The Collette Foundation

The Collette Foundation

Pawtucket, United States
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

This global humanitarian effort focuses on the well-being of the people in an area while remaining sensitive to the unique character and cultures of their environment. The owners of Collette Vacations, a U.S. tour operator showing travelers the world since 1918, believe that tourism can have a positive impact holistically on the places we visit. Collette’s CEO, Dan Sullivan, created the Collette Foundation with the goal of helping children as well as educating travelers so they can be a catalyst for meaningful change around our world. Working one on one with project managers in a destination, the Collette Foundation gains a needs assessment from the people living in the area, with the ...

About You
Contact Information


First name


Last name


Your job title

Public Relations Specialist

Name of your organization

Collette Vacations

Organization type

Tour Operator

Annual budget/currency

Annual Budget/Currency

Mailing address

180 Middle Street, Pawtucket, RI

Telephone number


Postal/Zip Code
Email address
Alternative email address

Alternative email address

Your idea
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Street Address

180 Middle Street





Postal/Zip Code
Geotourism Challenge Addressed by Entrant

Quality of tourist experience and educational benefit to tourists , Quality of benefit to residents for the destination .

Organization size

Medium (101 to 1000 employees)

Indicate sector in which you principally work

Tourism-related business

Year innovation began


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Indicate sector in which you principally work


What is the goal of your innovation? Please describe in one sentence the kind of impact, change, or reform your approach is intended to achieve.

The Collette Foundation aims to improve and extend the quality of life of children throughout the world while honoring their cultural heritage.

Please write an overview of your project. Include how your approach supports or embodies geotourism or destination stewardship. This text will appear when people scroll over the icon for your entry on the map located on the competition homepage.

This global humanitarian effort focuses on the well-being of the people in an area while remaining sensitive to the unique character and cultures of their environment. The owners of Collette Vacations, a U.S. tour operator showing travelers the world since 1918, believe that tourism can have a positive impact holistically on the places we visit. Collette’s CEO, Dan Sullivan, created the Collette Foundation with the goal of helping children as well as educating travelers so they can be a catalyst for meaningful change around our world. Working one on one with project managers in a destination, the Collette Foundation gains a needs assessment from the people living in the area, with the goal of funding a project which contributes to the overall quality of life and quality of place. Resources are provided to support programming, products, and services that help children develop skills, enhance their education, and foster their health and well-being. Acting as a steward for our world’s children, our goal is to leverage the tourism industry to give kids opportunities they may not otherwise have had. Each project has its own task force to identify needs, manage programs, collaborate with local grass roots organizations, and allocate funding.

Explain in detail why your approach is innovative

The Collette Foundation is dependent on a network of individuals connected through tourism, and who have a desire to be personally involved in enhancing the lives of people globally. This opportunity to give back is available to Collette Vacations employees, as well as travel partners and travelers. More than 25 percent of Collette’s employees have volunteered to participate. Their dedication and leadership is driven by a sincere passion to sustain the unique cultures and people we encounter through tourism and an excitement about the positive impact they can personally have on the lives of the children. Each project has a task force to identify needs, manage programs, collaborate with foreign organizations, and allocate funding. Working for Collette Vacations brings the teams close to their causes by actually placing them on the ground to visit the sites they are working with, identify specific needs and monitor effectiveness. This hands-on approach is also available to Collette’s travelers on tour when passengers have the opportunity to visit Foundation sites and learn first-hand about these communities, their cultures, and their needs. One person at a time, one project at a time, one child at a time, the Foundation connects people in need around the world with people who want to give back.

Describe the degree of success you have had to date. How do you measure, both quantitatively and qualitatively, the impact on sustainability or enhancement of local culture, environment, heritage, or aesthetics? How has it transformed or contributed to the power of place or demonstrated the sustainability of tourism? How does your approach minimize negative impacts?

