Fundraising is key when you want to volunteer abroad. It’s the bridge that connects your wish to help with the real costs of doing so. This step is where many volunteers start their journey of making a difference. Volunteers often look for different ways to raise money to fund their trips abroad. This helps pay for their travel and living costs and also supports the projects they join. Fundraising is the first, and usually the hardest, step in making a real difference in communities worldwide.
Why are volunteering projects not free?
Volunteering abroad is a unique opportunity to contribute to global communities and causes, but it is a common misconception that such experiences should always be free. The reality is that ethical and sustainable volunteer programs often require volunteers to pay to cover essential costs and support long-term project success. Here’s a summary of the main reasons:
- Administrative and Operational Costs: Volunteer programs charge fees to manage administrative and operational expenses, which include accommodation, meals, transportation, and in-country support. These are necessary to ensure that volunteers have a safe and effective experience. Without such a structure, volunteers may find themselves in less-than-ideal situations, lacking support and resources.
- Self-Sufficiency and Independence: Organizations tend to operate independently, free from reliance on government funding or extensive fundraising campaigns. This independence is crucial for creating and running projects in regions where the most significant impact can be made. Fees paid by volunteers are the lifeblood of these programs, allowing them to set up and sustain projects in various communities.
- Costs Directly Linked to Volunteer Presence: While volunteers donate their time and skills, there are direct costs associated with their on-the-ground presence. These include meals, accommodations, local transportation, airport transfers, and project resources. By covering these expenses, volunteers ensure that projects remain viable and resources are available for the work to be done effectively.
- Indirect Costs and Support Services: Volunteer fees also contribute to indirect costs like local office rent, utilities, and government registration. Salaries for local staff who provide full-time support and project development are also covered by these fees. These indirect costs ensure that projects are safe, worthwhile, and aligned with long-term goals.
- Financial Security and Emergency Response: A portion of the revenue exceeding the costs is set aside for provider growth, emergency responses, and financial security during times with fewer volunteers. This ensures that the organization can continue its efforts without interruption, even during challenging times.
Paying to volunteer abroad ensures the quality and longevity of volunteer projects, benefiting local communities long after the volunteer has returned home. By choosing a paid volunteer program, you are investing in a structured and supported experience that prioritizes safety, impact, and ethical practices.
How to Raise Funds for Your Volunteer Trip
Raising money to support your volunteering trip is easier than you think!
Whether you’re eyeing opportunities to volunteer in animal care in Latin America, teaching English in Asia, or even Rainforest Conservation, understanding fundraising is your first step to getting there.
Fundraising is the process of gathering financial support for a cause or project. In the context of volunteer projects, it involves raising money to support your volunteering initiative. Key concepts in fundraising include donor engagement, fundraising campaigns, and sponsorship.
Setting Your Fundraising Goals: Make it SMART
Setting clear, achievable fundraising goals is crucial. These goals should be SMART – specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound.
To determine the financial needs of your volunteer experience, consider all potential costs that may not be covered by the program fee, such as airfare, costs of vaccinations, or travel insurance. A clear budget plan not only helps you figure out how much you need but also shows your potential donors you’ve got a solid plan.
Planning Your Fundraising Strategy
Fundraising is your chance to get creative and share your passions. Here’s your game plan:
- Know Your Crowd: Think about who would be happy to support your travel dreams. Friends, family, fellow travel enthusiasts?
- Pick Your Methods: Social media campaigns, a fun blog, travel-themed events, or even selling custom travel merch. Choose what resonates with you and your crowd.
- Timeline Magic: Set a realistic timeline for your fundraising, with milestones to keep you motivated. Getting started way in advance can be instrumental in helping you raise the necessary funds.
- Promote with Passion: Create engaging content that shares your travel goals, the unique experiences you’re chasing, and why this means the world to you.
Identifying and Engaging Donors
Connect with like-minded individuals and create a community that shares in your journey!
