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.
Blogs are an effective tool for engaging a readership, and for disseminating important information about ongoing projects. Blogs are also appropriate platforms for highlighting specific projects with stories. They are less formal than static website text and with regular updates, they keep interested volunteers engaged. The more volunteers you have visiting your website, the more volunteers you are likely to inspire. Voluntour companies have an edge on other businesses because they work to help others. When your business goal is humanitarian aid, you don’t have to work as hard to attract customers—they tend to come to you. Your goal should be to represent yourself well: to highlight the good work you do and to demonstrate how your efforts have changed the lives of the people you help.
For me, getting excited about a voluntour is a long process. I do a lot of reading. I love reading stories about previous trips straight from the mouths of the volunteers themselves. It gives me an inside perspective on the organization, the type of projects they champion, and the day-to-day life of a volunteer in country. Reading something a volunteer has written carries authenticity. It also communicates a sense of community—the type of friendly camaraderie I look for in a voluntour. Narratives are also fun to read, especially when accompanied by pictures or video of the project. This type of material goes a long way towards inspiring prospective travelers.
Blogs are open-ended: they don’t have rules. You can post a story about a particularly inspiring project, an interview with a volunteer, travel tips… you can post anything you care to share. As you build a readership, the blog becomes interactive. Readers post comments and share their own experiences, transforming your business website into a community discussion. Often, readers will subscribe to an email newsletter or mailing list for additional information. The more people you attract and the larger your audience becomes, the more likely your business is to thrive.