natural (waterfalls and forests) to the historical (colonial Santo Domingo). Another resource for volunteer vacations is Globe Aware (globeaware.org), which has destinations across Asia, Africa, Latin America and Europe.

cosmo_march_2013

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Filmmakers inspire others to go abroad, take volunteer vacations

A LITTLE MORE than three years ago, Steve and Joanie Wynn were looking to get out of a rut. Their video production company, Bayside Entertainment, was in a slump along with the rest of the economy.

So when Joanie Wynn stumbled upon Roadmonkey Adventure Philanthropy, a fledgling business started by a former New York Times war correspondent, she thought, here’s a chance to do something different — document six women volunteering at a school for AIDS orphans in Tanzania while also enjoying a trip abroad and scaling Mount Kilimanjaro.

The experience was “life-changing.” The Muir Beach couple returned with a lot more than a sense of adventure and some great footage; they discovered a new purpose and passion.

“We both traveled extensively before and to Africa before on various projects,” says Joanie Wynn, who worked in Hollywood for clients such as Disney, Sony and Dreamworks. “But we were amazed by the transformation by the people who were on the trip, and we came back and thought, wow — these are the stories we really want to tell.”

They launched Journey for Good (http://journeys4good.com), a website that lists voluntourism opportunities in hopes of inspiring others to participate. Their documentary, “A Journey for Good: Tanzania,” which aired on public TV stations around the country, garnered four Emmy nominations and two Telly Awards. Now they’re in talks with KQED to turn “Journeys for Good” into a series.

“Travel programs resonate with our audiences” says Scott Dwyer, KQED’s director of programming. “‘A Journey for Good’ was the first travel show I’ve seen that expanded the definition what a vacation can be when you include ‘doing good’ at the same time. I think the producers are on to something.”

The Wynns and their 9-year-old son, Ryan, a third-grader at Willow Creek Academy in Sausalito, left for Cambodia on Dec. 26 with Global Aware to document their second voluntourism trip together. (Last spring, Steve Wynn traveled with a group of women who built a playground at a school in Nicaragua.) This time, the family is joining others in building wheelchairs for land mine victims, teach English to Buddhist monks and a well at a home for the disabled.

Their focus is not only on the projects, but also on the people who volunteer — what motivated them, how it changed them.

“Our goal is to show people that this is a great way to travel differently,” she says. “You can still go and experience a different culture, a different country and have an even richer and deeper experience by working side-by-side with local people.”

Working with locals is an entirely different experience than arriving in a village or community to donate books or schoolbags, she says.

The Wynns got close to the teachers, students and local laborers as well as the bibi — the Swahili word for grandmother — who started the school as they built desks, refurbished classrooms and installed a water filtration system among other improvements together.

“We felt so honored to be invited into her home and share lunch each day,” Joanie Wynn, 48, says. “Those are experiences you don’t get to do just by being a tourist.”

“The connection was not just with the people we were serving but the people we were following,” Steve Wynn, 52, says. “It was really neat to see how they changed and how their view of the world changed. You could see the potential ripple effect.”

Neither had done extensive volunteering before, although Steve Wynn, a Marin native and longtime cameraman who has worked with the Discovery, History and Travel channels, has been a Muir Beach volunteer firefighter since 2009 and the chief for the past year.

Voluntourism has been one of the fastest growing forms of travel, according to volunTourism.org, which follows the industry. Last year, global guidelines were developed for the first time to help voluntourism organizations focus on sustainable projects, community needs and responsibility.

That’s important to the Wynns, too, who only establish relationships with nonprofit groups that embrace that philosophy for their series.

“It’s really important that the trips that we do and the trips that we cover, to go with well-vetted organizations who have been around for a while, who focus on sustainable projects and that really have good in-country relationships with nonprofit organizations so you know that it’s a good project that will actually benefit the local people,” she says.

So far the Wynns have had to raise the money for the series themselves. “It’s still a passion project,” she says.

But the stories need to be told, they believe.

“If more people do the smaller projects, bit by bit, it can make a bigger impact,” says Steve Wynn.

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