Category Archives: Genevieve Brown, IVPA Executive Director

Celebration and Support for International Service

By | Genevieve Brown, IVPA Executive Director | No Comments

Last week the Peace Corps celebrated its 50th Anniversary with a gathering at the University of Michigan. There is a great summary of the events on CFHI’s blog

It was at UM that John F. Kennedy spoke about a generation of young adults going abroad, making connections and giving service. The events on the anniversary of that day focused on continuing the movement, scaling-up and creating a lasting impact.

Everyone that has ever been a volunteer, been impacted by international service or supports international volunteering can now join this movement. Service World has a site where you can sign Declaration for International Service and write what your experiences have meant to you. Be part of the movement

Voluntourism and International Volunteering Highlighted in Text on Emerging Volunteer Areas

By | Genevieve Brown, IVPA Executive Director | No Comments

The Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizationsand Voluntary Action (ARNOVA) recently updated their Occasional Paper Series—Emerging Areas of Volunteering.

Voluntourism and international volunteering both received attention. The text made reference to “Cross National Volunteerism” and “VolunToursim”. There is a great summary of the text here.

As the summary text mentions. the main emerging trend in cross national volunteerism is the broadening the accessibility of international volunteer opportunities. While voluntourism is mentioned as a “mass marketing approach to service”.

The previously referenced blogger writes “While the tourism industry serves as the travel specialists, they realize that the overall effectiveness of VolunTourism rest with the nonprofit sector who must effectively engage and manage these traveling volunteers.” I think this is a key point when talking about international volunteering weather it is a  nonprofit or for profit organization placing a volunteer the effectiveness of the volunteer and the project she is working on in the community depends on who is engaging the community and the volunteers.

Some of the other volunteer areas highlighted included in the article compilation include:

  • episodic volunteering
  • virtual volunteering
  • employee volunteer programs.

Can You Deduct a Volunteer Trip?

By | Genevieve Brown, IVPA Executive Director, Tips for Volunteering Abroad | No Comments

A question many people ask when they are thinking of volunteering abroad is “Can I deduct my volunteer trip?” And the two most common answers I give are…1. “It depends.” and 2. “Consult a tax professional”.

That being said there are provisions that allow an international volunteers to deduct the costs of volunteering abroad. recently posted some of the issues of such a deduction and I thought they summarized the details well.  You can find more here.

In the article they made sure to point out that just as if you were going to deduct a donation of physical goods or money, your time must be given to qualified organization. Also the purpose of the trip must be for charity work not a vacation that means keeping track of how your time is spent. (One day of service and five days spent on the beach probably wouldn’t qualify.)Some other useful tips included keeping receipts and careful track of expenses because you will need to itemize your deductions.

These are useful tips so if you are thinking about deducting the cost of a voluntourism trip or volunteer vacation and make sure to do your research before hand to see if you qualify – answers 1 and 2 still apply.

International Volunteers Found in the United States and Abroad

By | Genevieve Brown, IVPA Executive Director | One Comment

We often focus on the idea of Americans or Europeans going abroad to volunteer but international volunteerism is happening all over the world. Take for example the United Nations Volunteer (UNV) program. In 2008, Keyna sent 206 volunteers abroad to volunteer with UNV. Another example is Atlas Service Corps. As an innovative nonprofit based in Washington DC, Atlas Service Corps brings mid-level professionals from developing countries to come to the US and serve for a year as a fellow.

While these two examples focus on skilled volunteers, I enjoyed a recent article in Denver newspaper about young volunteers from U.S. and Germany, Sweden, Egypt, Spain, the Netherlands and the Philippines volunteering together at the Denver Indian Center as part of CISV International project.

We might not hear much about international volunteers coming to the US to volunteer but it is exciting that ideas like cross-cultural understanding, cooperation, and voluntourism can be found in our own back yard.

How to Choose a International Volunteer Program

By | Genevieve Brown, IVPA Executive Director | No Comments

It seems like every day there is a new volunteer-sending organization popping up. Growth in the field is great because it means that more and more people have the chance to volunteer abroad. But the sheer number of opportunities to choose from can make it confusing for someone just starting to think about volunteering internationally. Unfortunately there are some organization out there that misrepresent themselves. One of the most common questions for someone looking to volunteer is “How do I know if an organization is legit?”. This is an important question to ask. People don’t want to be a victim of a scam or fraud nor do they want to throw away their money on an experience they feel does not have value.

The first step in having a great experience and truly make and impact in the communities you plan on visiting is to find the right organization. Below are some steps to guide you to the right organization for you.

