BeachCorps is different from other volunteer vacations because we don't invent the nonprofit cause to please the tourist—or worse, create a for-profit “cause” designed to fleece the volunteer. Instead, we find nonprofit causes that are worth supporting and then bring the tourists to the cause. It's easy to understand that volunteer vacations should support worthy nonprofit causes. But how do you know if a donation to a nonprofit cause is well used or not? That's not so easy. But here are some ideas to guide you.
An Open Book, A Straight Shooter: Transparency and Accountability
Major US nonprofits have official IRS 501c3 status that requires them to report income and use of funds. For large, well-established nonprofits there are several online sites that help you gauge transparency and accountability. Mike Montali, CEO of Harbor Compliance, shared some ideas in The Huffington Post:
1. The IRS Nonprofit Charities Database has a tool called “The Exempt Organizations Select Check Tool”. Check to see if your donation is tax-deductible.
2. Charity Navigator rates charities based on their financial health, accountability, and transparency to help donors make informed decisions about their contributions.
3. GuideStar maintains information on 501(c)(3) nonprofits. Financial documents, such as the 990, help you evaluate the legitimacy of an organization. The 990 discloses where and how an organization’s donations are spent, including the earnings of top officers.
Helping the Little Guy: Help Little Nonprofits Grow
But not all nonprofits make full use of these online platforms, and many are good causes. In particular, causes that are focused overseas often don't appear on these major platforms. Furthermore, big nonprofits with lots of donors have the ability to fill out all the forms and show donors exactly how they spend money and the results achieved. But if we only support big nonprofits, then the innovations of small nonprofits will disappear. It’s critical to support worthy up and coming nonprofits grow and mature to the point where they have the institutional capacity to become more transparent and accountable in their reporting.
Eye in the Sky; Eyes on the Ground
So helping little nonprofits is important, but which ones? Which nonprofits can you trust if they aren’t on major online platforms? The fact of the matter is that if you are volunteering in a far-off land you don’t know well (which is part of the fun and learning) you need to find a trusted partner to help you find the good nonprofits. You need someone who is willing to stake their good name on a nonprofit. You need someone that has both an Eye in the Sky to see the big development picture to know what causes need support. You also need someone with eyes on the ground to know if the nonprofits are run by people worth trusting.
Measuring Success: Home Run Tally
Another key question for your volunteer vacation is: does the project describe what results will be achieved? These results can be of two kinds: outputs and outcomes. When you input a donation, any good volunteer project should be able to point to short-term, home run outputs: Hour of English teaching delivered; a home repainted or rebuilt; 100 pounds of recycled plastic recycled. But don’t stop there. Ask yourself this: beyond outputs, what outcomes does the nonprofit hope to achieve? Outcomes are longer-term changes like growing empowerment of local leadership; an expansion of a “pay it forward” ethos in helping others after you’ve been helped; a change in a culture of littering. Those important outcomes aren’t just home runs; they are grand slams in the World Series! And they require patient and a longer-term commitment to achieve. Your BeachCorps “Little Grain of Sand” by itself is not going to make much of a difference. But by supporting nonprofit causes that seek to bring about positive change over time, you can be a little part of something big and beautiful.
Earmark Donations for Great Uses, Like Scholarships
A great way to make sure that your donations to a nonprofit cause are being used wisely is to wisely earmark some or all of the donations to specific purposes that make sense. Wherever possible, donations should be restricted in their use to promote transparency and accountability. For example, many BeachCorps projects are going to limit the use of all or some of the funds to expenses directly related to the execution of the project as well as measurable long-term investments, particularly in scholarships for kids who are supporting the volunteer work. (Photo: Graduation at Puntacana Foundation supported Kheel Politécnico).
Scholarships are awesome. By earmarking funds to scholarships, we help create a virtuous circle where kids are empowered via education to be agents of change in their community, the friends and family of those kids join volunteer operations, and other kids hoping to earn scholarships join volunteer efforts. In addition, scholarship systems have built-in oversight: the institutions supporting the volunteer work, the kids and their families, and the educational institutions where the scholarships are being paid all provide oversight to make sure funds are being properly used. Finally, adding kids who are earning scholarships allows BeachCorps to support nonprofit work that helps the poorest of the poor who may be unable to “give back” in that moment, but we are still promoting local empowerment by giving kids an education and getting them involved in solving the problems of their own community. Win-win!