Fifteen programs are aiding children in Peru, India, Kenya, South Africa, Australia, China, Cambodia, Mexico, Ireland, Brazil and the United States. After researching with locals how best to assist in overcoming existing challenges while limiting any negative impact, each site developed a unique plan and set of milestones. Qualitatively, progress is measured through regular communications with local site contacts. Traveling to these destinations allows volunteers first-hand oversight. In China children born with birth defects making them "unadoptable" have received surgeries allowing placement in permanent homes. In South Africa, Hippo Rollers now provide more efficient transport of water necessary for cooking, cleaning and ingestion, while improving the quality of lives of villagers. The Foundation has now donated 300 Hippo Rollers, barrel-shaped containers designed to transport 20 gallons of water easily, to the rural South African village of Kgautswane. In Peru a vitamin project and extended lunch program are making children healthier. In Kenya, victims of its recent tragedy are attending school every day, something that wouldn’t have been possible without The Foundation’s involvement. Quantitatively, mid year and end of year impact analyses comes through written evaluations from the locals, travelers and volunteers. An outside board of advisors measures progress as well.

In what ways are local residents actively involved in your work, including participation and community input? How has the community responded to or benefited from your approach?

Each of the communities we work with has identified their own need, explained the necessary tools required, and assisted in developing our outreach plans. In the early research stages they have helped us find "the perfect matches" for project sites - projects that they felt were important to enhance their lives, that they believed in, and that they would execute. We are there to assist, while they are the drivers of the projects. Local residents in each destination have embraced our initiative, making realizing its goals very possible and very impactful.

How does your program promote traveler enthusiasm, satisfaction, and engagement with the locale?

Tourists that once may never have met or understood the challenges of a rural villager in South Africa now can. Interaction with the local population provides a more authentic and meaningful experience giving travelers a greater appreciation for and open-mindedness about an area's history and traditions. Allowing native people to tell their stories, show their crafts, and present their cultures connects travelers with them and opens a world of interest and immersion in reciprocal cultures. This interaction can spark a flame for worldwide understanding when visitors return home to convey to family and friends stories about the people they met.

Describe how your work helps travelers and local residents better understand the value of the area's cultural and natural heritage, and educates them on local environmental issues.

Working with local communities has fostered a pride for cultural differences for both travelers and locals. In Australia, Drum Atweme is a self-funded musical group created to have a positive influence on the lives of at-risk Aboriginal youth. This project provides, among other things, uniforms to replace worn and tattered older versions. Travelers learn about the Aboriginal culture, a significant part of Australia's heritage, and hear its expression of music through local children. Awareness of different cultures motivates travelers to spread messages of peace and think more deeply about the places they will visit and their impact on those places.

How is your initiative currently financed? If available, provide information on your finances and organization that could help others. Please list: Annual budget, annual revenue generated, size of part-time, full-time and volunteer staff.

The staffing of the Collette Foundation is 100% funded by Collette Vacations. The Foundation funding, starting with an initial $2 million for the first 5 years, is provided through a donation from Collette Vacations. In addition, 100% of any outside donation goes directly to Collette Foundation projects. Collette Vacations is a 90 year old business that has no debt, substantial equity and sizable real estate holdings. Of 90 years in business, 88 years have been profitable, with any losses happening decades ago. We are supremely confident that we will be able to finance this initiative going forward, donating more to our projects and to the Foundation each year.

Is your initiative financially and organizationally sustainable? If not, what is required to make it so? Is there a potential demand for your innovation?

The Foundation is completely financially and organizationally sustainable. A long range commitment from Collette Vacations will allow this organization to build its principle to a sum that allows us to spend the interest on an annual basis ensuring existence for the Foundation. To date, Collette Vacations has already contributed $1.4 million to the foundation and intends to increase its contributions as more sites are identified. Since The Foundation is 100% employee volunteer run, we have no administrative costs, and all capital is working capital for the partner communities. The potential demand for Collette Foundation assistance is limitless.

What are the main barriers you encounter in managing, implementing, or replicating your innovation? What barriers keep your program from having greater impact?

The main barriers we have encountered include: 1. Program oversight in so many different countries. 2. Finding the right grass-roots partners to work with on the ground since we want to work with local organizations and not large non-governmental organizations wherever possible. 3. Selecting projects that are sustainable and do not negatively impact the local environment. 4. Keeping our travelers and employees engaged from a distance 5. Securing additional funding and human resources so we can add the many projects we currently have had to deny.

What is your plan to expand or further develop your approach? Please indicate where/how you would like to grow or enhance your innovation, or have others do so.

