Volunteering abroad can often be expensive; most people use an organisation to help organise their trip. Programme costs can be a big barrier to being a volunteer abroad. Volunteer programme fees can be expensive, ranging from £600-£1500 for a two-week trip, excluding flights. Two common reactions are panicking that it is unaffordable or feeling forced to put it off until a later date.
Use these tips below to make becoming a volunteer abroad more affordable.
Go Direct to A Charity
Charities abroad just like those at home, welcome an extra pair of hands offering to come and help. Contacting charities directly can help save money, although they may ask for a donation towards the charity or to cover accommodation. Finding charities whilst traveling is easy, ask at hostels, local shops and within the community, if anyone knows of a local project in need. Charities can be contacted before travel, although their priority will be their daily work, so they may be too busy to reply to emails asking for help booking flights or needing an airport pick-up etc.
The easiest way to contact organisations before travel is looking on sites, such as HelpX, where charities post job ads to volunteer abroad and the jobs you will be doing as a volunteer. It is not just charities who post on these sites, often there are hosts who may need help at their farm or parents looking for an au pair. Some provide food and accommodation in exchange for a couple of hours work.
Organisations offer pre-departure support, accommodation and airport pick-ups, amongst other things. Volunteering programs can also have local staff to provide training and orientation, language skills and structure the volunteering. There is more attention given and are very well suited to those who aren’t confident in organizing their own trip.
Organisations can also help if anything goes wrong and offer any extra support needed to volunteer abroad.
Some organisations have very high costs of over £1000 for one week of volunteering excluding flights, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t affordable volunteer options (https://www.originalvolunteers.co.uk/) as well. They may be harder to find as they aren’t charging high program fees to pump money into their marketing budget. With a bit more research it is possible to find more reasonable programme fees between £50-£100 a week.
Fundraise for Your Trip
The internet has made fundraising easier. Set up a page online and have people view it and donate from all over the world. This also makes it simpler for friends and family to donate, no need to get cash out and give it in person, just hop online and donate. Social media can help promote the fundraising page for more people to see and donate to it. GoFundMe seems to be the most popular site for volunteers fundraising online for trips. Combining this with local fundraising, hosting events and errands for suggested donations, donation targets can easily be reached.
Some sharp volunteers find paying to advertise their donation page on social media returns more donations than simply relying on friends and family and easily covers the costs.
Ask for more obscure donations, rather than just money. Request donations of frequent flyer miles, airline coupons, materials that can be used to volunteer with such as art and craft supplies and pens and paper. Donations of a luggage upgrade to take more supplies and visa application are also fun. Be creative, friends and family may feel more involved with your trip if they can say exactly what they are contributing.
A quick online search will show available travel grants, many websites offer long lists of grant-making trusts. Amounts offered can vary from £50 to £500. Colleges and high schools sometimes offer travel grants to their students, it’s always worth an ask. Grants may not always be advertised due to limited funds available.
Whilst most travel grants are aimed towards students there are still some available for professionals. It is also worth speaking with employers to see if your company provides them. Even if none are available, employers may be able to help in other ways. Some companies offer pound for pound schemes, where they match any donations made by employees and some offer additional paid leave for volunteering.
Choose Dates Wisely
It’s not an unknown truth that it is more expensive to travel in peak times than traveling the rest of the year. Avoid, where you can, traveling in the summer months. July and August are typically the most expensive times of year to travel, as this is when most of the western world is on summer break. Christmas Day, Thanksgiving, Easter and other public holidays are typically higher to travel on, when possible leave a couple of days either side of a holiday to avoid price increases. According to Airfarewatchdog, a fare tracker site, Tuesdays and Wednesdays are the cheapest days to fly, followed by Thursdays and Saturdays. Airline companies also take advantage of those who are booking flights last minute. Booking as far in advance should give more options and flexibility than leaving it to a couple of weeks before.