#VolunteerVacation #Sustainability #SustainableTourism #PuntaCana #DominicanRepublic #Nonprofit #Education #ToxicCharity #SustainableDevelopment #Scholarships
1. Be a Hands On Part of a Company that Will Change the World.
Can a great vacation support a great cause? YES! Until now, no one has ever attempted to use volunteers taking traditional fun vacations to support worthy nonprofit causes. BeachCorps is changing that. We are proving that the best and perhaps ONLY way that unskilled, short-term volunteers can make a real, positive difference is with their time for people-to-people engagement, their funding, and their 500 Facebook friends to testify in favor for a great cause. Once we prove that this model succeeds in the Dominican Republic, we will take the model around the world. Join us and change the world “A Little Grain of Sand” at a time!
2. BeachCorps has a Plan to Succeed.
BeachCorps has a plan to be the Expedia (TM) of volunteer vacations, allowing you to choose your hotel, your cause, and your activity. BeachCorps partners with great hotels and tourism experts in the Dominican Republic to support established, worthy nonprofit causes while ensuring volunteer activities support sustainable development. BeachCorps is the only volunteer vacation company of its kind in the world, since other volunteer vacations 1) don’t partner with great hotels, 2) don’t work with worthy, established and independent nonprofit causes, and 3) don’t ensure that a broad and flexible variety of rewarding activities are dedicated to the needs of the cause, not volunteers. Working with us will open up a whole new world of combining great vacations and great causes. BeachCorps has been working with great nonprofits for years because it takes time to develop trust and relationships to create projects that work. This is not the kind of business that potential competitors can duplicate overnight.
3. The Dominican Republic ROCKS!
If you work for BeachCorps, eventually you will get to travel and work in the Dominican Republic. The Dominican Republic is perfect for developing this new kind of tourism, with it beautiful beaches and hotels, proximity to the USA, abundant quality volunteer opportunities, and vibrant culture that welcomes tourists. BeachCorps will develop impact travel (sometimes called “voluntourism”) in the Dominican Republic the way ecotourism began in Costa Rica, creating a new tool for helping people everywhere. Business Insider ranked the Dominican Republic as the second best island in the Caribbean. It has both the BEST all-inclusive hotels and wonderful boutique and ecotourism destinations, plus some of the highest levels of biodiversity on the planet.
4. BeachCorps Empowers People and Fights a Culture of Dependency.
BeachCorps believes in the principles espoused by Robert Lupton in “Toxic Charity”: “Never do for the poor what they can do for themselves” and #2 “Limit one-way giving to emergencies” follow the same logic of local empowerment. The BeachCorps model focuses on empowerment and engagement and avoids activities that create a culture of dependency that is all too common in “voluntourism.” This culture of dependency is perpetuated whenever voluntourism perpetuates what is often referred to as "The White Savior Mentality." Two-way engagement, where locals learn about volunteers and vice-versa, reinforces empowerment by creating relationships of equals. In addition, BeachCorps will only work with worthy causes backed by sustainable, officially recognized 501c3 US charities that build upon local efforts, including the work of the poor. BeachCorps programs will work on creating local leaders who are the true “local heroes” of BeachCorps, along with the hero beneficiaries of these worthy causes.
5. BeachCorps Supports Cross-Sectoral Partnerships to Achieve More.
By working with BeachCorps, you will be part of a model that brings together multiple partners from the private sector, nonprofits, and even the government. Such multi-sectoral partnerships accomplish more because they are able to address sustainable development with a holistic approach. Our model ensures everyone does what they do best: the nonprofit(s) designs a safe and fun project and activities to empower their cause(s); the excursion provider ensures smooth and safe transportation and other support; the hotel supports the project and provides a great hotel experience--and BeachCorps advises and pulls the whole team together.
6. BeachCorps is a Thought Leader in Sustainability.
As the first ever volunteer vacation based on real, independent causes, BeachCorps is charting unknown waters. As such, if you work for BeachCorps you will be making discoveries and adding to the knowledge of BeachCorps and proving that yes, indeed, a great vacation can support a great cause. Come help us explore!
7. Get Your Creative Fireworks Going with BeachCorps
BeachCorps is redefining what it means to volunteer for a worthy cause. It’s not just painting a wall at a nonprofit for the 10th time. We are creating all kinds of innovative programs to allow people to connect as human beings and share cultural insights. If you work for BeachCorps, you will have a change to create and implement exciting new programs in sustainable tourism such as our "Recycling for Education" program that will provide school supplies to kids who promote recycling and trash pick up. IT'S MAGIC!
Want to work for BeachCorps? Find Out About Our Positions as Social Media Intern and Sustainable Tourism Digital Media Manager.