  1. Know what type of experience you are looking for. Decide the answers to the obvious questions for example:
    • How long do you want to volunteer for?
    • Is there a specific country or region you want to travel to?
    • What type of service or project do you hope to be involved in?
    • Do you want to be with other volunteers or on your own?
    • How much do you plan on spending?
  2. Next, start researching. Just because an organization has a great website does not mean that they are reputable. Talk to the organization and ask questions, lots of them. Some questions to consider:
    • Can I talk to a former volunteer?
    • What does my program fee pay for?
    • Will I be interacting with employees from the sending organization when I am on the ground?
    • Will I receive training before I leave?
    • What is your refund policy?
    • How long has the sending organization been operating?
    • Does the sending organization partner with local NGO’s in-country?
    • If there is an emergency how can my family reach me or vice-versa?

This is just a short list of questions you might consider. You can see more here. The important thing is to make an educated decision that you feel good about, then you can move forward and prepare for a great international experience, volunteering and making a difference.

Volunteer Abroad Through IVPA’s Member Programs

By | Genevieve Brown, IVPA Executive Director, Tips for Volunteering Abroad | No Comments

Looking to go abroad this year and plan on incorporating service into you travels? IVPA Members offer programs in over 65 countries around the world.  From island nations in the South Pacific to the plains of Africa there are limitless possibilities to serve.

As potential volunteers begin their search for the right program many wonder “how do I know if an organization is legit?”. IVPA members have been vetted and commit to upholding 35 important best practices in the field of international volunteering.

Check out IVPA members and their programs at You can also search programs here by country, length or stay and/or type of service. Make the goal now to explore, make connections and do some good.

The Impact of Volunteering Abroad

By | Genevieve Brown, IVPA Executive Director, Research | No Comments

Approximately a month ago the Center for Social Development at Washington University in St. Louis and the Global Economy and Development at Brookings released the interim results of their study on the impact of international volunteering. This portion of the study specifically looks at the perceived impact of international volunteering on the volunteer.

They found that the volunteers reported an increase in International Awareness, Intercultural Relations and International Career Intentions and that this increase was statistically significant when contrasted with the comparison group.

Brookings and the Center for Social Development continue to produce some of the highest quality research on international volunteering. I can’t wait to see read their next report.

The Latest Research on International Volunteerism in the United States

By | Genevieve Brown, IVPA Executive Director, Research | No Comments

The Center for Social Development at Washington University in St. Louis recently released a research brief as part of their ongoing research on international volunteering in the United States.

This brief gives a great summary and some actual figures about international volunteering trends in the U.S. Some of the highlights include the following findings:

  • Over one million individuals reported volunteering internationally in 2008.
  • The majority of international volunteers served with a faith-based organization.
  • The most common activities of volunteers included general labor (33%), mentoring youth (29%), providing counseling or medical care (23%), and tutoring or teaching (22%).

Government Support for International Volunteering

By | Genevieve Brown, IVPA Executive Director | No Comments

The other day I came across the Platform2 initiative. Platform2 is a UK program financially supported by UKaid from the Department for International Development. The program gives young adults (18-25), who would otherwise not have the opportunity, the chance to volunteer abroad for 10 weeks. The purpose of the program is to raise awareness in the UK of global issues and as the UKaid site states:

“It’s important that young adults understand the issues that shape the world they live in – it’s an investment for their future. We want to give young adults the chance to get involved at first hand.”

Platform2 is funded for three years (ending in 2010) and estimates sending 2,500 volunteers. Though this project is limited in scope it will be interesting to see how UKaid and the volunteers feel about the initiative and if there is a renewal of funding.  Despite the short term aspect of the scheme it is impressive that the government development agency is investing in international volunteering.

Currently, here in the US, supporters for volunteering abroad are gearing up for new legislation to support the scaling up of international volunteering. ServiceWorld, a policy planning process that focuses on scaling up international volunteering, has been taking policy agenda suggestions.

So what is the role of international volunteering in the policy sphere? Should it be used to raise awareness of global issues or as a way to build bridges and “smart power” diplomacy? Or are there other reasons for government support of international volunteering?

It will be exciting to see what comes of the new legislation proposals and to see what space international volunteering will take in US government initiatives.

Widening the Field: The Travel Industry, Voluntourism and International Volunteering

By | Genevieve Brown, IVPA Executive Director | No Comments

Over the past decade field of international volunteering has seen incredible growth. Though the recession did impact growth trends, those in the field are optimistic about its continued recovery and growth. The travel industry has certainly latched onto the idea of voluntourism or volunteering while on vacation and we continue to see new trip packages that offer a way to volunteer to “give back”. Royal Caribbean just announced a new land excursion offered in Cozumel, Mexico that gives cruise-goers the chance to volunteer with the Mexican Red Cross doing landscaping at their new facility and the proceeds for the excursion going to the Red Cross.

There are of course many variations of volunteer trips. A decade ago, before the term voluntoursim became popular, international volunteering was in some respects separate from the travel industry or perhaps a subset of the industry. More and more we are seeing a blurring of the lines delineating vacationing and volunteer travel. As the field continues to grow and diversify I think we will see more questions about responsible volunteering, quality service and ethical partnerships.  So what do you think, is the broadening of the field of international volunteering a good thing?