Why Should I Pay To Volunteer Abroad?
Pay to volunteer? How does that made sense? Shouldn't this be free if you are donating your time? Think again. The concept of paying money to give your time and work as a volunteer can seem confusing, but this is now generally the norm when it comes to voluntourism. Here are the top reasons why you might need to pay to volunteer abroad, and also why it isn't as bad as you might think.
Why You Might Need to Pay to Volunteer Abroad
If you currently researching or thinking about applying to volunteer abroad through either a local or an international agency you might be asked to pay a fee to participate. Confused by this? We get lots of e-mails asking why do I need to pay when I am volunteering my time, so if you also think like this you are not alone. Hopefully our article will help answer some questions you have and will also not put you off paying a fee to put you off applying.
Paying for a Structured Experience
Generally when you have to pay a fee to participate this acts as a framework to providing you with a structured experience. If you are looking for a safe placement and you are worried about going solo we highly recommend applying with a large international sending agency most of which charge application fees. They provide a safety barrier incase anything does go wrong as you will be able to assist you every step of the way and other help with other aspects of your experience. Paying to volunteer is far more active than just giving a donation to a charity, you will be living and working in a different destination.
A lot of UK based best volunteering organisations have a financial framework in place or are member of ATOL and the Trave Trade Association giving you peace of mind knowing the money you pay is safe and secure. Whilst most NGO's and non-profit organisations worldwide are run on shoe-string budgets without any funding, the fee keeps them running throughout the year. Sometimes when you work out what your fee is spent on you might realise you are actually getting a pretty good package especially on some destinations where the cost of accommodation is high.
Generally the fee you pay with a sending agency covers the following aspects:
- You will be placed on established real programs without the hassle of having to organise everything yourself
- Before departing you will usually get pre-departure briefings, sometimes an orientation and information either by e-mail or post
- Group flights / placements can be arranged which is great if you are worried about traveling / applying solo
- Airport pick up and transfer to project is usually provided - don't underestimate how useful this is why arriving in a foreign country for the first time
- Accommodation and meals are included - these cost money and if not covered by volunteers will be at the expense of local projects without much revenue
- There will be associated admin and support costs including in-country staff
- Safety and security, you will know the projects exists without the fear of turning up and nothing being there
- Incase anything goes wrong - most sending agencies offer 24 hour in country support
- There are lots of really amazing organisations who operate worldwide without funding and without the efforts and money from international participants they could not operate and do the work they do
Every organisation offers different prices, some are free, other low cost whilst some are very expensive. You will generally find programs which include combo experiences like tours or learning to scuba dive have higher fees than general projects. Volunteer programs with animals are usually quite expensive too due to sanctuaries needing to raise money to keep operational throughout the year.
How to See Where Your Money Goes
If you would like to see where your money goes, on most organisations websites they will have a transparent breakdown of where the money you pay actually ends up. Here you will be able to see what percentage of the fee goes to a donation, staff fees, flights, accommodation etc.
What if I Don't Want to Pay a Fee
We get asked so many times, 'I don't want to pay a fee - is this possible', Well in short yes. Some organisations are totally free and might even pay you a stipend salary to participate especially if you have a particular skill. It really depends on the organisation, destination and type of program you are seeking. You can also independently apply to local NGO's and charities worldwide some of which are free but you will still usually need to pay for your flights, accommodation and transport in-country seperately.
How to Apply
The experience of working abroad in a developing country is a great opportunity to challenge yourself to do some good in the world whilst also supporting local organisations that have little resources and no funding. We highly recommend you don't let paying a fee to put you off. The experience of volunteering is an incredible journey where you will get to make a difference, expand your learning, develop skills and meet amazing people from around the world.
If you would like to apply our website features thousands of volunteer opportunities from local and international operators. If you search our featured organisations tab on our continent pages you will be able to view our guides and aso find structured, free and low cost opportunities:
"I paid a fee through a well known US based volunteer organization and I don''t regret the decision. It make the whole experience easier and I felt I had good value for money when you take into account accommodation for the duration of your program is paid for" - Matt, USA
"I felt like paying a fee was worth it in the end as when you arrive you see where your money goes." - Emily, UK
"I volunteered with elephants in Thailand and it took me ages to find a cheapish program. I ended up spending £250 per week which is a lot of money and almost put me off applying. But I'm glad I did as the sanctuary" - Paul, UK