Frequently asked questions
Somondo is at least as much about learning and exchange with the non-profit sector as it is about financially supporting it.
The reason is this: We think there is a lot of potential in connecting visitors and non-profit organizations in addition to raising funds. Such visits can be opportunities to learn from each other, to create connections, to bring together people of different backgrounds, while widening understanding of the non-profit sector. They can also be fun. During our research we have come across sentences in the style of "go and see impoverished destitute marginalised poor people and make a difference through donating some pencils." We think that these top-down images are not really helpful. That is why at Somondo we apply a different approach, mindset and language that goes far beyond "helping."
Absolutely! Having organized, run, and participated in visits like these many times ourselves, and having spoken to dozens of organizations and visitors, we are confident that if done responsibly, these visits and tours can be of great benefit to everyone involved!
We hope that the visiting opportunities listed on Somondo are at least as much about learning and exchange as about "helping," but yes, these visits can of course help. They help the organizations by creating additional awareness for their cause and work, while possibly increasing their revenue. They can benefit the organizations' beneficiaries through increased funding for the organization and, if included in the visit agenda and organized responsibly, through exchange with the visitors that can be empowering. And importantly, these visits can also help you, the visitor, because you may be able to gain new ideas and get to know and learn about a side of a place and an issue that you might not have known about before. On a macro-level, we hope that these visits can create an additional level of transparency to the non-profit sector and encourage the development of civil society through collective action.
No, not automatically. Before listing organizations on Somondo, we review all applications for quality. However, given that a) judging non-profit organizations is a very complex task and b), we don't have the resources to visit each organization ourselves, we unfortunately cannot vouch for all of the organizations and their work. We believe though that the visits listed on Somondo as well as the stories shared by visitors on their experiences will add another layer of transparency to the non-profit sector.
On every visit profile page you will find the contact information necessary to arrange the visit of interest. It will depend on the organization to decide how far in advance you must make this arrangement. For some organizations, you may be able to arrange a visit on the same day as the visit, whereas for others – especially in the case of multiple-day tours organized by international non-governmental organizations (INGOs) – you may have to enquire months in advance. In any case, the contact can be established through Somondo.
At least for the time being, we have decided that payments should be dealt with directly between you as a visitor and the respective organization. The time and method of payment depends on the preferences of the individual organization. While in the case of a one-day visit to a local organization, you often will pay in cash on the day of the visit itself. In the case of longer events, you likely will have to pay by credit card or bank transfer months in advance. Still other visits may be offered for free. Please find further information on the respective Somondo visit page or enquire individually with the organization.
What do the frequency and type of visits and events offered by an organization tell me about this organization?
In short: not much.
There are many indicators for evaluating a non-profit, but the frequency or type of visits and events that a non-profit offers is not among them. This is because non-profit organizations are diverse, with different missions, project activities, budget sizes, and funding models. All of these elements influence whether or not an organization offers visiting opportunities and if they do, the visit details such as frequency, cost, etc. It is impossible to base the quality of an organization on these parameters.
Can I just show up at an organization's project site or headquarters office without arranging my visit beforehand?
No – Unless an organization explicitly states differently on their Somondo profile, please never visit an organization without arranging your visit with their staff beforehand. Even with the best intentions, unarranged visits may significantly distract an organization from its core work. And, after all, in most cases their core work is not to host visitors, but to make a difference working directly with the organization's beneficiaries. We are sure you understand our reasoning and kindly ask you to respect this principle. By respecting it, you help the organizations focus on their work.
First of all, while we understand that you may be disappointed, please don't be angry at the organization. A visit may be too distracting for a non-profit organization at the moment of contact. These organizations are primarily working with and for their beneficiaries; they are not commercial tour operators. There is no inherent "right to visit a non-profit organization." As visitors, we must respect this and be grateful that many organizations and projects are opening their doors on occasion, allowing us to learn directly about their work. What you could do in this case, is to search on Somondo for a project that is working on the same or a similar topic in the region, and enquire about their visiting opportunities.
I know of a great organization that offers visiting opportunities but is not currently listed on Somondo. What can I do?
Awesome! We are always keen to learn about organizations which could benefit from being listed on our platform and which fit our criteria. It would be great if you could either tell the organization about Somondo or recommend the organization to us (so that we can contact them). Thank you in advance for helping Somondo grow!
Who can join?
Registered non-profit organizations can join our platform and list their visiting opportunities. For more information on our criteria, please have a look at the following questions.
Yes. We understand that the non-profit sector is large and diverse and that Somondo might not be the right platform for some organizations.
For various reasons:
- Organizations running orphanages
- Political parties
- Houses of worship (e.g. churches, mosques, synagogues and temples) – their related auxiliary services can be listed though
- Sports clubs
For other non-profit organizations and initiatives, we will decide on a case-by-case basis. Somondo reserves the right to turn down applications from organizations and initiatives, if we feel that Somondo may not be the place for them.