#HelpWanted #Sustainability #SustainableTourism #PuntaCana #DominicanRepublic #Nonprofit #Education #ToxicCharity #SustainableDevelopment
Is it possible to simultaneously support recycling and education while combatting a culture of littering and dependency with a little "magic"? Yes!
Recently BeachCorps was approached by some small, informal community organizations asking for us to help pay for their school supplies. We would love to help turn these organizations into formal nonprofits capable of empowering their communities. We love school and we love education but we also don't like encouraging a culture of dependency via "Toxic Charity" where you ask for something without giving something in return.
So we decided to offer to pay for school supplies in exchange for communities collecting some plastic bottles and other material like cardboard and Tetra Pak for recycling. They loved the idea. We are now partnering with the premiere recycling and sustainability firm in the Eastern Dominican Republic, Ecoservices Dominicana, to create over the next year a program to help increase the amount of school supplies destined for giving underserved communities in exchange for kids and communities helping out by turning in some plastic bottles, cardboard, and Tetra pak for recycling. Tetra Pak is already a partner of Ecoservices and we hope they will be excited about this project too. We will be looking for other partners in the private sector (particularly the producers of the plastic bottles), nonprofits, and the government to support us. We will look for a local supplier of school supplies to help us get more bang for our back and increase the efficiency, transparency, and accountability of the donation process.
Here's a lovely Youtube video that shows the enthusiasm of our communities for this project. The first organization showed is the Fundación Caña, Melao y Azucar (the Cane, Molasses and Sugar Foundation) and is centered in the town of San Pedro de Macoris, the capital city of Dominican baseball. Their school supplies project also provided much needed haircuts to make kids neater and lice-free for school. The Fundación Caña, Melao y Azucar is on the verge of obtaining official Dominican nonprofit status and we look forward to working with them. The second organization is even more informal and is centered on the community of Monte Verde (Green Mountain), a community that also has the nickname of Mata Mosquitos (Mosquito Killer). The local community leader Cristobal wants to take a small local trash dump in the middle of the neighborhood and turn it into a childcare center for the hundreds of people who leave the community to work every day and have no other real choice but to let their little kids run the streets. We want to help. BeachCorps asked for one huge bag of bottles and we got a LOT more than we bargained for! At first the big bag didn't fit into the back of the BeachMobile! The kids had to push HARD! And there were many more bags collected that had to be sent for recycling later.
By the summer of 2018, we hope to have full-fledged BeachCorps volunteer vacation programs ready where volunteers can come to local communities and celebrate the donation of more and better school supplies in exchange for recycling and creating cleaner communities. These events will make clear that the real heroes are not the tourists or BeachCorps, but the local community leaders who have developed this program and the kids who have helped make it a reality. This can be a big, yearly event that will constantly help communities and local governments stay on top of the problems of littering and the absence of a strong recycling culture.
Our program will tackle four different issues at once:
1. Promoting recycling: we will educate kids about the importance of recycling and particularly the harm plastic trash in particular does to the environment and even to storm and flood water drainage.
2. Combatting the "Trash Culture": we will help the kids understand why they must be the generation that starts to change the culture of just tossing trash on the ground. This is not as hopeless as it sounds and gives kids the feeling that they are rebels fighting for a wonderful cause, that they "get it" while their parents don't. In America, we had a culture of tossing trash on the ground until we saw the light (who remembers the famous "Crying Indian" video?).
3. Supporting Education: We want to make sure that this program increases the amount and quality of school supplies for kids that need them. Too often there is a push only at the beginning of the year, and the school supplies have run out long before the end of the year. Our program will increase the payment for recycled bottles well beyond the market price, creating a powerful tool for buying school supplies.
4. Supporting Empowerment and Combatting the Dependency Culture: by giving kids the opportunity to pay for a greater number of school supplies, we will show them the value of working towards their own education and give them the pride of earning their school supplies as opposed to getting it for free. Imagine the pride of a kid who comes each year carrying his or her little bag of bottles and other recycling as payment for their school supplies.
Moreover, a program providing school supplies can be the entry point for working with a community to create other, more ambitious projects, such as creating the day care center or even English classes over the summer, the latter a major focus for BeachCorps for the summer of 2018.
We finally did get the back into the back of the BeachMobile. The most important lesson is that working together we can do magic if everyone does a little and does what they do best. We are grateful to Ecoservices Dominicana for all their support! We hope to find other private sector partners, nonprofits, and even government partners with the same vision and dedication for sustainability that Ecoservices has.
