How companies can benefit from CSR-friendly voluntourism

Ethical Incentive Trips and Team Building Adventures
Apr 5, 2011 3:30 PM ET

CSR Benefits of Ethical Incentive Trips

When companies get behind voluntourism, I get excited. This is because when a company decides to take Corporate Social Responsibility (“CSR”) seriously, they can make a big impact, bringing great benefit to impoverished communities. I call these “Socially Responsible Corporate Incentive Trips”.

For this to be “voluntourism” and not “corporate volunteerism” (another excellent initiative, which tends to focus on enabling employees to volunteer in their local communities), there needs to be a “tourism” aspect, and this is where incentive trips come in.

Incentive or reward trips have a strong track record of motivating, retaining, rewarding key staff, raising morale and increasing loyalty…and this is just from ‘plain vanilla’ incentive trips.

When companies add a community development component to an incentive trip, not only do employee’s trip feedback ratings go off the charts as a result of the meaningful interaction that comes from volunteering, but a company’s CSR profile gets a boost.

These CSR-friendly trips retain all the old favorites of an incentive trip, such as gala dinners, incredible activities, and luxury hotels (although the right provider can assist with finding ‘eco-luxe’ hotels that have strong environmental and social credentials) and are overlaid with a high impact project funded by the company, and completed by the employees.

Examples are building libraries and houses, or renovating schools and orphanages. The key is that the CSR-focused company firstly consults with local communities (or a good voluntourism provider consults on their behalf) to identify areas of need, then funds the costs (including hiring local expert builders to do the bulk of the work), leaving the company’s staff to spend a couple of days applying the finishing touches, getting to know the locals, and handing the completed project over to the community.

Hands Up Incentives regularly gets feedback like this:

  • 75% of participants rated this sort of incentive trip their Best Trip Ever (with the remainder rating it as ‘Very Good’)

  • 95% said that the time at the project was the highlight of the trip

These trips are truly “win-win”, especially when the company demonstrates long-term commitment to the project, for example by providing scholarships for students to go on to High School (as well as bikes to get there, and uniforms to wear).

And all this overlooks the fantastic Team Building benefits of a hands-on volunteer project. For instance, in a typical voluntourism incentive trip, team building elements are:

  • The group divides into smaller groups based on maximising their effectiveness to achieve the tasks in the limited timeframe, so this required identifying who is best suited for each role;

  • Each sub-group has to work out their own timing, ordering of activities, and division of labor to achieve their assigned goals;

  • Especially with a building project, the team has to be cohesive, and rely on each other in order to get the structure built in time, but even with activities such as painting classrooms, there needed to be coordination to ensure that the limited supply of paint is properly allocated and all the rooms are painted on time;

  • There is a huge morale boost and sense of achievement from each of the teams when they complete their tasks;

  • It is also important that the group as a whole bonds together, and this can take place in evening social activities, and also in the interaction with the local children, where football and ad hoc games can be played.

But don’t take my word for how wonderful CSR-friendly Corporate Incentive Trips are: you can view a short video clip from the CEO of a client from a recent corporate incentive trip Hands Up Incentives did here.

You can also view a slideshow of photos from this trip here.

To conclude, a company undertaking an incentive trip like this obtains the following benefits:

  • Rewards, retains and motivates staff

  • Increases employee loyalty

  • Boosts their CSR-reputation

  • Team building and bonding

Worth considering?