How To Volunteer Abroad For Less

how to volunteer for less

Who knew doing good and helping others would cost so much? Searching online is enough to discourage any potential volunteer, with results displaying fees of $900/£700 per week excluding flights! Volunteering abroad needn’t cost a fortune, but it can rarely be done for free.

A guest post by Astrid Halliday

Here are some tips on how to volunteer for less:

Going Direct

As volunteering is booming in popularity, there are many websites springing up acting as a ‘craigslist’ for volunteer jobs, where travellers can contact hosts directly. These often charge an annual subscription to chat with hosts advertising on their websites, subscriptions are around $40/£30 per person. The types of volunteering found on these websites are varied, from traditional au pairing and building schools in Africa to the more unusual work exchanges such as volunteering in backpacker hostels, restoring a historic chateau and creating eco habitats.

Flexible volunteers can cut out the middleman entirely and ask at local schools and charities if they need any assistance. This is better suited to well-travelled and confident people as it can take time finding a project accepting volunteers. The disadvantage is that casual ad-hoc volunteers don’t stick around as long, possibly because there are competing distractions and there wasn’t time to prepare for the role, according to small charities.

World Packers (Use the promo code ‘MYFUNKYTRAVELWP‘ for a $10 discount)

Backpacker Job Board


Transparency by Volunteer Organisations

Many volunteers still prefer to arrange a placement through an organisation because of the support and structure they offer, but it doesn’t mean it has to break the bank.

If an organisation is charging high project fees, they should be transparent about where the money is going. In my experience, the high fees usually don’t make their way to the project and instead go towards more luxurious accommodation and into the company’s pocket.

While opting for an affordable volunteer organisation may seem like an obvious choice, they can be harder to find, but they do exist! Top search results are often dominated by no shortage of expensive organisations charging thousands of pounds and affordable organisations sit on the second or third page.

Original Volunteers
Maritime Volunteer Service

Volunteering abroad for less

Volunteers in Madagascar, CC BY 2.0

Travel Grants

Ranging from $30-3250/ £25-£2500, there are many different travel grants offered by companies, councils and trusts. Travel grants don’t have to be paid back but there may be rules on eligibility and how much you can be awarded. The higher funding grants typically require the volunteer to complete a report or presentation upon returning from their volunteer trip, this may also include documenting or data gathering during their trip.

Working professionals are welcome to apply for travel grants, there are many which aren’t exclusive to students. Weird and unusual grants exist that award money to travellers of all ages who are vegetarians or grants specifically for ginger travellers!

Thousands of travellers each year apply for travel grants, so it is worth applying for more than one to increase your chances of being selected. Application processes may not be the easiest and potentially might take a long time, but grab a cup of coffee, stretch your hands and prepare to write a lot of application forms.


Florence Nightingale Foundation


Online funding pages are quick and easy to set up and volunteers can watch donations flood in as soon as the page is live. You will need to be clear where the money is going but donations can cover all aspects of your trip from your flights to your accommodation.

Friends and family can jump online easily and donate to your cause. Sharp volunteers promote their page on social media, paying for their fundraising page to reach more people who would like to support their trip, rather than simply relying on friends and family. Fundraising events in the local area and running errands for suggested donations are also a great way to hit your target.

Some fundraising sites don’t award the money unless the target is reached, check the small print, it may be better to set a lower target to cover part of the trip than over reaching and not receiving any of it.

Money isn’t the only thing which can help make a volunteer trip affordable; donations of frequent flyer miles, airline coupons, extra luggage allowance to take more supplies over and help with visas shouldn’t be overlooked.

Go Fund Me
Just Giving

Stay For Longer

Projects encourage volunteers to stay for longer by offering reduced project fees the longer volunteers stay. Sometimes if volunteers are happy to stick around and take on a bit of extra responsibility, projects offer free stays and perhaps even a stipend to cover the cost of food. Often longer stays can offer leadership and management opportunities not available for short stay volunteers, great for your CV!

Read more – Learn how to work and travel with these 10 ideas.

 This guest post was published in January 2019.

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Featured Image, CC BY-SA 2.0

How To Volunteer Abroad For Less

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