In most situations, there are two organisations involved in the planning and running of a short-term missions (STM) trip or volunteer placement the receiving and the sending organisation.

It's vital that the partnerships you form with organisations, in order to facilitate STM, share your commitment to ethical programs. 

Short-Missions Sending & Recieving Organisations

It's very difficult to coordinate an ethical STM or volunteer program with a partner organisation which doesn't share your commitment to ethics. Therefore, one of the most vital steps to implementing ethical STM programs is selecting the right partners and forming effective partnerships.

Steps to forming effective partnerships include: 

  1. conducting partnerships due diligence checks; and 
  2. having good preliminary discussions with partners.  

1. Conduct Partnership Due diligence checks

The best STM programs happen in the context of long-term partnerships, where change and reciprocal learning is fostered through well-established relationships.

We need to make sure, however, that these partnerships are not formed on the basis of relationship or friendships alone but also on evidence of good practice, sufficient organisational capacity to carry out planned activities to a high standard and financial integrity and transparency. This is called a ‘due diligence check’ and should be conducted before establishing a long-term partnership for funding or STM purposes.

Without conducting basic partner due diligence checks, it’s difficult to know with any certainty if the program you have chosen to work with, and send STM teams to, is contributing to something positive or detrimental.

Due diligence checks should cover the following areas: 


Consider the following: 

  • Do we both have the same desire to ensure the STM program is ethical
  • Are we both driven by the same Biblical principles of love, selflessness, justice, equality and wisdom? 
  • Does the organisation abide by best practice principles relevant to its work? 
  • Is the organisation able to clearly articulate its vision and mission? Does the organisation’s vision, mission, values and culture align with ours, and are these values evident in the organisation's practice?
  • Is the organisation alert to how the hierarchy of ‘power’ and ‘privilege’ influence its programming?
  • Do we both have the desire to put the best interest of the community ahead of our own motivations and goals?
  • Does the organisation have a willingness to engage in discussions around ethical STM and volunteering, and a desire to work together to evaluate and improve practices? 


Legal StatuS 

Consider the following: 

  • Is the receiving organisation appropriately registered with the government, licensed to conduct its activities and operating legally?
  • Is the organisation on the terrorist listings, or linked to any individuals or organisations that are?


Organisational Capacity

Consider the following: 

  • Does the organisation have the technical and organisational capacity to carry out its work to high standards?
  • Does the organisation have the capacity to effectively facilitate STM trips including the capacity to conduct proper screening and provide adequate pre-trip preparation?
  • Has the organisation: 
    • Designed its projects in response to an in-depth and evidence-based understanding of the issues, target community and root causes (e.g. does the organisation complete needs assessments and establish baselines)?
    • Designed its programs in accordance with accepted good practice principles and local and international laws?
    • Involved the local community in a meaningful way to determine the activities of the project, as well as its implementation and evaluation?


Risk Management

Consider the following: 

  • Does the organisation have practices in place that mitigate fraud and financial misappropriation risk?
  • Does the organisation have a process in place to monitor expenditure against a plan or budget?
  • Does the organisation provide regular financial reports (which is vital if the partnership is also financial)? 



Consider the following: 

  • Does the organisation have a good reputation in the area/s it works (e.g. is not the subject of any allegations; is held in high regard by others)?
  • Does the organisation collaborate with other people who work in the same area of ministry, missions or development?
  • Is the organisation currently involved in any litigation or disputes?


Child Protection

Consider the following: 

  • Do we have the same commitment to child safeguarding
  • Is the safeguarding of children and the protection of their rights a priority
  • Are adequate child protection policies and procedures in place?
  • Does the organisation require child protection screening as part of its STM recruitment process?  

2. Preliminary Discussions

Good communication between the sending and the receiving organisations is a mark of a strong partnership and vital for the running of an ethical and effective STM program. The global nature of STM trips means that the various people involved in organising trips are often located in different countries, speak different languages and have different cultural backgrounds. This makes it very easy for there to be miscommunication and differing expectations. Good preliminary discussions can prevent confusion and can limit the risk of team members returning home disappointed and disillusioned.

Preliminary discussions can be used as a time to:

  1. agree on the approach and purpose of the STM program;
  2. explain your commitment to being child-safe;
  3. discuss expectations, roles and responsibilities and potential trip activities; and
  4. exchange key organisational documents, such as child protection policies and codes of conduct.

Remember to revisit these conversations with long-term partners any time you update your processes, policies or approach to child safeguarding.

What about exisiting partnerships? 

In most situations you will already have partners who you support and/or have been facilitating STM trips through.

It's important that that you still conduct a due diligence check on existing partners, particularly if you’ve never done so in the past. It will allow you to make decisions about the future of the partnership, based on the right information, and give you an opportunity to address any gaps in standards with your partner, should any be identified.

It's also common that the level of understanding and awareness around these concepts may differ from organisation to organisation. If necessary, you might need to come alongside the partner organisation and work together to understand and outwork the ethical framework. One example may be in regards to orphanage visiting and volunteering (to learn more, see the tool we've developed to guide you through this process).

Where there is a commitment on both sides to improve the standards of practice, it's a good idea to set clear goals and timelines for addressing gaps and areas of improvement with your partners. It's also helpful to agree on which standards require immediate attention and should be addressed as a condition of the partnership and which ones can be progressively improved as a part of the partnership. Be willing to support your partner in the achievement of these standards and be mindful of the cultural and contextual differences.