Your donors are part of your travel story. Find people who dig your travel vibe – maybe they’re into adventure, culture, or sustainable travel. Reach out through personalized messages, fun updates, and maybe even a travel TikTok or video. Show them the difference their support makes. It’s about creating a community that shares in your journey, even before you’ve packed your bags.
Organizations That Help With Funding Volunteer Trips
Alongside low-cost program fees, several organizations offer ways to help fund your next volunteer trip.
IVHQ is a leading volunteer organization established in 2007, renowned for placing over 132,000 volunteers in 42+ countries to support global sustainable development. The organization supports volunteers financially in several ways:
Join a Community Development Volunteer Program in Quito, Ecuador!
Here are our top picks for budget-friendly volunteer opportunities with IVHQ:
- Childcare Volunteer Project in Kathmandu, Nepal: Starting at $275 for one week, volunteers aid early education at local centers, partaking in games and lessons with children. With room, board, and airport transfers included, and open to individuals 16+, it’s a chance to immerse in Nepali culture through a host family stay and contribute to the UN’s Education Goal #4.
- Animal Care Volunteer Program in Lima, Peru: Starting at $275 for a week, the Lima Dog Shelter Volunteer Program is for those passionate about animal welfare. Volunteers support abandoned dogs, engage in activities like feeding and playtime, and help with shelter maintenance. The package includes housing, meals, and support. Participants can enjoy Peru’s landscapes and historical sites while based in a volunteer house or local homestay.
- Sports Development Volunteer Project in Cape Town, South Africa: The Cape Town Physical Education Program, from $275 for a week, includes teaching sports to children, with housing in a secure area, meals, airport pickup, and orientation. It’s suited for active volunteers focused on enhancing children’s health, aligning with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal #3.
- Teaching English Volunteer Program in Luang Prabang, Laos: Starting at $285 for a week, the Luang Prabang English Teaching Program includes housing, meals, and support. It’s ideal for fluent English speakers to teach local students, enhancing education as per UN’s Goal #4. Volunteers can explore the UNESCO-listed city.
- Community Development Volunteer Program in Quito, Ecuador: This program, starting at $295 for a week, includes aiding community gardens and schools, and conducting social issue workshops. It provides accommodation and two meals daily, catering to volunteers eager for grassroots community development. Participants will help marginalized communities, aligning with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal #10: Reduced Inequalities. It offers cultural immersion in Quito, a World Heritage city, and opportunities to gain skills and explore Ecuador’s biodiversity.
GoEco, a leader in volunteer tourism since 2006, offers financial assistance to volunteers in various ways, ensuring that their volunteering journey is both impactful and feasible.
GoEco’s programs require a participation fee, which is necessary to support the costs of running the projects. These fees are essential to sustain the projects and communities GoEco partners with, particularly in areas of humanitarian aid, wildlife rehabilitation, or ecological conservation.
Here’s how GoEco helps volunteers financially:
- Deposit with Flexibility Guarantee: A deposit is required to reserve a spot in a program. GoEco offers a 100% flexibility guarantee on these deposits. If plans change, the deposit remains valid for any GoEco program for two years.
- Fundraising and Scholarships: Recognizing that volunteering abroad can be costly, GoEco recommends using Fund My Travel, a crowdfunding platform specifically designed for travelers. This platform enables any volunteer to create a profile and share their story, helping them raise funds through their network and the broader online community.
- Ambassadors Scholarship Foundation: Recommended by GoEco, this foundation offers scholarships to individuals joining programs that promote international relations and understanding. These scholarships are based on either committee selection or financial need. The foundation also assists in fundraising by offering products for pre-sale to support volunteer efforts.
- 3rd Week Free Grant: A significant financial support offered by GoEco is the “3rd Week Free Grant.” Volunteers can receive their third week of volunteering for free on certain programs during specific times of the year.
Explore Thailand while giving back through GoEco's afforable programs!
Here are a few selected low-cost program options:
- Thailand – Teaching and Childcare in Hua Hin: This program has volunteers teaching English in Hua Hin, Thailand schools, boosting students’ language and cultural exchange. It requires a minimum one-week stay, offering shared, single-gender room accommodation and three meals daily. Activities involve lesson planning, teaching, and creative classroom tasks.
