Philanthropic Volunteering: Combining Travel and Altruism

Carl Turnley is both an avid traveler and a proponent of philanthropic involvement. In culmination of the two, Carl hosts blogs on the subjects, covering his philanthropic endeavors, the causes he supports and how he gets involved on CarlTurnley.org; on CarlTurnleyTravel.com, he offers advice, insight and paints pictures of the world of travel that he has experienced first-hand.

 

Now, Carl has decided to outline how these two interests (three, if you count blogging) come together, giving a look into the world of altruistic travel.

carl turnley philanthropy

 

Combining Travel and Philanthropy | Carl Turnley

 

Why Volunteer When you Travel?

As someone who is heavily invested in both traveling and getting involved with international causes the importance of combining the two is evident.

We travel for a number of reasons, the last of which is certainly not to explore a new area, open our eyes to new cultures and gain a more worldly perspective. These opportunities–whether they’re focused on business, pleasure, or philanthropy–can help expand our cultural horizons and better understand and empathize with those around us.

The addition of volunteering abroad only does more to improve your stay. You might not have as much time to relax on the beach or dine at upscale establishments, but the reward of knowing you’ve helped those in need far exceeds a day tanning by the water.

How To Get Involved

If you’re an active member of a church or other religious association you’ve more than likely got more than just a few opportunities in front of you. Mission trips organized by religious organizations are a common, year-round expenditure that will allow you to travel at low (or no) cost to countries in need. There, you’ll undertake a number of tasks that typically range from infrastructural improvements, construction of homes, shelters and ministries, and volunteering at local events where needed.

If you’re less religious, other travel-volunteer programs offer the ability to get involved in hands-on manners around the world. Those like Global Vision International  do an incredible job of pairing volunteers with those in need internationally. The possibilities of how you can get involved are nearly endless–for a longer list, check this CNN article.

Where To Travel

The options available to you are extremely far-reaching. Though you may picture building churches in a third-world country as the “typical” volunteer mission trip, if you’re not as physically fit as some volunteers or think that you’re not up for it, other organizations offer the opportunity to teach English, educate locals on how to improve their living conditions, or volunteer on farmland or with endangered animals around the world.

Helping After a Disaster: Why It’s Important to Be Cautionary

Carl Turnley Haiti

 

In the wake of a disaster, human beings are unique in their desire to help.

Almost as one, we stand up and ask how we can help. Can we send food? Can we send supplies? Can we offer our homes, our money or even words of encouragement to help in times of absolute need?

When Hurricane Matthew swept through the Caribbean it left behind it a path of destruction, death and despair while making its way to the southeast United States. Lacking a solidified government and the advanced infrastructure that nations like the United States or the Bahamas can tout, Haiti was devastated by the severe weather. The death count continues to climb, currently over 1,000 according to the Huffington Post.

Amidst news of death, destroyed infrastructure, displaced people and decimated morale across the small island nation, humans around the world rose to help. In almost a mirror image of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the American Red Cross allowed people to donate money quickly and efficiently to Haiti’s relief efforts simply by texting a number.

But suddenly, things changed abruptly–reports came in that some people were warning Americans not to donate to the American Red Cross for Haiti relief. In fact, it was the Haitians, in large part, who were warning against it. They claimed that the donations in past disaster relief efforts had been largely squandered.

At this point in time, it may be in the best interest to listen to them. Understanding where your donations are going is the single most important part of making a charitable donation. Having the knowledge that your funds are being lost simply lining the pockets of the employees at a nonprofit, being poorly managed, or otherwise being called into question should put a halt in your donations quickly.

You know by now that you should do your due diligence when deciding on a charity to which you’ll donate some money. But sometimes it takes more than a simple Google search to make a conclusion. CharityWatch gives the ARC an A- rating–proof that they can (and often do!) coordinate large scale efforts and help those in need. But foreign relief efforts are often best handed by foreign NGOs, or ones that work closely with foreign governments.

A natural disaster, especially one that has claimed so many lives and devastated entire countries is worthy of an extra charitable look. These people are people–human beings–who need help that they simply cannot provide for themselves. However, times of dire need are not the times to begin throwing caution to the wind. Make sure that the nonprofits that you’re donating to are both legitimate and appropriately use their funds in the most efficient way possible.

