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Bring visitors closer to your cause

The global website Airbnb is no longer only focused on helping you find a place to stay while on vacation. It now also connects travelers to local communities through "Experiences". An Experience can be any activity that gives participants an interesting insight into local life; it can last for an hour, several hours, or longer. Typical experiences are guided tours, behind-the-scenes visits, workshops or intimate concerts.

These offers must be vetted and approved by Airbnb before they're added to the platform, and users can leave public reviews afterwards.

But what's this got to do with charities?

In 2016, Airbnb introduced a new category, 'Social Impact Experiences', aimed at nonprofits wanting to host activities. While hosts usually have to pay Airbnb a 20 percent fee, for those eligible for Social Impact Experiences this fee is waived. This means 100 percent of the fee paid by each visitor goes to the organization.

Social Impact Experiences are available to registered nonprofits (using TechSoup definitions) in selected cities and countries. By the end of 2018, Airbnb expects to be working with 1,000 nonprofits worldwide.

What does a Social Impact Experience look like?

While Airbnb's support team offers guidance (in multiple languages) for designing the optimum experience, the activity you offer is up to you. You'll be expected, though, to provide a unique experience, a knowledgeable host and a warm welcome.

Some examples:

What are the benefits for nonprofits?

Hosting organizations benefit from:

  • A new source of income. Hosts can set their own prices, and change them when they want to. As long as you qualify for Social Impact Experiences, all the money paid by the visitor goes straight to your nonprofit, and should reach your bank account within 24 hours of the Experience being completed.
  • Greater awareness of your work and your issue. Your Experience will appear on Airbnb's website and mobile apps, putting your name out to a worldwide community of millions of travelers and locals. And getting people involved in your work in a hands-on way can be a great way to help them understand what you do and why.
  • Another way of engaging volunteers. Experience hosts could be staff members, but also board members or volunteers, so this could be a fun and fulfilling opportunity for the right person.
  • A chance to reach wider audiences. Experiences offer an opportunity to meet and share your work with visitors from far-flung places who'd never otherwise come into contact with your nonprofit. Who knows what kind of connections could result?
  • A means to connect with locals, too. Many people also use Airbnb to find unusual activities in their local neighborhood.

What are some things to consider?

If you're approved as a host, Airbnb provides 24-hour customer support, insurance for hosts, refund and payment processing and professional photography and copywriting support.

Hosting may not be suitable for everyone, though. Some things to consider first:

  • Putting on a successful workshop or activity takes time, and you'll need to check that you can bring in enough visitors and revenue to make it worth the time and any upfront costs you incur.
  • Airbnb doesn't currently allow you to list free activities. This should be about providing an experience, not about finding short-term volunteers to help you out. (If the latter is of interest, look into [[5:18 | micro volunteering]] instead.)
  • You can't currently set a minimum number of attendees, so even if only one person books your Experience, you need to run the activity.
  • It's fine to offer a one-off activity, but listing a regular activity means you'll appear higher up in Airbnb's search, and are therefore more likely to attract bookings.
  • To get those crucial early reviews, some hosts recommend pricing your activity low to start with, then raising it later. You might also want to encourage friends and family to sign up; they'll provide useful feedback to help you improve your Experience, and can help you get some of your first public reviews.

To find out more or to apply as a host, go to Airbnb's website, which has detailed guidance on their resources for hosting section (you'll need to create an Airbnb account if you don't already have one).

Photo credit: Airbnb

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