It's just a start of course. But do you like this idea? Then follow us on social media and share this blog story! That's leaving your "Little Grain of Sand!"
#Recycling #AntiLittering #Sustainability #SustainableTourism #PuntaCana #DominicanRepublic #Nonprofit #Education #ToxicCharity #SustainableDevelopment #SchoolSupplies #TetraPak
One of the most popular forms of "voluntourism" is orphanage voluntourism. It is also the form of voluntourism that causes the most harm. Multiple studies have shown the damage done by orphanage voluntourism, particularly in places like Cambodia where parents actually “rent” their kids to orphanages, often creating de facto orphans along the way. Even the volunteers frequently feel that short-term orphanage voluntourism is doomed to failure, as this video by Al Jazeera shows. The other great harm of course is the psychological impact of kids who’ve lost their parents developing attachments to people who are around for a short period of time and then disappear. In addition, having unqualified, unknown volunteers spend long hours of time with children over time creates a potential for child abuse.
The other big problem is that most orphanages lack the administrative capacity to show how funds are being used. It's important to have that accountability in volunteer vacations. One kind-hearted BeachCorps friend in the travel industry stopped giving to an orphanage after she learned that someone else had given funding to purchase food for a certain period, and then met another person who’d made the exact same donation. Here's a nice list of "10 Reasons Why Orphanage Voluntourism Must Stop" by @MumsDoTravel.
Because of these problems, BeachCorps currently does not engage in orphanage volunteer vacations and supports the #StopOrphanTrips campaign. To sign an online petition urging that orphanage voluntourism end, click HERE.
At the same time, it would be wrong to just turn our backs on orphans and orphanages. In addition, Cambodia is not the Dominican Republic. Says one orphanage expert friend of BeachCorps: "the topic is a strawman in the Dominican Republic. Orphanage voluntourism does not exist in the Dominican Republic. An afternoon visit by a family, playing, with the children, is not a 'working visit'." According to this expert, the only orphanage voluntourism program that existed in the Dominican Republic ended more than five years ago, and that organization now does community outreach.
Orphanages are a sad and seemingly permanent reality in many countries that lack the resources or culture to develop foster care systems supported by the government, civil society, and the private sector. They deserve our effective support, especially in the Dominican Republic. If you want to know about good organizations that support orphanages in the Dominican Republic, email: email@example.com.
One day we hope to work with some worthy orphanage organization, to fund scholarships for some of the kids. A small number of orphans in any orphanage could qualify for these scholarships by doing well in school and giving back to their communities and their orphanages, including by being mentors to younger orphans. These kids would be the ones that work on BeachCorps projects, learning skills about public speaking and doing outreach to their communities so their scholarship is given with the “pay it forward” concept.
A scholarship program could help turn kids from objects of pity into empowered leaders, opening paths for improving conditions in orphanages without encouraging the creation of more orphans. Orphans in reputable orphanages who qualify for scholarships could be great helpers within the orphanages themselves, helping to encourage a culture of empowerment as model leaders. Tourists would never have the kind of exposure to kids that could be harmful to the kids psychological development. Moreover, the funding would be managed by a reputable local school or university to ensure transparency and accountability.
Short-term volunteering with kid orphan leaders who are earning scholarships could work. The short-term exposure would lend itself well to introducing volunteers to really great, empowered orphan kids earning scholarships, which could encourage the volunteers to then contribute more towards the education of those kid orphan leaders and the next generation of leaders. This could all be achieved without encouraging the creation of more orphans, and could even be linked to a public awareness campaign to move towards systems relying more on foster families.
It’s a long term dream of BeachCorps. We’ll first develop scholarship programs in less problematic areas, making our mistakes and learning and improving first before working in the problematic area of orphanages.
Wish us luck.
#Voluntourism #SustainableDevelopment #SustainableTourism #SustainableTravel #DominicanRepublic #VolunteerVacation #ImpactTravel #OrphanageVoluntourism #Orphanage
SAIH is an organization of students and academics in Norway. SAIH focuses on education in development cooperation and created a wonderful if over-simplified parody of the "White Savior Mentality" that permeates so much voluntourism: "Who Wants to Be a Volunteer?"