Please also note our current restrictions regarding certain types of visiting opportunities.
About Visiting Opportunities and Events
Basically, this will depend on your non-profit organization. Every non-profit organization is different in terms of what visiting opportunity works best for them, their beneficiaries and their visitors. Opportunities listed will range from free to relatively expensive, a few hours long to several days, restrictive to donors to open to school groups, inclusive of on-the-ground site visits to video presentations. We trust you to know how to best design visiting opportunities that meet your non-profit organization's needs.
That being said, we have one main criterion: There must be a direct connection between the content of the visit and your organization's work. The rationale behind this is that we want to prevent mission drift (e.g. non-profit organizations going into the territory of classic tour operators). For example, if you're a microfinance organization, you're more than welcome to list opportunities that explain your work to visitors, but please don't think about starting to offer dance classes. You won't be allowed to list activities like these on the Somondo platform.
Can you give provide us with examples of visiting opportunities that you envision listing on Somondo?
- A trip offered to school groups by a small organization working on environmental education that takes place on request
- A tour by a microfinance organization during which visitors get to exchange with a borrower of the organization and which is offered every two weeks
- A documentary screening and discussion panel event on education inequity organized by an advocacy organization
- A visit by an organization working on water, sanitation and hygiene projects that takes place every four months
- A visit to an urban farming project that is open to the general public for free by a medium-sized organization
- A two-week tour offered by a large organization to its donors during which they get to exchange with producers of fair trade products, and that is organized once per year
- A bird watching event offered three times a week by a local organization working on protecting migrating bird species
- A walking tour of historical sites that have been at-risk of destruction offered daily by a non-profit organization, where proceeds go towards education and restoration projects.
These are just a few examples. We look forward to learning about the many other visiting opportunities offered by non-profit organizations that are happening around the world!
Do you have reservations about listing certain types of visiting opportunities on Somondo? If so, which?
We will be cautious about listing visits to places with vulnerable human populations such as:
- Day care centers
- Hospitals and clinics
- Halfway and sober/recovery houses (e.g., places for people in recovery from mental illnesses, sexual abuse, substance abuse, etc.)
- Assisted living facilities (e.g., retirement and nursing homes, senior care centers, etc)
Please note: At least for the time being, we will NOT LIST organizations wanting to add such visiting opportunities to Somondo.
While we don’t encourage organizations to list classic volunteer placements on Somondo, organizations are welcome to include some small volunteer elements into the visits they list on Somondo, as long as they foster an educational aspect. For example, if your organization works with disadvantaged people who produce handcraft, and during the visit they show your visitors the details of the production process, you can encourage your guests to try it out themselves. Or if you are an environmental initiative that takes care of a meadow, you can teach visitors how to mow a meadow with a scythe. But please don’t use Somondo to find volunteers who will take care of your meadow for the years to come.
No, we are not a voluntourism platform.
No, you don't have to. It's your organization's decision whether you offer visits and events for free, a small sum or a large amount of money.
This is entirely up to you. You can receive visitors as often as you wish to, from every single day to only every few years. Also, you can offer visiting opportunities on a regular basis (e.g. every second Sunday of the month) or less frequently or only upon individual request. Being from the sector ourselves, we know that non-profit organizations can't legally bind themselves to running visits and tours at a pre-defined frequency (like is often the case in the tourism industry).
What happens if we receive a visitor's request but don't have the resources at the moment to organize a visit?
In short: nothing. By joining Somondo, you are not obliged to offer and run visiting opportunities. In a case like this, please kindly respond to the interested visitor's message informing her/him that unfortunately your organization cannot be visited at this time. There is no inherent "right to visit a non-profit organization" and this is what we will always communicate to the Somondo community. In general, we see it as a role of our platform to channel those visitors' requests and help organizations to manage prospective visitors' expectations regarding the frequency of visiting opportunities.
Can we restrict the accessibility of our visiting opportunities? For example, to our donors? Or only to groups with a certain size?
Yes. While we won't allow any visitor restrictions based on origin, ancestry, or religion, organizations can add visiting opportunities that are restrictive in certain other ways.
For instance, organizations can add visits that are only accessible to their members, people working in the sector (e.g., study tours for those with a professional interest), an age group (e.g. children and adults over the age of 13), school groups, specific language speakers (e.g. German-speakers only) or current or prospective donors. Some organizations may even only allow donors on a specific tour who have donated to a specific project (which is then visited) or have been long-term donors. For us, this is fine. We think that it is up to you as an organization to decide what is in your best interest in this matter. Also, from our personal experiences, we think it makes a lot of sense for organizations to add information on minimum and maximum group sizes for their visiting opportunities.
