“A guest is really good or bad because of the host or hostess who makes being a guest an easy or a difficult task.” — Eleanor Roosevelt
Any seasoned HelpStay volunteer knows that the quality of your HelpStay host is paramount. HelpStay encourages all of its members to be good hosts – and good helpers – but in the “sharing economy”, the onus is on the host to provide a decent worth while stay, and the helper to give a few hours of honest help in exchange.
If you’re considering hosting, it’s worth noting that HelpStay has over 1000 listings in 100 countries, so you need to stand out from the crowd. Being a great HelpStay host – and getting good reviews – is a significant part of that.
However, hosting on HelpStay is not as hard as you may think. Here are a few key tips for you to learn how to be a good HelpStay host.
Determine What You Need
Before you think about becoming a host, have a clear idea of what you need help with. Take into account the time it will take to complete the tasks you are requesting help with and what the requirements are of the volunteer you need. For example, does it require heavy lifting? Does your volunteer need to know a certain language? While taking this into account, also consider the input or support a volunteer will need from you.
Also, decide how many helpers you need. Couples may offer diverse skills and are often more independent. Individual volunteers tend to develop a closer relationship with the host but may need more support initially.
Provide Safety, Security & Comfort
Let’s be clear – your accommodations don’t need to be anything fancy. Helpers are not a fussy bunch. After-all , they’re mostly after the experience. While this may be true, they do expect a certain level of privacy, adequate accommodation and sanitation facilities. Sleeping arrangements can vary from living room couches, camper vans, tents or boats.
Safety, security, and a peaceful night’s sleep is important. For example, when a stay is in a jungle, the HelpStay host should always ensure that the volunteer dwellings are properly secured to prevent access from wild animals and dangerous insects.
Ensure Your HelpStay Host Profile is Accurate
Build a profile that gives the helper a clear idea of what is expected of them, and what they should expect from you in return. Outline the details about your project, mention the tasks and chores where help is required. Be clear on how many hours of help a day/week is required, and mention what days are free and what days are not.
Give them as much details as possible. Think what it’s like to be in their shoes. Imagine the concerns and questions you’d have if you were about to set out on a journey to a foreign destination.
If you require a particular skill or a certain level of experience – spell it out. Volunteers like to know who they’re communicating with so include a profile picture of yourself. After-all, you’re their point of contact before, during and after the stay.
Tell them about the accommodation offered and what the eating arrangements are.
Include photos of your project and your dwellings. Photos are great way for volunteers to get a visual representation of what they’ll see on arrival.
Mention what your location has to offer, but also be clear about its limitations too. Be sure to point out anything which might be different to how they imagined eg. distance to the nearest beach/town centre, transport etc.
Ensure your calendar is up to date, and if you’re not currently accepting volunteers, let us know.
Be Prepared And Manage Expectations
Before you agree to host a helper, we recommend that both parties have many conversations using the secure HelpStay messaging platform. We strongly advise that at least one of these conversation takes place via Skype.
These conversations are to discuss expectations with your potential volunteer(s) about meals and/or kitchen privileges, bathroom usage, and sleeping arrangements. Do you have pets? Children in the house? What’s the day to day routine? What are the house rules? Do they have allergies or dietary restrictions you should be aware of?
Chris & Katherine who host volunteers at their backpacker hostel in Dominican Republic share with us some questions that they like to ask potential volunteers. These questions help them to ensure that the volunteers are the right fit for their Hostel work exchange.
What to ask…
- We ask for a minimum commitment of 2 months – how long would you want to stay?
- What dates are you thinking of? How flexible are these dates?
- Why do you want to volunteer with us? Why our project?
- What kind of things are you interested in doing whilst you’re in our Country, whilst not volunteering with us?
- Do you have any specific talents you think you could use volunteering here? Any ideas about activities you might like to do/ projects you might work on?
- On rare occasions there are dirty jobs that just need doing. Sometimes there are a few extra cleaning duties that may need completing – are you happy to help with this?
- What is the level of your [Language] on a scale of 1 – 10?
- What don’t you eat or drink?
“For a host, above all, must be kind to his guests.” ― Dr. Seuss, Thidwick the Big-Hearted Moose
Treat your volunteer the way you’d expect to be treated if you were invited into their home. Keep agreements made about time and place, if your schedule changes for any reason, let your helper know.
A HelpStay Host Should Be a Resource
If you plan to host regularly, it’s nice to have a stash of resources collected in advance so you don’t have to repeat yourself every time. A map of your local area is invaluable for locating services volunteers might be interested in, everything from your favorite grocery stores to great restaurants. Offer directions for the best way to get to you from the airport or even better offer to pick them up from the airport.
Trust Your Gut
If you feel uncomfortable about the situation for any reason, don’t agree to host. If something does not feel right in your first conversations, it likely isn’t a good fit for you. Listen to that. Thank them for the inquiry and pass on the opportunity.
A Little Goes A Long Way
Even if it doesn’t seem like a big deal, limit the amount of time any one guest stays with you. Some guests can get too comfortable, others can over promise and end up leaving much earlier than expected. Keep the original time as low as a couple of weeks to months to ensure it’s a good fit before either of you commits to a longer time together.
If you are in or near a popular city, you may receive many requests for hosting. Be aware when you are reaching your hosting threshold, no matter what that limit may be. If you’ve had a long run of volunteers, it might be time to take a break before welcoming any more. It’s okay to say no.