Voluntourism can be a great tool to create an event that is part networking and part giving back at your conference. Here are several ways to make sure your attendees leave with a unique experience while accomplishing what they came for.
Get the CVB Involved
Meeting planners looking to include volunteer programs in their conference agendas can look to the DMO for assistance. As giving back continues to become an attendee expectation, destinations are answering this need by building customizable volunteer programs or working through local service organizations to blend the needs of the community with those of the visitors.
For example, meetings in Panama City Beach, Florida, can now "Stay It Forward" by assisting in the area’s continued restoration after Hurricane Michael, particularly in Mexico Beach. Though the Mexico Beach community has come a long way, there is still work to be done through projects that are simple yet have a great impact on the future, such as planting sea oats that will stabilize the sand dunes washed away by the storm.
Provide Inclusive Projects That Become a Tradition Within Your Organization
Diversifying the project or providing more than one activity ensures that those who prefer to help in another way or have limited mobility can still serve. It also creates bonds between attendees and is a great way to network!
Branding the event by giving it a name that reflects the group’s culture helps build the event’s momentum each year; breaking attendees into groups creates bonds; and providing T-shirts or hats gives a cohesive feel to the project and a becomes an appreciated takeaway.
Volunteers Want to Feel a Connection to the Community
Helping attendees understand how their day of volunteerism impacted the community is key to the success of the project. They want to feel a connection to the destination, knowing that their contribution will be sustainable or will produce a positive effect for the area. Involving a local expert to educate the group on their contribution leaves a lasting impression of the importance of their work.
With Panama City Beach's location in Florida’s panhandle, nature is central to who we are, and eco-tourism projects abound. Local authorities on “The World’s Most Beautiful Beaches” are available to inform volunteers how their project helped sustain hundreds of sea turtle nests or the Seacrest Wolf Preserve, where visitors can volunteer while learning about their vital service to promote wolf and wildlife preservation.
Sustainable volunteerism is a hot topic, with a goal of serving a destination’s needs in an enduring way. Meetings can accelerate this effect by creating projects that accomplish what they came to do and create relatable connections between the community and attendee.