We plan to continue to expand our project sites as much as possible and forever. We hope others will join our mission to bring food, learning materials, games, and music into the lives of children worldwide. We will promote our Foundation through the assets we as human beings, and we as a corporate entity, have. We will reach into more villages, towns, and reservations, and work with those who can enhance children's lives and brighten the picture of our hope for the future.

The Story
Please provide a personal bio. Note this may be used in Changemakers' marketing material.

Dan Sullivan, president and CEO of Collette Vacations, has over 35 years in the travel industry. He has been responsible for such innovative first-to-market initiatives as launching a worldwide sales team and driving new product development to non-traditional destinations. Dan was named finalist for the New England Entrepreneur of the Year Award in 1997 and 1998. He is a member of the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy and an active supporter of travel and non-profit causes including USTOA, the Travelers Conservation Fund and serves on the Board of Tourism Cares. In 2007, he was inducted into the Tourism Hall of Fame.

What is the origin of your innovation? Tell the Changemakers and media communities what prompted you to start this initiative.

It was a fateful business trip to Peru that sparked the genesis of the Collette Foundation for Daniel Sullivan, Jr., CEO of Collette Vacations. No stranger to the world of giving back, in the fall of 2006, he was awestruck during a visit to a Peruvian school. “My team spent an afternoon with the children of a small village. I was troubled by their diets, made up of mainly potatoes. I was disturbed by the fact that their school lacked basic supplies needed to engage the children in learning. And, I was disappointed in myself knowing that while I traveled extensively, I somehow managed to miss the opportunity to help the partner communities we visited. As the CEO of Collette Vacations, my mission has always been focused on trying to show the best our world has to offer, on giving travelers a unique perspective or insight into a destination. But coming home from Peru made me realize that there was another part of this world, and as a steward of it in many ways, I could not look the other way. I had to do something - at least for the children.” With over 150 Collette tours that visit destinations on all 7 continents, Sullivan immediately wanted to join employees, partners, vendors and customers together in the mission to enrich the lives of the world’s children. The Foundation was officially launched in 2007, on the eve of Collette’s 90th anniversary. With an initial donation of more than $2 million in funding for the first 5 years, the company also donated supplies and manpower to establish and manage projects in destinations such as Australia, China, Costa Rica, Ireland, Italy, Kenya, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, South Africa and the United States. More than 25 percent of Collette’s nearly 600 worldwide employees have volunteered to participate on projects. Each project has its own task force to identify and manage programs, collaborate with foreign organizations, and allocate funding. Being in the travel business allows Collette’s employees to actually get on the ground and personally visit the sites they are working with to monitor effectiveness. Even Collette’s customers can experience the Foundation’s work. During their travels, customers will have the opportunity to visit program sites supported by the Collette Foundation. “It is our hope that the Collette Foundation will inspire others and make a difference one community, and one project at a time.”

Describe some unique tourist experiences that your approach provides. Be specific; give illustrative examples.

Through the Foundation travelers are given an opportunity to gain a greater understanding of everyday life in the destination, and develop an emotional connection not only making lasting memories but often causing the traveler to become inspired to make a difference.
One traveler, while visiting a Foundation site in Peru was so touched by the joy she found that upon her return she mobilized her quilting group to make a quilt for each girl. She wanted the girls to know that people cared about them throughout the world.
A traveler who was moved by his experience visiting a pre-school in South Africa mobilized the support of his local Lions Club. The result was a monetary donation as well as a collection of school supplies which were delivered by members of the Collette Foundation South Africa Task Force.
Prior to traveling to Kenya, a traveler noticed that toothpaste and toothbrushes were a needed item. She collected over 50 toothbrushes and toothpaste from dentists in her local area. Although they did not travel, the dentists in her local area where touched by their ability to give.
Travel in itself is a moving experience, but it becomes even more moving when you are able to give.

What types of partnerships or professional development would be most beneficial in spreading your innovation?

With an ambitious goal of helping the world’s children, The Collette Foundation welcomes both for-profit and nonprofit organizations, who have common goals and complementary assets, to work with us to help achieve faster results and more widespread impact. Assistance connecting with and reaching out to new partners would be beneficial in helping us to spread the message. Our fully employee-run volunteer Foundation is driven by a passion to help and a caring approach to cultural differences, however professional development in the areas of managing cross-cultural projects and working with children would assist those involved with more effective communications.