Giving Compass' Take:

• It is essential to create a set of standards that guide skills-based volunteering projects to ensure that volunteers are truly making an impact.

• Without a set of standards, how can some programs and projects end up in the voluntourism industry, and why would that be less effective? 

• Read about an example of poor voluntourism: orphanage volunteer opportunities. 

A lack of access to skills stifles the growth of social impact initiatives around the world—especially new or locally led organizations looking to achieve scale. These organizations can benefit immensely from the targeted infusion of skills, knowledge, industry insights, and in-person support that traveling skill-based volunteers can deliver.

Analysis of skills-based volunteer case studies we’ve done at MovingWorlds—a skills-based, volunteer-matching platform for professionals—has revealed insights into the importance of these volunteers, and their potential to either crash and burn, or catalyze the next stage of social impact.

Given that a growing number of professionals are seeking skills-based volunteering projects and a growing number of corporate programs are looking to sponsor them, these findings are especially important.

Without a set of standards to guide the placement of skill-based volunteers, it could easily go the way of the “voluntourism” industry, where well-intentioned people pay thousands of dollars to make little-to-no impact and often propagate systemic issues—eroding dignity or even creating markets for kidnapping. Here are some thoughtful ways to address these issues:

  1. Thoughtfully identify projects that address local talent gaps.
  2. Embrace collaborative planning with a focus on partnership and cross-cultural readiness.
  3. Focus on solving the most pressing, skills-based challenges.
  4. Ensure transfer of knowledge and skills to local team members.
  5. Identify opportunities to improve organizational strategy and capability.
  6. Build connections to a global network.
  7. Think strategically about transition and sustainability plans.

Read the full article about volunteers making an impact by Derk Norde and Cami Hagen at  Stanford Social Innovation Review.