So much voluntourism today does focus on glorifying the volunteer and making the beneficiaries seem helpless. But BeachCorps is trying to change that. BeachCorps is a model 9 years in the making that focuses on great causes, not the egos of volunteers. After years of developing our model, we were delighted to learn of the seminal work "Toxic Charity" that talks about the dangers of good intentions doing harm through volunteer work. As we read the book, every single danger was one we had already thought of--we just hadn't expressed it so well. And we were glad to see our model avoids those mistakes. We talk a lot about Toxic Charity on our website. https://www.beachcorps.com/avoiding-toxic-charity.html
So ultimately while we believe a lot of voluntourism is bad, not all of it is. We subscribe to the #MendNotEnd philosophy that says you can indeed do good on short term trips if the focus is the cause, not the ego of the volunteer. Our marketing focus is on the great non-profit and for-profit partners that are working to empower local communities. The folks who are fighting to empower local communities to promote education, community development, protecting the environment/animals are the heroes, not BeachCorps, not our volunteers. Our volunteers are but a "Little Grain of Sand" in our view. A little sand in the wrong place can do harm. Only a lot of sand accumulating and supporting the right causes can help. We are starting in the Dominican Republic this year but hope to expand.
We hope that folks will see if we are keeping our promises!
#Voluntourism #SustainableDevelopment #SustainableTourism #SustainableTravel #DominicanRepublic #VolunteerVacation
BeachCorps is a non-denominational company focused on effective volunteer vacations. We welcome people and causes of all faiths, or even no faith. However, we believe that Faith Based Organizations (FBOs) can be particularly effective partners, especially in a country like the Dominican Republic with such a large number of different and thriving faith traditions.
Let's look at the Pro's and Cons in general of FBOs. First the Pro's. Supporters of FBOs believe that they can amass resources unavailable to groups not based on faith. First, they are capable of drawing upon large groups of volunteers with similar beliefs and values who can be easier to direct and lead as a group. Historically, FBOs show less variation in donation levels and are comparatively resistant to large decreases in funds during economic downturns. Consistency is key in planning long-term development, as local communities lose faith in organizations that come and go based on fluctuating economies and donor whims.
But probably the biggest advantage that FBOs have is in connecting with local communities through faith. People who share similar faiths are better able to engage and trust each other. Such trust allows foreign development groups to more quickly devolve responsibility and decision-making to locals, a key plus in any sustainable development plan. FBOs are often thus better placed to develop grass-roots initiatives that truly reflect local communities and not the implanted views of foreign aid givers.
Now the Cons. The most obvious criticism of FBOs is that they sometimes mix proselytizing with their development work. This can be a problem, but BeachCorps will work to ensure this isn't a problem for any partners because BeachCorps will not partner with organizations who openly proselytize to our volunteers as opposed to just showing volunteers "the fruits of faith." Our partners will also be open in sharing their faith but only as part of the overall "Zen" of organizations. Another criticism is that FBOs can sometimes pursue ineffective policies based on faith. BeachCorps will work to ensure these aren't problems because our programs will be targeting a broad array of religious and nonreligious travelers and because we will not be entering into controversial areas like family planning.
Finally, a more serious problem is the "halo effect" where FBOs are just assumed to be doing God's work when in fact there may be serious problems. This can be a serious problem. However, the BeachCorps model will help reduce this potential error by stressing measuring success with independent, verified data. As BeachCorps programs expand, BeachCorps will ensure that partners will give us the data showing their success, and verify that data with independent analysis, as a condition of continuing to work together.
In many cases, BeachCorps will target assistance into easily verifiable areas like scholarships for underserved youth, which creates an easy and publicly viewable monitoring system because universities and schools receive the scholarship funding linked to specific students. Other costs will support projects that ensure that beneficiaries of BeachCorps donations also "pay it forward" by doing their own community development work. Like all nonprofit organizations, FBOs must avoid the "white savior" mentality program and programs that reinforce a culture of dependency and "Toxic Charity." In short, BeachCorps funds will go into projects that are more easily verifiable and which volunteers can rest assured wouldn't occur without their support, their little grain of sand.
So while BeachCorps will continue to work with FBOs and organizations not based on faith, we recognize that in general an organization that can draw on faith is likely to be stronger as a result. The Dominican Republic is a country where faith runs strong, so FBOs can connect effectively in a wide variety of ways. We hope one day to work with many different groups of different faiths, including the historic Jewish presence in the North Coast of the country.
Say a prayer for our Faith Based and Non-Faith Based work! --BBB
#faithbased #SpringBreak #AlternativeSpringBreak #SustainableDevelopment #VolunteerVacation #Voluntourism #AllInclusive #Excursion #SustainableTourism #TravelForGood #ToxicCharity
The BeachCorps Beach Bum!
The BeachCorps Beach Bum loves great vacations and great volunteer work!