I just received an invitation to travel to Guatemala with Ruth Messinger, director of a wonderful organization, the American Jewish World Service. Ruth is a dynamo and I've no doubt the experience would be inspiring, perhaps life-changing. The timing is off for me this year, but the real question I grapple with is the cost verses donating the money directly. It is $3200 plus airfare. I could afford this, but it seems self-indulgent to spend all that money on my own travels. Lots of staff time is invested in planning and running these trips. Unless I am am prepared to donate a chunk, I feel ambivalent about participating in this or any other philanthropy's study trips.
I realize that from the non-profit's point of view, they are "friend-raising", which is a very effective prelude to fundraising (also called "donor cultivation"). They probably don't have a minimum gift in mind, and are committed to educating their donors. Getting better acquainted with their staff, their work, and the others is probably a very stimulating and enriching experience. I am on the fence on this one. The Heifer Fund has study missions as well. They, too, do amazing work in the world. But I have the same hesitations.
Anyone have thoughts on how to think about study missions to exotic places? Is this travel, education, philanthropy, or what, exactly?