Yes, you can. This will appear in the organization's visit archive. We know that often a lot of work goes into organizing a visit, especially in the case of multiple-days tours. In our opinion, the information and publicity potential created by these efforts (e.g. descriptions and visitor stories) should not be wasted.
Value for Organizations
Can you provide external resources that describe the value for a non-profit organization to offer visiting opportunities?
Yes, we would enjoy sharing with you a collection of our favourite quotes that we have come across:
Seeing your work up close may impact a participant so much that he or she begins making major gifts, hosts a fundraising reception, gives you names of friends, and so on... There's no substitute for showing what you're doing, especially if it's a sneak peek not available to the general public.
– Ilona Bray, author of "Effective Fundraising for Nonprofits"; source
I continue to believe that immersion trips, if done well, can be an effective way to expose people to global poverty without stripping the locals of their dignity. [...] For an NGO, having donors see their projects is an excellent way of building connections with long term donors who can then tell other people of their experience. Couple that with strong education and information while on the trip and a more informed global citizen has been created.
Little can rival actually visiting a nonprofit to get a feel for the work that it does and the people or causes it supports. The activities you observe deserve during your visit... will likely inform your thinking long after you have left the grounds. Site visits offer opportunities not only to get excited about the work the organization does, but also to inform questions that can be hard to answer otherwise.
– GiveSmart.org, a site designed to help philanthropists make better decisions and get better results from their giving; source
We are offering one visiting opportunity per year and only to donors. Would it still make sense for us to list this opportunity here?
Yes, absolutely. One of the central functions of Somondo is to raise awareness and publicity for non-profit organizations and their work and cause. By being listed on Somondo – and potentially having your former visitors write about their experience – you can increase your organization's visibility even if you run events only once a year or only for your donors. This is because all of those platform users who may not be able to visit you in-person will still see your Somondo profile, the pictures taken during the event and read about your visitors' experiences. And this may motivate them to donate to your organization or support it in other ways.
We are not sure whether visitor fees will contribute a lot to our overall revenue. Would it still make sense for us to join Somondo?
Yes, for similar reasons as outlined in the previous question. Being listed on Somondo is about connecting with potential visitors but also about increasing your organization's visibility in an innovative way. Very importantly, this visibility also extends to people who may not be able to actually visit your organization but who will see your Somondo profile page, pictures of the visit and read about your visitors' experiences. This increased visibility can lead to more overall funding.
We don't view ourselves as a typical donation website. But we think that visits to your organization can lead to additional donations and that being listed on Somondo increases your organization's visibility in an innovative way. And, of course, you will be able to add donation information to your Somondo profile.
We know that it's become a full-time responsibility at some organizations to manage today's increasing online presence and digitisation. In an ideal world, there would just be one platform to satisfy these needs. Unfortunately, the reality is different. Donation platforms, non-profit organization websites, and email marketing service providers do a great job at helping organizations raise classic donations and inform current supporters. But helping organizations find new supporters, as well as setup, organize and present visits is very different from this, in terms of technical infrastructure, features, design etc. Thus we think there is both need and room for a platform like ours.
That being said, we obviously want to keep the workload as small as possible for your organization. Accordingly, we are planning features such as integrating your blog's RSS feed or Twitter stream into your Somondo profile. This will allow your Somondo profile to include your latest news without you actually having to update it manually every time. And of course you will be able to link to your organization's Facebook page and/or to your profile on donation platforms.
Joining Somondo and adding visiting opportunities is free for non-profit organizations and we want this to remain the case for all of our main features. If you are interested in how we are funded, you can find more information in the "about Somondo" section of this FAQ.
No, not in general. However, for the founding organizations, i.e. those organizations listed first on Somondo, we would prefer them to already have organized visits and events.
"Somondo" is a combination of two words that we like: "social" and "mondo", which means "world" in Esperanto. Combined, our name means "Social World".
At the moment, we fund Somondo with our own resources. Our personal appreciation of the non-profit sector has motivated us to conceptualize Somondo, research, and learn about the ideas and needs of non-profit organizations in regards to visiting opportunities. But we will need additional revenue in order to turn these insights into practice, expand and sustain the platform.
In the short and medium run, we would like to finance our expenses through donations (donation info) and potentially grants. In the future, we plan for Somondo to run on a sustainable financing solution that is not entirely dependent on donations and that reflects our belief in social entrepreneurship.
Thank you! There are so many ways to get involved, that we've created a whole page on the topic. Please visit our "Get Involved" page.
We want to hear from you and hope to be able to use the criticism constructively. Please get in touch using our contact page.
First of all, thank you for your patience. The answer, for once, is short and sweet: we value transparency. The more details, the more transparency.
Do you have any more questions? Please get in touch any time!