To help Haiti with Hurricane Matthew relief, consider donating directly to Doctors Without Borders or Help for Haiti, two relief efforts that are primed to make a difference.

Charities That Fly Under the Radar

Certain charities exist in the U.S. that are nearly universally known. People have heard of these charities, know what they do, and have possibly donated to them in the past. These charities might include Make-A-Wish, Salvation Army, The American Cancer Society, and Goodwill. While these charities do a lot of good and support great causes, there are also many lesser-known charities that also provide awesome services. Here’s a list of smaller charities that have received stellar ratings on Charity Navigator, which evaluates how well a charity uses their finances and how accountable they are with reporting information.

 

India Development and Relief Fund

This charity is based in Maryland and focuses on providing “support for programs that improve education, healthcare, women empowerment, governance, and eco-friendly livelihoods at grassroots level all across India, and Nepal.” The organization currently focuses on assisting those living in Nepal who were affected by the devastating earthquakes that recently occurred.

 

Pediatric Cancer Foundation

This foundation runs the Sunshine Project, which allows researchers and doctors to work together with the singular goal of treating childhood cancer, a fairly novel approach. They have been able to develop less toxic drugs that may help children whose treatment wasn’t previously effective. The foundation also funds a lot of research around pediatric cancer.

 

Puppies Behind Bars

The purpose of this charity is to train wounded veteran and law enforcement service dogs. They accomplish this goal by giving puppies to inmates, who raise and train the dogs from the age of 8 to 24 weeks. The dogs are then placed with wounded veterans at no cost. Around 800 puppies have been trained since 1997.

 

Alpha House of Tampa

Alpha House assists homeless mothers or pregnant women who are in crisis and do not have much support to care for themselves and their children. The charity offers health care, housing, parenting classes, education, and assistance in developing skills that allow these mothers to be self-sufficient.

 

Better Basics

Better Basics strives to encourage literacy with at-risk children in the Birmingham, Alabama area. They run intervention and education programs, in addition to handing out free books to local children. Last year, over 80,000 books were donated to schoolchildren. Even though literacy rates in the United States are fairly high, there are still thousands of children who struggle to read.

 

Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide

The Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide (ELAW) seeks to assist attorneys and researchers on an international level. ELAW provides these people with the resources necessary to protect the environment through passing legislation or upholding that which is already in place. More than 300 scientists and lawyers spread throughout 70 countries are a part of ELAW.

The Unappreciated Philanthropy of Greek Life

 

Carl Turnley Philanthropy

The word “philanthropy” is, according to Google, derived from the Greek word “philanthropos,” meaning “man-loving.” Man-loving, in this sense, is the focus on feeling compassion and high regard of your fellow man; all of mankind as a whole is deserving of respect, regard, and, of course, assistance when needed. It only makes sense, then, that the connection between a word whose origins can be traced to Greece and college Greek life share such a close connection.

For many people, though, love of your fellow man isn’t what the first thing that comes to mind when they think about college fraternities.

 

So what is the first thing that comes to mind when I say the phrase “Greek life?” What about “fraternities” or “sororities?” If you pictured wild parties, hazing rituals, red solo cups and togas made of bedsheets, chances are your view of fraternities and sororities are more governed by what you’ve seen in movies and heard about during your time in college. If, on the other hand, you pictured well-organized, philanthropic events, year-round fundraising and a strong sense of compassion and the willingness to help others, you’ve hit the nail on the head.

 

Depending on where you went to college and your level of involvement in Greek life, you may have a very different opinion of the entire scenario.  While many people who never pledged a fraternity or sorority who attended a larger schools like Arizona State or Penn State may know the groups best for their weekend antics, the foundation of a fraternity isn’t in the parties they throw, it’s in the philanthropy they engage in.

 

Every fraternity and sorority on just about every campus across America carefully and meticulously plans out a series of fundraising events that benefit a charity–whether it’s local or national. These charities and philanthropic causes become the backbone for the fraternity or sorority’s event planning and fundraising each year. In 2011 at the University of Michigan, the University’s Greek life helped to raise over $75,000 to donate to charities–in a single week.  

