What is Travelers' Philanthropy

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History of Travelers’ Philanthropy

Note: CESD (Center on Ecotourism and Sustainable Development) is now CREST, Center for Responsible Travel

Nov. 2001 & Sept. 2002
Travelers' Philanthropy was founded by Business Enterprises for Sustainable Travel (BEST) under the direction of Michael Seltzer, who first coined the name. In 2001 and 2002, BEST convened the first two Travelers’ Philanthropy meetings of specially invited practitioners and other experts, each with under 20 participants. These gatherings identified and advanced exemplary programs, promoted the movement before key industry gatherings worldwide, and began to spread the word about Travelers’ Philanthropy in major consumer and business periodicals. In a White Paper prepared for these meetings, Seltzer described Travelers' Philanthropy as providing "3 T's" of support - time, talent and treasure - to host communities. Read more: http://www.sustainabletravel.org

April 2003
During the conference on "Making Bio Diversity Work for Your Travel Business" in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, Andrew Fairley, Director of Turtle Island, Fiji and BEST Travelers’ Philanthropy committee chair presented "Travelers’ Philanthropy, The Value Proposition in Engaging your Guests in Local Community Issues."

Stanford- and Washington, D.C.-based BEST approached the Center on Ecotourism and Sustainable Development (CESD) about taking over the Travelers’ Philanthropy project because Seltzer was leaving and BEST was closing down its operations. CESD (now CREST, Center for Responsible Travel) agreed, and BEST transferred its files and remaining Travelers' Philanthropy resources to CESD. CESD proceeded to organize the first public conference on Travelers’ Philanthropy.

January 2004
CESD updated Michael Seltzer’s original White Paper on Travelers’ Philanthropy, reflecting more recent industry trends and future directions. Download the PDF: http://www.travelersphilanthropy.org/resources/documents/whitepaper_report.pdf

April 2004
CESD hosted the third and much larger-scale Travelers’ Philanthropy conference at Stanford University, in California.  The groundbreaking conference was co-sponsored by The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) and Conservation International, as well as by a number of eco-tourism companies, and the Ford Foundation. Read More: http://travelersphilanthropy.org/events/archive.html

May 2004 – through 2005
Coming out of the conference, CESD created a Travelers’ Philanthropy Advisory Committee to assist, created a CD with the conference proceedings, raised funds from the Flora Foundation to build a Travelers’ Philanthropy website, devoted staff time, and engaged two different part time consultants, Richard Weiss and Wendy Wood, who worked from their own West Coast offices.

January 2006
A number of tourism companies with longstanding relationships with CESD voiced their desire to have a nonprofit partner based in the US, who could receive donations securely and offer donors tax deductibility (for US citizens) for their gifts to community projects. Under the direction of Geraldine Slean, CESD began to develop a website that could eventually receive online donations for specific projects that are supported by our partner tourism companies.  We piloted the online giving with a few of the companies who had originally voiced their need for the service, companies whom CESD has known for many years and has a detailed knowledge of their community projects. 

January 2006 – August 2007
During this period, CESD (which had originally been a project of the Institute for Policy Studies) worked to become a stand alone NGO registered in Washington, DC, with its own board of directors, bylaws, and 501 c 3 tax-exempt status. During this same period, Martha Honey, who had been directing both CESD and TIES, stepped down from TIES and became the full time Co-Director, with Bill Durham, of CESD.  Travelers’ Philanthropy remained a program of CESD with no official connection to TIES.  The architecture of the Travelers’ Philanthropy program was set, with CESD collecting funds from travelers, on behalf of the community projects supported and overseen by our tour operator partners. As is standard in the industry, we decided to keep 10% of donated funds as a way of supporting the program once donations became possible. We consulted with lawyers many times during this process to identify proper conduct for our organization in the collection, administration, and cross-border disbursement of donated funds. From our pool of tour operators we identified two groups: Those with their own 501 c 3 and long history of philanthropy, and those without a 501 c 3 and with newer and smaller philanthropy projects.  The first group would serve as an invaluable resource for learning and capacity building within CESD and our other partner organizations, while the second group would be the intended beneficiaries of our new website.

September 2007
CESD staff began consulting in detail about the legal issues of Travelers Philanthropy with Keir Gumbs, an NGO specialist at the DC law firm, Covington & Burling, CESD’s pro bono legal counsel.  CESD also arranged for financial information on the developing website to be handled by JustGive.org, a company that offers a secure server for donations to nonprofits, automatically provides donors with a tax deduction letter, and removes only 3% of each donation to cover the fees associated with accepting credit card donations. With this backing and the advice of our lawyers, CESD sent out invitations to a select group of our partners who did not have a 501 c 3, to become part of our web donation portal. On the site, donors would have the opportunity to give monetary donations (eventually slated to include the original 3 options of “time, talent, and treasure” articulated by BEST) to community projects sponsored by our crop of responsible tourism companies.

October 2007 – May 2008
CESD completed a revision of the information available on the Travelers’ Philanthropy website, and began adding partner companies and their projects as each invitation was accepted and paperwork filled out. The project received its first donations during this time, and began keeping detailed accounts. At the direction of our legal counsel, CESD nominated a Board Member to oversee donations (Andy Bill), and the Board approved his nomination with authority to approve donations up to 5,000 USD. Parallel with this, CESD worked to organize the 2008 Travelers’ Philanthropy Conference in Arusha, Tanzania, the first conference since the 2004 event at Stanford.

June 2008
Production began on a film project showcasing Travelers’ Philanthropy at our most prominent locations to date: Central America and East Africa. On-site interviews completed by film crew with (among others) Lars Lindqvist of Basecamp Explorer, Judy Kepher-Gona of Basecamp Foundation in Kenya, Eduardo Villafranca of Hotel Punta Islita. Donations through Travelers’ Philanthropy website continue, and Just Give continues to pass donated funds on to CESD for disbursement to the community projects.

August 2008
First disbursements of collected donations were made by CESD to community projects in Tanzania and Peru.

September 2008
Travelers’ Philanthropy website visually redesigned to be more attractive and more functional for donors. Online offerings greatly expanded, and surveys completed among tour operator partners to assess effectiveness of donor cultivation strategies to date. Bookmark designed for distribution to tour operator partners, as a convenient way for guests who are potential donors to remember Travelers’ Philanthropy after their return home. Marketing strategies continue to be refined as the service develops and more donations come in.

October 2008
New website finished and launched. Donations continued, and CESD began to field requests from previously unknown tour operators to become part of the Travelers’ Philanthropy portal. Official criteria drafted for admitting new tour operators and new community projects, with the aim of ensuring the same high standard of giving opportunities on the Travelers’ Philanthropy portal in the future as in the first iteration of the program. “Toolkit” for Travelers’ Philanthropy programs in development, slated to be completed by December, 2008.

December 3-5, 2008
CESD hosted the fourth major Traveler's Philanthropy conference in Arusha, Tanzania, bringing together 200-300 practitioners from socially responsible tourism businesses, experts in the field of sustainable tourism and philanthropy, community based organizations and global and regional NGOs doing development work, the United Nations and other development agencies, philanthropic foundations, government, and international media. Read more: http://www.travelersphilanthropyconference.org/


Travelers' Philanthropy is a program
of the Center for Responsible Travel.
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