Success Story: United Planet

Boston-based, mission-focused nonprofit organization United Planet offers volunteer opportunities across the globe, helping to create a more peaceful, cohesive and sustainable world. Their goal is to “unite the planet one relationship at a time” by focusing on creating a more immersive, authentic experience for their participating volunteers!

All the experiences they offer are relevant and helpful to the community their volunteers serve and focus on the areas of Children and Education, Environmental Sustainability, and Global Health. Explains United Planet’s founder and president Dave Santulli: “United Planet is focused on building stronger global community and preparing a generation of globally minded leaders through bringing gap year, international service learning, volunteer abroad, and leadership development programs to students and adults around the world. By partnering with secondary schools, universities and corporations, United Planet is unlocking the potential of every person as a global citizen and catalyst to create a more peaceful, cohesive, and sustainable world. CNN selected United Planet as one of only ten nonprofit organizations in the world for their ‘Be the Change’ initiative.”

When it comes to focused fundraising, United Planet volunteers have raised $389,430 from 3,719 donors using Panorama’s peer-to-peer fundraising tool. These funds support a range of volunteer projects, involving education and children, healthcare, the environment, and more.

“Since 2001, United Planet has engaged over 10,000 volunteers, serving well over 1.5 million hours with an estimated 750,000+ hours to children and education, 500,000+ hours to healthcare, and 250,000+ hours to provide for a more sustainable environment, all while broadening cross-cultural understanding and building bridges across divides,” explains Santulli. “From teaching and mentoring children to supporting clinics and working to conserve the environment, volunteers of all ages and backgrounds have participated in 250+ communities throughout more than 25 countries worldwide. These volunteers and leaders have helped forge 100,000+ cohesive cross-border relationships through their work.

“In addition to volunteer hours and bridge-building, volunteers have built libraries, clinics, community centers, children’s housing, and so much more. Many volunteers have even returned to the country where they did their Quest program to visit with their families and project sites, some upwards of 4 times!”

These volunteers are particularly enthusiastic when it comes to peer-to-peer fundraising, and are well tapped in to how to spread the word online. Santulli explains their keys to fundraising-page success: “We have some very thoughtful volunteers who have taken the time to fully share their motivations, information about the needs of the community and their projects, along with the expected outcomes of their work. These volunteers have seen the highest return on their efforts. They have also approached friends and family and asked them to share their pages throughout their networks.

“It is also important to remember to not only send your gratitude, but share about what the experience meant to you and the community. In addition to creating blogs, videos, posting on social media, etc., some volunteers send old-fashioned postcards from the field to send their thanks and share about their experiences. It is exciting for supporters to receive a postcard from afar with an exotic stamp. It sends an important message that their support was genuinely appreciated.”

“We have been working with FirstGiving [now Panorama] since the early days of their operation,” says Santulli. “We loved that they came to visit our offices to share about their work. We have been so happy with FirstGiving that we have stayed with them for over 12 years, and FirstGiving's support has made it possible for so many volunteers to make a difference in communities worldwide while broadening their global understanding and building bridges across cultures.”

As for fundraising tips to pass on, United Planet’s got a few – and some good advice from their founder: “It is not just about the fundraising, but also about educating and inspiring your donors about the issues that you are addressing and providing an opportunity for them to contribute to positive global change. It is important to share your experiences with them while you are in-country and when you return. Many of our most successful volunteers create blogs, contribute stories to United Planet blogs, share actively on social media, and create videos of their experiences.

“Nothing really beats a simple thank you and sharing the story of your journey,” Santulli adds. “Reaching out to friends and family for fundraising is also an invitation for them to take part in something much bigger. After all, we can all contribute in some way to trying to build a more peaceful, sustainable, and united planet. Perhaps your journey will inspire them to take theirs.”

To learn more, please visit Further information on United Planet’s volunteer abroad programs in over 25 countries can be found here:

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