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Volunteer Vacationers and What Research Can Tell Us About Them

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The growing trend called "volunteer vacationing" reflects the increase in short-term and family volunteerism reported in national surveys in the United States. An increasing number of organizations, public and private, cater to these volunteers with packaged service trips. Drawing on current research into the characteristics of successful volunteer programs, this article offers some preliminary hypotheses about the motivations of volunteer vacationers, the benefits and drawbacks of the "volunteer vacationer" model, and the ways in which programs can take advantage of this trend. Organizations welcoming volunteer vacationers have surmounted some difficulties shared by many volunteer programs, including how to balance a volunteer's need for intrinsic and extrinsic rewards, how to train and manage large numbers of short-term workers, and how to minimize staff resistance in the process. We would be well served by learning more about these effective programs. The rewards may include healthy retention rates among volunteers who are willing to pay handsomely for the experience.