Family vacation. I have to chuckle when I read those words. I have this image of tons of a luggage, racing to get to the car on time, somebody crying, and a the oldest child bargaining with his parents as to why he should be allowed to stay home alone. It’s the concept that sitcoms are made of, isn’t it? So, when I got a call from David Chamberlain, CEO and Founder of Exquisite Safaris Philanthropic Travel telling me that he had a different approach to the typical materialistic, drama-filled idea of vacation, I was a willing listener. As I mentioned in a previous article, new methods of engaging individuals in philanthropy is crucial to its survival in the coming years. It is where I have been mentally sitting for the past couple of months, so diving into a conversation about one such approach was quite apropos.
The Significance of Experience
The seed for Exquisite Safaris was planted when David Chamberlain was a young child. He was on vacation with his grandparents in Port au Prince, Haiti. His grandfather had planned for a ride around the country side to get a better feel of where they were. And if you know anything about Haiti, you know that poverty and thus, violence permeate the environment. As they were driving, they came to a group of children playing in the streets. Chamberlain described how he watched his grandfather step out of the car, kneel down and begin playing with the children. He beckoned Chamberlain to come with him- he promptly obeyed. He also observed his grandmother, who watched hesitantly as her husband encouraged her to step out of the car. It took some time, but eventually, she did. And she smiled.
Fast forward 30 years. Chamberlain was in Africa with a friend. They had taken a trip together bringing clothes and supplies to donate to local villages. He told a story of picking up some men looking to go to the next town- something few people would do in a strange country. But they talked and got to know each other, establishing trust through the experience. When Chamberlain and his friend stopped at the village, got out and began to distribute the supplies, he looked over to her and saw her smile. That moment triggered the memory of years before and the idea for Exquisite Safaris came was realized.
A Different Kind of Vacation
The concept behind Exquisite Safaris is really quite simple- connecting potentials to real world engagement experience through partnership with organizations doing amazing work around the world. As it says on their website,
“Philanthropic Travel builds bridges and creates trusted personal relationships between the traveler/donor and host/beneficiary,” said David Chamberlain, founder of Exquisite Safaris Philanthropic Travel. “Philanthropic travelers typically spend a half day understanding the joys and the challenges of life in their destination with an intent to become a fund raising donor advocate of our non-profit 501c3 humanitarian partner/host. Philanthropic travel is a fact finding, heart centered experience that has been known to inspire, educate and empower everyone who participates.”
Some of their partners include Jolkona, United Prosperity, and A Glimmer of Hope Foundation, among others. Exquisite Safaris provides a platforms for organizations working in the developing world to actually experience either their current and potential impact in community development. “Seeing, breathing and tasting the developing world gives donors and their families a true sense of their participation in the solutions that our partners work towards,” Chamberlain says.
The organization also serves as a resource for donors looking to develop their living legacy. Whether a family or individual is looking to contribute $200 or $2 million dollars, their experts offer the level of advice needed to successfully attain the donors’ goals. And since its inception in 2005, Exquisite Safaris has successfully deployed over $1 million dollars to its partners.
Rejuvenated Donor Engagement
Now, as I think about this and consider the audience that spends time here on SocialEarth, I see this as a potential for those organizations looking to liven up their donor engagement work. Especially in a time where many of you are in the process of re-evaluating your ask approach, perhaps providing the option for donors to actually see what you are doing could be of use. The interesting part here is that Exquisite Safaris handles all of the logistics that tend to steer non-profits away from these types of options.
During our conversation, Chamberlain eloquently said, “We offer the experience of transformational philanthropy. Let’s taste it, feel it, smell it and make it a personal relationship that drives that donor experience rather than the powerpoint and glossy brochure.”
In an episode planning call for Imagine This! TV, a show that tells the story of serving alongside communities around the world, creator Eion Bailey said, “We want to break down the fourth wall- the disconnect between the audience and the experience of the show.” While no one can argue that the powerpoint presentations and the annual reports should be done away with all together, perhaps this could be a way to break down the barriers between check-writing and a donor’s sense conviction in their investment.