- Tanzania – Teaching and Community Involvement: This program in Monduli, Tanzania, teaches English and arts to children for a minimum of two weeks. Volunteers stay in shared housing, receiving three daily weekday meals and two on weekends. It starts with an orientation and a Monduli Mountains hike. Work is from Tuesday to Friday, focusing on teaching and community projects. Free weekends offer safaris and swimming. Fees begin at $800 for 13 days.
- Peru – Amazon Wildlife Rescue & Release Sanctuary: Volunteer in Puerto Maldonado, Peru, to help rehabilitate animals impacted by illegal trade and habitat loss. The program requires a minimum one-week stay, providing accommodation and three meals daily. Activities include animal care, feeding, maintaining enclosures, and education. Daily work is from 7 am to 5 pm, with fees starting at $730 for six days.
- Thailand – Elephant Forest Refuge: This project in Phetchaburi, Thailand, provides a minimum two-week volunteer experience with rescued elephants in a semi-natural habitat. Participants stay in shared dorms with three meals daily, engaging in elephant care activities like feeding and walking. They can also visit local sights in their free time. The cost starts at $990 for two weeks.
- Spain – Barcelona Food Rescue & Community Empowerment: This Barcelona-based program invites volunteers to help reduce food waste and hunger in a diverse migrant area. It requires at least a week’s commitment and offers accommodation in the NGO’s center or local apartments, including three meals a day. Activities include distributing excess food, participating in community workshops like yoga and martial arts, and attending educational sessions on cross-cultural understanding and volunteer management. Costs start at $640 for a week, and it’s open to volunteers aged 16 to 80.
Founded in 1992, Projects Abroad offers extensive volunteer and educational programs in over 25 destinations, focusing on responsible travel and global impact tracking. Projects Abroad assists volunteers financially through various means to ensure that their programs are both impactful and accessible:
- Scholarships and Grants: Although Projects Abroad does not offer direct financial aid, they compile a list of external scholarships and grants that volunteers can apply for to support their programs.
- The MyProjectsAbroad platform: The organization provides access to a personalized fundraising page provided by the platform, allowing volunteers to solicit donations for their program fees which can be widely shared through social media and email. Volunteers can get more ideas by referring to their fundraising guide.
- Interest-Free Payment Plans: Understanding the diverse financial situations of volunteers, Projects Abroad allows payments to be split into manageable installments, giving you the freedom to pay in amounts and at frequencies that suit your budget.
Assist in hands-on conservation work during your trip abroad.
Here are a few budget-friendly volunteer opportunities with Projects Abroad:
- Building Volunteer Work in Nepal: Volunteers assist in rebuilding classrooms in Kathmandu after the 2015 earthquake, engaging in hands-on construction work alongside professionals. No experience is necessary, as masons and engineers provide guidance. Volunteers live with host families, immerse themselves in local culture, and explore the Himalayas, contributing directly to local community development and safe learning environments for children.
- Basketball Coaching in Ghana: Enthusiasts of basketball coach children in the Akuapem Hills, enhancing the skills of young athletes and laying the foundation for beginner players. The program offers a rich cultural exchange with a host family stay and the chance to delve into West African culture, aiming to uplift the community through sports and teamwork.
- Childcare Volunteer for Spring Break in Jamaica: Students use their spring break to support early childhood development in Jamaica, aiding teachers in under-resourced schools with basic education and hygiene awareness. The project includes renovating learning spaces, creating a supportive environment for children, and living with a host family in Mandeville, with weekends free to explore local beauty spots.
- Teaching Volunteer Work in Nepal: This opportunity allows volunteers to help improve English language skills among primary school children in Kathmandu, preparing them for better job prospects in tourism. In addition to classroom teaching, there’s potential to assist in other subjects. The project includes cultural immersion with a host family and aims to enhance literacy and numeracy levels in the community.
