It’s interesting how we compartmentalize our minds. We expect non-profit organizations to be responsible, eco friendly, sustainable, and respectful of local customs and regulations. We expect it because they are designed without a profit-incentive. Their motives are supposed to be 100% pure—based on nothing but altruistic humanitarianism or environmentalism. Of course, this is extremely simplistic, nothing is ever 100% anything, but this is the stereotype. When it comes to for-profit organizations, we lower our expectations considerably. We don’t expect the same level of consideration because we recognize the equation has a business side. Why is this? Shouldn’t we be more concerned when an organization has a profit incentive?
Social media is everywhere. It’s as ubiquitous today as, well… honestly, I can’t think of a single historical precedent for the massive, worldwide interconnectedness we enjoy on the Internet. It’s only natural to see the opportunity in such vast networks, but it’s also problematic. Social networks were designed for people to socialize, not for businesses to advertise. Yes, there have been many attempts at integrating advertising into social media platforms, but often they are met with scorn or aren’t terribly effective. But, voluntour companies are a different breed. For them, social media can be an incredibly powerful tool for outreach and education.
All of my research on voluntour organizations has illustrated one thing: we are all in the business of inspiring strangers. Many organizations are primarily focused on the work they do—the travel planning, liasing with local communities, establishing base-camps, and facilitating ongoing projects. Unfortunately, the business of voluntouring means publicizing your projects. It’s not enough to set up the infrastructure: you need to attract the volunteers. That’s where websites come in. We are all aware of the power of social media to help advertise a business, but many voluntour companies are also using their websites by incorporating fresh content and interactive elements to attract repeat visitors.