Voluntourism With Scott Maclennan of Mountain Volunteer

by Mariah MacWilliam

If you are in the Voluntourism Industry, you may not have thought of using an online system to automate your booking process and streamline the journey of prospective volunteers. In this article, I talk to founder of Mountain Volunteer Scott Maclennan about his experience owning and operating a Non-profit, and how he uses Checkfront to coordinate his business.

Maclennan’s venture into owning and operating Mountain Volunteer started like anything else, through coincidence and chance – or what Scott jovially refers to as, “a series of unfortunate mistakes.”

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After making an apprehensive agreement to be an emergency contact for a clinic run by a friend of his, Maclennan went on to build three more clinics and a hospital, “I just kept getting deeper and deeper, my trips got longer and longer, and the next thing you know, there I am. [Then] I woke up one morning and realized I was running a Non-Profit organization.” Soon after the birth of Mountain Volunteer, Maclennan took on his current project HerFarm, a vision of his wife Sunita. 

When Scott Maclennan wrote Checkfront three exceptionally heartwarming reviews, I was at a loss for how to thank him. He returned to say that “we have been good to him,” and that in Nepal, where his volunteer program operates, “it’s called karma.”

It’s a Saturday morning and rain is pouring down the windows of our Victoria based office, I’m on the phone with Scott who is getting ready to leave for a five month long trip to Nepal.

In our short phone call, I was surprised by the amount of new things I had learned.

Through Scott’s eyes, Checkfront could be huge step in the Voluntourism industry’s evolution; an evolution that is rapidly building momentum. Showing a remarkable entrepreneurial instinct, Maclennan was able to offer some valuable insight into how Volunteer companies can increase their conversion rate of website visitors to registered volunteers.

He realized that there’s no reason people can’t “book a volunteer the same way you book any other inventory item.” Since he began scheduling consultations online he has received feedback saying, “I decided to book [my trip] through you… because you were the fastest to reply to me out of all the people I contacted.” That’s because using the notifications feature, Maclennan has his system set so that it sends out an email immediately after a booking is made. This simple idea establishes a commitment and brings an idea to life.

Addressing his industry partners, Scott argues that, “You’re sitting in the United States of America, you’re booking people in Peru, Bolivia, India, all over the world, and you’re using contractors in those countries. All you gotta know is how many people you can book at a particular place, at a particular time – what’s the capacity of your in Country partner. Set that up in Checkfront, give it a set capacity, now you don’t have to worry about contacting that contracter that you’re working with.” After inputting a bit of data, Checkfront will automate just about every step. Maclennan’s advice would indeed save those running non-profit organizations a significant amount of time.

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Business owners aren’t the only ones who stand to benefit from this system, using Checkfront to streamline the customer journey makes planning a trip much easier, and has the potential to turn a whim into an imaginable reality. People who have had the chance to work with the women at HerFarm have expressed great joy and a desire to someday return.

Each reviewer places getting to know the women at HerFarm above all else as their favourite part of the journey.

The women who have found sanctuary at HerFarm all come from remarkable backgrounds. Thanks to Maclennan and his wife, this organization now provides sustainable jobs for these women, and education for rural children. Once victims of severe inequality and abuse, Their days are now spent tending to crops, milking cows, providing lunch for children from the local school, sewing clothes for each other, along with various other tasks.

Empathy plays a major role in his involvement, but it wasn’t the driving factor. At his core, Maclennan is an entrepreneur; he states that, “In my industry as a professional real estate manager, you know… it was all about solving problems. I would see these problems in Nepal and I would think ‘well, that’s solvable, that’s fixable.’” This internal desire to solve problems has been the force behind each project that Maclennan has lead, “I would just come back and talk to some people who had some money and I’d say, you know, ‘gimme ten-thousand bucks and we’ll go build a hospital’ or, ‘gimme five-thousand bucks and I’ll go build another clinic,’ and people would agree.”

As Nepal continues to develop, the effects of Scott’s work will radiate throughout the country. For us here at Checkfront, we are honoured to play a role in this inspiring project. To donate or learn more, visit the HerFarm website at herfarmnepal.org.

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