Potential problems with volunteering-as-tourism programs include:
- Creating one-off projects which have little long-term impact - "development by monument."
- Forgetting that volunteers are NOT free - they take time and resources to administer.
- Giving things away creates dependence; as with any form of subsidy, there is a danger of disempowering the people we intend to help.
- Monitoring projects poorly or not at all (see Monitoring and evaluation).
- Giving unskilled volunteers jobs that require skills. Young volunteers may be brimming with confidence, but may not have the skills needed.
- Forgetting to make the rest of the trip responsible, from checking who owns the hotels to buying carbon offsets.
- Fostering paternalism - the idea that "we privileged people from rich countries" can come in and fix things.
- Thinking that good intentions are enough. They are definitely not - good intentions can have disastrous outcomes.