International Volunteer HQ woos corporate market, brings volunteers to NZ

International Volunteer HQ, the New Plymouth-based volunteer-abroad business, is expanding into the corporate philanthropy market and bringing volunteers to New Zealand for the first time early next year.

Chief executive Dan Radcliffe told the annual Morgo conference for entrepreneurs that, since inception in 2007, IVHQ had sent 50,000 volunteers overseas to 30 countries on 200 different projects, adding up to four million volunteer hours.

Mr Radcliffe said if he's able to maintain the company's current growth levels, those numbers could hit 50,000 volunteers a year by 2020 and one million by 2031.

Volunteers pay the company a $279 administration fee while the rest of their fee, which varies depending on the country and project, goes to the organisers on the ground, for an all-up cost the company says is cheaper than many of its rivals. IVHQ has attracted both praise and criticism in online comments about the support it provides on the ground.

The 31-year-old Radcliffe said his ambitions for the company had changed since winning the EY Entrepreneur of the Year award last year and then attending the world awards in Monaco where he met 60 or more entrepreneurs with average revenue of about $US800 million.

"It puts it in perspective," he said. "I have ambition to build a much larger company now, which will have a higher impact than I first envisaged."

Mr Radcliffe started the business after he did a volunteer travel trip to Kenya which he enjoyed apart from the $3000 price tag. He thought it could be done more cheaply and set up the global online business from his family farm in Taranaki, initially working by day on the farm while running the start-up at night.

It now employs 25 people in the region and more overseas providing volunteer opportunities in a range of fields from teaching, childcare, medical, construction, and wildlife conservation.

IVHQ has already engaged two corporates – sending a Microsoft team to volunteer in Vietnam this year while a volunteer team from a UK energy company is heading to Spain soon.

Radcliffe says though the corporate market wasn't originally on his radar, he sees it as a growth opportunity for the company under a slightly different business model. He also sees opportunity to manage companies' corporate social responsibility portfolios.

"A number of great companies have big budgets for this but they're not doing it in sync," he said. "Their staff are doing a lot of volunteering but they're not putting it together. It's hard to manage and tell a good story around."

In 2013 the company trialled sending volunteers to developed countries and holiday destinations in addition to emerging countries. Within three months of launch, its pilot programme on the island of Bali had become one of its most popular programmes worldwide.

IVHQ is opening trips to Auckland from February where volunteers will work on conservation projects such as cleaning up the shoreline and Radcliffe hopes to add social projects at a future stage. It's also adding volunteer projects in Portugal, Spain, and the US early next year.

Radcliffe used a $30,000 bank loan secured against the family farm in Urenui and $10,000 in savings in the first instance. He has avoided external investment, retaining 100% ownership through family trusts.

(BusinessDesk)

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