- Rainforest Conservation Spring Break in Peru: Spring break volunteers live in the Taricaya Ecological Reserve in the Amazon Rainforest, participating in animal rehabilitation and biodiversity conservation efforts. The rustic lodge stay encourages reconnection with nature and supports local wildlife protection, with volunteers contributing to ecological restoration and sustainable farming initiatives.
Established in 1989, Involvement Volunteers International (IVI) is an Australian non-profit that’s championed global volunteer efforts for over three decades, with 25,000+ volunteers in 23 countries. Here are some of the ways IVI helps volunteers financially:
- Affordable Program Fees: IVI is a non-profit organization that strives to offer the most affordable prices. They guarantee the best price, promising to beat any less expensive, comparable volunteer project offer.
- One-off Application Fee: They charge a single application fee that covers multiple placements within a 12-week period, allowing volunteers to participate in various programs without incurring additional application fees.
- Cost Transparency: IVI provides a breakdown of where the money goes, with a significant portion allocated to in-country support, including local staff, accommodation, meals, and transportation.
- Fundraising Assistance: IVI encourages volunteers to fundraise for their trips and recommends using the platform GoGetFunding, which can be shared across social networks to raise money.
- Discounts for Groups: They offer discounts for volunteers traveling in pairs or groups, which can make the experience more accessible financially.
- Long-term Opportunities: For those interested in longer-term volunteering, IVI provides access to additional opportunities that may not be listed on their website, potentially offering more cost-effective options.
Grab some friends and utilize IVI's Discounts for Groups
Here are a few selected low-cost program options:
- Bodhgaya School & Community Support, India: This volunteer program in Bodhgaya, India, allows participation in diverse activities at a rural school, including teaching English, special needs education, and lessons on nutrition and hygiene. Volunteers can also assist with community health checks and building projects. Set near the Mahabodhi Temple, a significant pilgrimage site, the program offers shared accommodation and vegetarian meals. Starting weekly for a minimum of one week, it is open to individuals 16 and above, with fees beginning at $345, covering accommodation, meals, airport pickup, and local transport.
- Community Support, Greece: In Chios, Greece, this project improves local schools and public spaces through restoration, including classroom painting and general maintenance. Volunteers stay in shared houses without meal provision. The minimum duration is two weeks, starting on the 1st and 3rd Sundays of certain months for volunteers over 18. Costs begin at $380 for the first week, and $330 for subsequent weeks, covering accommodation, airport pickup, orientation, and support.
- Fiji Remote Island Teaching: This project offers teaching opportunities at a local school on a remote Fijian island, covering subjects like English, maths, and sports for children from kindergarten to grade 6. Volunteers experience authentic Fijian island life with basic homestay accommodations. The program, starting weekly during school terms, is open to individuals 18+ (16 with a guardian). Starting at $395 for a week, fees include accommodation, meals, and local transport.
- Primary School Teaching, Kathmandu, Nepal: Volunteers help teach English, maths, science, music, and more to underprivileged children in Kathmandu schools, inspiring them towards higher education. They stay in a shared volunteer house, receiving three daily meals on weekdays. Programs begin weekly, require a minimum one-week commitment, and are open to those 16 and older. Costs start at $395 for a week, covering accommodation, meals, airport pickup, and support services.
- Environmental & Beach Conservation, Hua Hin, Thailand: This project focuses on mangrove nursery and beach conservation. It involves educating locals on environmental issues and cleaning beaches. Volunteers stay in an air-conditioned volunteer house with meals included. The program, starting weekly, requires a minimum one-week stay for participants aged 16 or above. The fee, starting at $395 for a week, covers accommodation, meals, airport pickup, orientation, and support.
Founded in 1997, Global Vision International (GVI) is celebrated for sending over 35,000 volunteers abroad, focusing on sustainable projects from animal care to citizen science. GVI supports volunteers financially by providing a range of options to make their programs more affordable and accessible:
- Returnee Discounts: GVI offers discounts for alumni. For example, if an alumnus returns within 6 months, they can receive a 20% discount on GVI Flex programs or a 50% discount on GVI Hub programs. Additionally, there’s a lifetime alumni discount where returning volunteers receive 5% off their next program.