 

Perhaps the biggest and best in Greek life fundraising is the annual event THON, which started at Penn State University in 1973 as a dance marathon to benefit charity. Since its onset, THON has partnered with the Four Diamonds Fund, which supports pediatric cancer research. The partnership, along with increased coverage of the event and a rate of participation from students both in and outside of Greek life has increased its charitable reach to epic proportions, recently raising over $14 million dollars in 2014 and over $9 million in 2016.

 

It’s time to break the mold of thinking when it comes to Greek life and the “party” culture that surrounds it. Often, Greek like winds up making strong changes of lives in people all over the glove.

Tommy Spaulding’s “It’s Not Just Who You Know”

Communication is the most important skill anyone working in the nonprofit sector can have. The funds you raise aren’t for you, they’re for a higher cause. It boils down to your team persuading potential donors to contribute to your cause. So it’s easy to see that, at the end of the day, all you have is your word.It's not just who you know

Many philanthropists, as I’ve noted before, treat everyone the same. By “same” I don’t mean “equal”. Rather, a potential donor or volunteer from one background receives the same information, attention, and communication as someone from a different background. We’re taught as children that each of us is unique, but we seem to lose sight of that as we age. You need to approach your potential game-changers as the individuals they are, not as a singular entity under one roof.

But this can be difficult. We’re conditioned to keeping work conversations in the office, and conversations of personal interest between our closest friends. Is this inherently a bad thing? No! But it is a bit jarring when someone from accounting is suddenly asked to contribute her time or money, when the only words you’ve spoken to her are about the weather and the new office space.

That’s why, I think you should read Tommy Spaulding’s best-seller It’s Not Just Who You Know. It’s simple, and doesn’t lose its message in self-aggrandizing pomp. The anecdotes are down to earth, and prove the power of a single conversation.

Spaulding writes at length about the different levels of interpersonal relationships, and the people we encounter at each one. At the lowest level are those with whom we just discuss news, sports and weather. At the top —the “Penthouse”— are our closest mentors, confidants, and loved ones, whom we serve with no expectation of reciprocity.

You can imagine which relationship is most useful to helping you achieve your goals. Spaulding helps us understand what makes penthouse relationships special, and why it’s possible to take someone we’ve recently met all the way to the top.

Of course, not everyone we meet will enter into penthouse relationship with us. Spaulding understands this, and helps the reader foster relationships at all points along the scale.

After reading it, you will be eager to listen to people and look for ways that you can selflessly help them. Whether they need help refining an idea or just want a shoulder to lean on, these relationships are what we, as humans crave. It’s Not Just Who You Know shows us how to make the most of them.

Making a Relationship with Donors

When you’re actively engaged in philanthropic activities, chances are you’re going to have to ask a donor for help. And you should! Trying to run a foundation or making a difference with exclusive use of your time, energy, and funds is a Sisyphean task. But when asking for donations, many people lead off with the same pitch: “Hi, please consider donating to or volunteering with [name of fund/organization] because it will make a positive difference in the lives of many people.” If you ask 100 people, you may get only a handful of positive responses. But how can we work to turn that into a productive, meaningful impact? two clasped hands

It’s easier said than done, to be sure, but this is the key: you’re not making the donation about them. “Wait a second,” you may be thinking, “it’s not about them! I’m trying to run this organization and get people involved to give back to others!” This is completely true, but whether they realize it or not, on every level people are thinking about how their actions benefit them. It’s not necessarily selfish, it’s just the way people are.

Now you don’t need to go out and inflate their ego. That’s bad. Saying “think about how great you’ll look volunteering tonight” looks scummy at best. Instead, approach donors that make sense. Don’t ask indiscriminately. Imagine you are in charge of organizing a fundraiser for a charity that helps to promote STEM in underperforming schools. If you have a professional contact who came from a disadvantaged background and is working towards a similar goal as you, frame your request in a way that resounds positively with that person. After all, they can likely connect with the people you are out to help. For example, you could say “I know that you worked hard to get to where you are, and want to help youths that were in your position to advance professionally. Would you like to speak to several school-aged children who want to learn more about what you do?”

This is much more thoughtful than an email blast saying “come find me if you want to make a difference this weekend!”

Remember, we’re all people, and we all want to do good. Just be upfront about why you think someone may be a good fit for the task.