Voluntourism & The Donor Perspective: February Hub Site

Both Fellowship Circles from the Millennium Campus Network Fellowship Program and other student leaders gathered last night for a highly successful and productive Hub Site meeting focused on Voluntourism and Understanding the Donor Perspective. Fellows explored new aspects of student-led organizations working in the field international development while also challenging themselves to adapt constructive definitions and expectations.

For the first half of the meeting, the Fellows explored the growing phenomenon of “Voluntourism,” or the combination of volunteering and travel as an experience. Through analysis of various case studies, they wrestled with the question: “How do we develop compassionate, educated people while respecting human dignity, individual agency, and professional capacity of those whose lives we seek to improve?” Ultimately, the Fellows concluded that thinking ahead and asking questions are crucial tools for maximizing the benefits and minimizing the harm of Voluntourism.

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John Beahm, Executive Director of Jenzabar Foundation, and Steven Fox, Managing Director at Sunizorro Investments, joined the Fellows for the second half of the meeting, focused on Understanding the Donor Perspective. With substantial experience in the field of investment, their insights proved extremely valuable for Fellows interested in expanding their respective organizations’ funding in the future. Ultimately, the changing power imbalance of traditional donor-grantee relationships necessitates a personal connection with prospective donors, as well as a concise and compelling demonstration of realistic potential impact.

They emphasized the importance of sharing impact measurement reports, infographics, and long-term plans. The point was raised that often, the person you are approaching with your grant proposal is not the sole decision maker, so it is important to be patient. "Persistence shows passion," but there is a balance you should find in following up multiple times. Sometimes, a "no" to a grant application means "not yet," and you can keep a foundation on the backburner for the future. Needless to say, the Fellows left with a surplus of new information to apply to their student-led organizations.

Sam Vaghar, Executive Director of Millennium Campus Network, added his perspective, reminding Fellows of the definition of philanthropy: “it’s not all about the money” and that donors “give back in so many ways.”

Philanthropy (n). altruistic concern for human welfare and advancement, usually manifested by donations of money, property, or work to needy persons, by endowment of institutions of learning and hospitals, and by generosity to other socially useful purposes.