Low-Cost Volunteer Programs

Low-Cost Volunteer Programs in Latin America

Low-Cost Volunteer Programs in Africa
Free volunteer projects

Low-Cost Volunteer Programs in Asia
 Volunteering with children for free abroad

Low-Cost Volunteer Programs Worldwide
 Offer donations in addition to volunteering for free

Offer Something in Addition to Your Time

Volunteering your time, however long it ends up being, is a huge donation no matter what. If you are a short-term volunteer (or even if you aren't), don't forget to think about what else you can offer to a project after your time is up:
Offer donations in addition to volunteering for free
Photo Credit: Ingrid Chang

Create a lasting relationship

Because short-term volunteers typically aren't cost-effective (unless they're providing a service that requires a high skill level, like with Operation Smile), many organizations are still willing to take them on in the hopes that they can form a sustainable relationship that lasts long after the volunteer leaves. Maybe you only volunteer for one week, but continue fundraising for the organization once you return home.

Spread the word about your project

Word of mouth is huge for small projects, and it's the driving power behind social media success stories -- remember that Brooklyn school that got $1 million after appearing on Humans of New York?
Tell others about your volunteer project and share your experiences on social media or in an email to friends and family. You never know who else might be inspired to go, especially once they find out from you how affordable it was!

Bring donations with you

Lets be real for a moment: sometimes all an organization or development project needs is funding or resources they otherwise don't have access to. Schools need books, hospitals need medicine. Ask what sort of material good you can bring with you when you volunteer, or consider looking at projects like Pack For A Purpose, who match donations from international travelers directly with organizations in need abroad.

Why Should You Pay to Volunteer?

Whether you are a student, retired teacher, or a married couple, you'll pretty much always save money by volunteering independently, as opposed to volunteering through a large organization. Why then, would anyone to volunteer, when you could just donate the money to the project instead? What's the benefit of paying to volunteer abroad?

You should consider paying to volunteer if...

  • This will be your first time abroad.
  • You are concerned about traveling and living on your own in a foreign country.
  • You have a very specific type of field you want to work in and want support to make those connections
  • You have a limited amount of time to make arrangements and volunteer.
Volunteer organizations provide participants with reliable housing, food, transportation, a coordinator and contacts within the country. The project will typically be more organized, since there is an experienced staff member organizing your trip.
You will also have support in the country to answer your questions and deal with any emergencies that may arise. For plenty of people, this level of comfort and safety is worth the cost - but it doesn't necessarily appeal to everyone.
There are also projects, like the Progressio International Citizen Service program, open to UK citizens, that ask participants to fundraise a certain amount of money, which will then go to the beneficiaries and covering volunteer costs, rather than asking for a program fee -- best of both worlds, right?
Being short on cash doesn't mean you have to give up your plan to do some good in the world -- it just means you have to look a little harder to find the right opportunity. There are effective volunteer programs out there for every budget, and there's nothing wrong with looking for an opportunity that will allow you to save your money for another good cause.

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