About Marine Conservation Cambodia

NGO, Business or Charity?

Marine Conservation is of December 2015 officially a National Cambodian NGO,

In the below description you can see what we have been for the past 8 years before being awarded with NGO Status by the Cambodian Government for our hard work, commitment and marine conservation efforts. We are hoping to continue on as we always have creating our own funding, but now with this recent change we can also look at financing some of the more expensive projects through donors and funding options.

We are often asked if Marine Conservation Cambodia is an NGO, a Business, or Charity? It is actually an extremely important question because each one can have a different meaning regarding the activities we are able to do, projects we are allowed to participate in, and most importantly types of funding we are able to receive. It is also not an easy question to answer, but hopefully we can clarify exactly what Marine Conservation Cambodia is.

Marine Conservation Cambodia’s Volunteer and Internship Project is what we like to refer to as a hybrid business organization. At first concept MCC was to become an NGO, but due to lack of financial backing from donors, we were forced to develop a new business model. The needs for urgent marine conservation in the Cambodian waters and the demand for help from the communities around Kep put pressure on us to help the area we now lovingly call home.

The idea of calling MCC a business was a little scary as most businesses are profit driven. MCC was not concerned with profit in any way, but wanted to make an immediate impact on what was threatening this area of Cambodia, so a non-profit business completely sustained by tourism was the new idea. Simply put MCC is a not for profit business that is completely funded by our volunteers. We are not an NGO and do not receive any funding from donors. We are not a charity and do not receive any funding from governments or donations or receive any of the added benefits that come with either of these designations. That being said as a non-profit we have a certain flexibility an NGO or Charity just wouldn’t be able to have.


We had to work twice as hard as a standard business would have, to create Marine Conservation Cambodia. The business model needed to achieve funding while at the same time we needed to implement volunteer based conservation and community projects along with the strategies on how to deal with immediate threats to the area. Basically we needed to operate as an NGO, but not actually be an NGO.


This might sound like a strange concept for a business, but it is the fundamental backbone of a sustainable tourism based business. To focus on benefiting the local communities and conservation above and beyond anything else. The success and achievements of our current project prove beyond any doubt that sustainable tourism style businesses can be implemented in costal Cambodia.


It is easy for some people to say we make money off conservation and volunteering. To be completely honest this is a true statement, but that being said there is a big difference between making money and turning a profit. Every dollar MCC receives from our volunteers and internship fees is used to sustain the conservation and research efforts. It supports the wages of our local Cambodian staff, provides food, accommodation, resources for our volunteers, and is also given back to the local communities in various forms. It is a simple win win situation.


You only need to speak with the local communities surrounding us, the relevant authorities or organizations we have assisted over the years to grasp the full concept of a sustainable volunteer and intern based non-profit business. We hope our business model highlights the benefits that can be achieved if more businesses adopted a holistic approach and gave back to the country who’s resources they’ve profited from.


When researching your volunteer or internship placement please be aware that a large majority of worldwide voluntourism organisations and volunteer based NGO’s often receive government funding or funding from donors. They make huge profits that are used to pay their executives and directors high salaries, with very little if any money going back into the countries they operate in.


Our project is only made possible by volunteers and Interns, which is why we are accountable only to our volunteers and interns. Any profits made by MCC are reinvested back into the conservation project, invested into the communities, or used to sustain MCC during slow periods where volunteer numbers are down. To simply close up shop during these slow periods is not an option, the work must go on. The damage that would be done to ocean and communities while we were closed would be irreversible.


If you have any questions or are simply interested in how we operate the project please do not hesitate to ask. We believe in full transparency and rely on the trust of our volunteers. Without that trust our project would simply fail.


Please remember when choosing your volunteer or internship placement, NGO’s already receive funding from donors for their activities and many large international volunteer organisations are really just tourism companies making huge profits from voluntourism. Our project is real, grassroots and making a daily difference, this is only made possible by you. 

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