UCSD study finds more interest in’voluntourism’


About 40 percent of Americans say they’re willing to spend several weeks on vacations that involve volunteer service, with another 13 percent desiring to spend an entire year.

But where volunteers want to go and how long they want to stay is linked to which generation they belong to.

A UCSD survey polled more than 1,400 U.S. adults about global volunteering and found differences between the Retiree Generation (age 65-plus), Baby Boomers (age 45 to 64), Generation X (age 25 to 44) and Generation Y (age 18 to 24).

“More and more people in all stages of life are thinking of becoming ‘voluntourists,’ ” said Bob Benson, director of the Center for Global Volunteer Service at UCSD Extension, the sponsor of the study. “People are looking to spend their vacations and retirement in meaningful ways that make contributions to others.”

While 26 percent of Generation Y want to hop on a plane and help out in Africa or Europe, about 36 percent of retirees and baby boomers would choose staying in North America for their volunteer vacations. Age also determines how much time people are interested in volunteering on vacation. One week would be the right amount of time for 29 percent of Generation Xers and 23 percent of Baby Boomers. On the other hand, about 45 percent of the Retiree Generation and Generation Y would like to help out for many weeks or an entire summer.

The research indicates people want to connect with other people, not to organizations or governments in giving service. More than 84 percent stated that helping schoolchildren, families and people in poverty were their top interest.

To gain deeper insight into the initial survey of 1,000 adults, UCSD conducted an online survey of 433 adults ranging in age from teens to retirees.