- Family Specials: To encourage family participation, GVI offers discounts for family groups. Any family member under 18 can join for 25% less than each adult family member who joins, making it more affordable for families to volunteer together.
- Referral Program: GVI has a referral program where both the referring alumni and the new volunteer receive significant discounts on their program fees. Referring a friend to a GVI Hub program can result in a $940 discount for both the referrer and the new volunteer.
- Fundraising Platform: GVI provides its own dedicated fundraising platform, No More Limits, where participants can raise funds for their programs. They also offer a comprehensive fundraising manual to help volunteers with their efforts.
- National Scholarship Program (NSP): This program enables local nationals who would otherwise not have the means to participate in GVI’s internship program. It provides valuable practical experience and, in some cases, opportunities to become a GVI staff member.
- External Scholarships and Bursaries: While GVI doesn’t provide direct financial aid, they have a collated list of external bursaries and scholarships available, particularly for citizens of the UK, which can be used towards GVI programs.
- Combination Discounts: For volunteers booking two or more consecutive GVI programs, the fee from the first program may be subject to a combination discount.
Through these methods, GVI makes it more feasible for volunteers to finance their trips and ensures that the experience is within reach for those who are passionate about making a difference in sustainable development projects abroad.
Make a difference with GVI while you're in Cambodia
Here are a few selected volunteer trips with GVI:
- Teach English to Cambodian Buddhist Monks: Volunteer in Siem Reap, Cambodia, teaching English to monks and children. Contributes to UN Goal 4: Quality Education. Experience Cambodia’s culture and temples, teach English, aid community development, and engage locally. Program duration: 1-12 weeks, including child protection, safety, and empowerment training.
- Volunteer with Children in Cambodia: Join efforts in Siem Reap to enhance the educational and social landscape of the area. Volunteers work on teaching English, environmental awareness, arts, and crafts, and health, contributing to UN Sustainable Development Goal 4. This program offers a chance to immerse in the local culture, engage in community development, and receive training in teaching methods. The duration ranges from 1-12 weeks, enabling volunteers to make a sustainable impact in children’s lives.
- Women’s Empowerment Volunteering in Cambodia: Contribute to women’s empowerment in Siem Reap by teaching English and supporting local empowerment NGOs. Aligned with UN Sustainable Development Goal 5: Gender Equality, this program focuses on improving women’s access to education and employment opportunities. Activities include leading workshops, TEFL English classes, and professional and personal development, all within the culturally rich setting of Siem Reap and Angkor Wat. The program is available for 1-12 weeks.
- Gender Equality Volunteering in Cambodia: Join a gender equality program in Siem Reap, working towards UN Sustainable Development Goal 5. The program aims to improve women’s access to resources and skills through teaching English, leading empowerment workshops, and supporting local partners. Gain valuable experience in gender equality training, community empowerment, and cultural awareness. The program spans 1-12 weeks and offers an opportunity to explore the local culture and historical sites.
- Volunteer with Elephants in Thailand: Support community efforts in Thailand’s Chiang Mai Province to reintegrate elephants into forests. Work with mahouts and locals to establish alternative livelihoods and monitor elephant behavior. This program offers insights into elephant biology, Karen culture, and environmental conservation. Activities include fieldwork training, elephant health checks, and teaching English. The 1-12 week program allows for in-depth engagement with wildlife conservation, endangered species conservation, and community-based conservation efforts.
Get the funds you need!
Fundraising for volunteering abroad is more than just a means to an end; it is a journey of self-discovery and commitment to global responsibility. By understanding the financial necessities of such noble causes and embracing the challenge of fundraising, volunteers not only ensure their participation in life-changing projects but also contribute to the sustainability and success of these initiatives.
Your next volunteering journey awaits!
Embrace this journey with passion, creativity, and determination, and remember that every dollar raised is a testament to your dedication to fostering a better world. Your adventure awaits, and it starts with the empowering act of fundraising.