Creating A Volunteer in the Ranks of Expatriates & Digital Nomads in Asia

Eric Van Buskirk is the Founder of ClickStream, a content strategy Agency in Saigon. Eric oversaw nine of the largest content marketing data studies of 2016 and 2017. The articles were done for Neil Patel and ( and Brian Dean. He’s is the publisher Of a site about mental health.  Van Buskirk’s an evangelist for website WC3 (World Wide Web Consortium) accessibility standards. He received his MS from Boston University in Mass Communications and an undergraduate degree from Skidmore College.

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As the global tech sector swells in size, traveling tech professionals from America and Europe are an increasingly common sight throughout the developing world. While they’ve proven to be a boon for the tourism and tech industries within these countries, they are under-engaged in the local community at large. This is mostly due to business and accommodation issues. The typical layout of regions in developing countries widely separates commercial centers (i.e. businesses and hotels) from urban, suburban and rural areas.

Naturally, this limits travelers’ exposure to local communities. While this might improve safety and convenience-related aspects of any long-term stay, a side effect is the virtual wall built between foreigners and the larger community. This includes volunteer opportunities with charities and causes, many of which are in serious need of any assistance they can get.

In an age of seamless digital integration, there are plenty of new ways to engage in volunteer outreach. This includes outreach specifically toward traveling tech professionals, also known as “digital nomads,” who’ve come to look at a given country as their adoptive second home. Two simple yet effective methods of outreach include:

  • Online Partnerships oftentimes travelers, digital nomads and expats naturally form communities online. Facebook groups and message boards, for example. This is in order to gain the ability to coordinate social gatherings, as well as more practical things like reference prices for goods and services amongst each other. Establishing an awareness or promotional partnership with the administrators of these online communities is a solid method of volunteer outreach.

  • Business Partnerships expats frequently start businesses in their adoptive second home countries in the form of service industry establishments. These usually serve as common interest hubs (think rugby, football or hockey) for their fellow expats, as well as travelers and digital nomads. Establishing an advertising partnership with the proprietor of these establishments is another great way to target volunteer outreach.

Do Travelers, Expats & Digital Nomads Make Good Volunteers?

There are countless ways travelers, expats, and particularly digital nomads make highly eligible volunteers. Let’s take a quick look at just three of the natural advantages any digital nomad would possess as a volunteer:

Professional Networks: The likelihood of an ex-pat having a rapport with various businesses is invaluable: no matter the cause or charity a digital nomad chooses to volunteer for, there’s a high chance he or she may know a business or benefactor in related industries.

Personal Networks: Branching out is part and parcel of a globetrotting lifestyle. Any digital nomad who’s been traveling for some time is bound to have both local and regional connections of his or her own, each of whom just might agree with the worthiness of a charitable cause.

Trade-Related Skills: More often than not, a volunteering digital nomad can lend his or her skills pro bono to a good cause. This could include SEO, social media or any of several other methods of amplifying a given charity’s web presence.

There are also various concomitant qualities that come with digital nomads, all of which make them highly eligible volunteers. Two of the most common are:

  • Availability: there’s a good chance a digital nomad is planning recurring visits to the same country or region for business related to his or her professional network. This makes them highly reliable volunteers, as they consistently bring their skills and connections back the table. Since they are on the road a lot, they can bring physical products from one country to another.  For example, used electronics in the USA may have little value there, and an easy way for someone to be of help is to bring donated items to another country where they are more valued and more scarce.
  • Education: while not every digital nomad is a master’s degree holder, they are each guaranteed to have a wealth of knowledge in a range of subjects related to the web and web communications. This makes them valuable volunteers for obvious reasons.

Impressive Opportunities in Facebook Events

There is a lot of potential in the use of Facebook Events to network with foreign volunteers, entrepreneurs, and businesses throughout the developing world. Facebook Events are already being used by many nonprofits in Vietnam, for example. However an increased level of organization, either through the formation of nonprofit associations or even government investment, could do much more to enhance networking ability. Below are some examples of functioning not-for-profit Facebook Events in Vietnam.

The mere fact that this event is “advertised” in English, in Vietnam where English is the 2nd most popular language but most popular language, means it will attract mostly foreigners. The largest group of native English speakers are young and in their 20s: they too are ideal to network with and recruit for volunteer work.

Ho Chi Minh City is experiencing massive growth which affects both the “have” and “have nots.” This event is for a co-working space that has a pool next to it.  Half of the people attending this even will be young Westerners that work in the digital media space.

As in all large cities, talks by business leaders are given in English and they are often free events like this one.  This is another great place to meet aspiring young Vietnamese leaders and foreign entrepreneurs.

Craft beer took the Western world by storm several years ago. Many developing countries with a fast growing middle-class are picking up on this not-so-cheap “craze.”  The craft beer scene is packed with foreigners who are eager to meet others: including those that work in non-profits. They are not exposed to volunteer opportunities in what can be “bubble communities.”

Here’s another new, very large co-working space in HCMC that is trying to grow their membership of paying office workers by offering free events.

Another aspect of current volunteer networking efforts where there is room for improvement is in the language barrier. Recruiters must be comfortable interacting with large numbers of native English speakers, both in the creation of a Facebook Event page and at the actual event itself. The most crucial aspect to communicate is the overall mission of a given nonprofit. Recruiting a selection of proficient English communicators to delegate as recruiters could be an effective strategy in addressing language barrier issues.

How the World Wide Web Has Benefitted Outreach Campaigns

The interconnectivity of the current day has greatly simplified human interactions in general, not the least of which is volunteer, donor and awareness campaigns. From social media to online advertising to sites like GoFundMe, it is now easier to do targeted outreach. Time will likely tell that this has been a very good thing for worthy causes and charities around the world.

IVolunteer International is a Gold Seal nonprofit organization on Guidestar. Operating from Savannah, Georgia, IVolunteer International connects volunteers to volunteer projects around the world. Since 2017, IVolunteer has connected over 3,000 volunteers worldwide. In 2019, World Trade Center Savannah selected IVolunteer International as finalists of the Peace Through Trade Competition. In 2020, IVolunteer International will develop and launch a geo-connecting mobile application which will be available to volunteers around the world.

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