You may be familiar with Groupon, the online company that offers daily local deals to consumers. It’s a great service. For example, mine was a tale of woe. I’ve always wanted to go up in a hot air balloon but at $375 dollars, I couldn’t justify the expense. I never thought I’d get up there, soaring above the tree tops. Enter: Groupon. I’ve used it for all sorts of purchases, from bed sheets to Beach Boys tickets, and I’m not alone. Groupon partners with businesses to offer outstandingly deep discounts on valuable goods and services. Until yesterday, that’s all I knew about the company. As it happens, Groupon has dipped its inexpensive and convenient foot into the world of voluntouring, to rave reviews.
Groupon Grassroots has existed for a while. It’s the philanthropic arm of the organization dedicated to helping people with projects find funding. They use the same business model in their profit-making projects that they use here: appealing to local communities to support local businesses and initiatives. It’s a community-building effort and it’s been seeing great results. Inspired by the success of Groupon Grassroots, Groupon has started offering deals on voluntour travel excursions, taking their model global.
Their first offering, the pilot deal of their international effort, was a 9-day volunteering trip to Zambia with a Victoria Falls excursion and a Botswana safari. The project is in cooperation with Hope Ministries, an orphanage founded by Charles and Margaret Mumba in 2003. Volunteers will spend time with the children, dine with Zambian families, and visit historic sites. At $2000 the trip isn’t cheap, but with a typical retail cost of $3500, it’s a deal worthy of Groupon’s reputation.
As of yesterday, the offer had expired. Over 50 people were inspired by the discount and by the cause. Over 50 volunteers will be traveling to Zambia to help needy children! I find this story incredibly inspirational. The beauty of the Groupon business model lies in its irresistibility. This isn’t just true of Groupons, it’s true of coupons, their analog cousins. Coupons have power. If I see an amazing deal for three pounds of ketchup, I’m likely to use it. I don’t care that I probably won’t use the ketchup for a very long time. It doesn’t matter that I don’t need ketchup at the moment or that my husband hates the stuff. If I’m saving money, even if that savings is offset by reasonable concern over the object’s usefulness, I’m psychologically satisfied. It’s not criminal—I will eventually use the ketchup—it’s just opportunistic, and that’s fine. Everybody is happy.
I think the same logic applies to this voluntour opportunity. People need a push sometimes. People who are on the fence about voluntouring may not seek out an opportunity, but when it’s presented to them as a Groupon, easily purchased with a few clicks and at a deep discount, they can’t resist. I applaud Groupon for using their extraordinary powers of persuasion for good and I’m sure every one of those volunteers will have a life-changing experience they won’t soon forget.