They say the best things in life are free (and we agree). We say volunteering abroad is one of the best things you’ll do in your life (and our volunteers agree), and with the right know-how, time and preparation, you’ll understand how to volunteer abroad for free.
Some prospective volunteers are disheartened to first learn that volunteering your time to support communities around the world can come with a price tag. The reality is that all types of overseas travel come at a cost when you take into account flights, travel insurance, vaccinations, accommodation, transportation and meals, and these costs carry across to volunteer travel too.
There are free volunteer programs or opportunities that contribute towards some, or even all of those costs. However, for the vast majority of people these are not the right fit. That’s particularly true if you only have limited time available to travel or if you don’t have the in-demand skills, qualifications or experience to qualify for trusted volunteer opportunities that pay to offset your costs or provide a stipend.
That doesn’t mean your time isn’t needed or valued, and that you can’t volunteer abroad for free. It simply means your approach needs to be different:
- Firstly, you should pay to volunteer abroad. Doing so gives you safety, reassurance and a framework which helps you get the most out of your time abroad.
- More importantly, it also ensures you positively impact the community you’re going to support. You’ll cover the costs of being there and put money back into the local economy.
- Then you can offset the costs associated with your international volunteer experience. That’s why in this comprehensive guide, we’ll explain how to keep your volunteer travel costs to a minimum by sharing tried and tested tips to essentially enable you to volunteer abroad for free!
How To Affordably Volunteer Abroad:
- Learn how to cut your volunteer travel costs
- Find the most affordable volunteer programs
- Discover the extra travel costs you need to consider
- Learn how to create the best volunteer fundraising campaign
- Offset cost with these other fundraising ideas
- See if you qualify for these free volunteer abroad options
Learn how to cut your volunteer travel costs
Want to keep your travel costs to an absolute minimum? The good news is that you’ve already found IVHQ - the most trusted and affordable volunteer travel provider. When volunteering abroad with IVHQ, your Program Fee goes directly to the in-country organization and covers your accommodation, meals, airport pick up and 24/7 in-country support. This offers an incredibly affordable and safe way to travel internationally and provide valuable support to communities who value your support.
For example, as a volunteer in Cambodia, you’ll contribute $350 for 2 weeks on a volunteer program. This means you’re paying as little as $25 per day! That’s $25 for comfortable accommodation, local meals and 24/7 support from a dedicated local team.
Plus, the more time you have to contribute, the cheaper your daily volunteer fees become. Volunteering in the Philippines over a 10-week period means you’ll only pay $15 per day for accommodation, food and 24/7 support. Take a look at five affordable volunteer program opportunities listed below:
|5 Affordable Volunteer Abroad Programs|
|Peru (Lima) from $250 for 1 week|
|Philippines from $1090 for 10 weeks or $15 per day|
|Cambodia from $350 for 2 weeks or $25 per day|
|Nepal from $1350 for 12 weeks or $16 per day|
|Kenya from $370 for 2 weeks or $26 per day|
Find a volunteer destination to fit your budget by browsing these affordable volunteer program fees .
Discover the extra travel costs you need to consider
Wherever in the world you choose to volunteer, it’s important to have an understanding of the other costs associated with volunteering internationally. The cost of your airfare has the potential to become your biggest trip expense, so we’re here to help you book wisely. If budget’s on your mind, ensure you consider the following options when researching flights:
- The time of year you travel - does your schedule allow you to travel off-peak?
- The destination - are there destinations closer to home with a cheaper airfare?
- Take advantage of airline discounts - do you or your family members collect air miles? Instead of asking for money from family, maybe a contribution of air miles might help?
- Use an agent - typically, agents have access to better airfare deals. IVHQ works with a team of expert humanitarian flight agents to make the process of booking your volunteer trip easy and budget-friendly! Once you have registered for an IVHQ program, simply request a quote using the booking tool in your MyIVHQ Profile.
Don’t forget travel insurance and medication/vaccinations, you’ll be glad you didn’t if you ever did run into trouble. All IVHQ programs require volunteers to be insured and we offer affordable volunteer travel insurance packages, thanks to CISI. As an IVHQ volunteer, you’ll also receive 24/7 support from our local team, so you know that you’ll be in safe hands.
Learn how to create the best volunteer fundraising campaign
Many volunteers use fundraising to keep the cost of volunteering abroad down. Typically volunteers use online crowdfunding platforms such as Go Get Funding to raise funds to support their trips, but don’t write off your more traditional approaches. After all, there’s a reason the humble bake sale is so popular! It works.
As online crowdfunding becomes an increasingly popular option, here are a few top tips to make sure your campaign stand above the rest:
- Tell a story - you’ve been inspired to volunteer abroad and travel with meaning so explain the motivations behind that decision, where you are going and how you are going to have an impact.
- Think of a creative way to present your story - can you make a captivating video, a personalised meme?
- When presenting your story in writing, keep it snappy and find an intro to hook readers in
- Be transparent - make sure it’s clear what the money is being used for
- Get exposure - now’s the time to be a social butterfly! Get out there and spread the word. Post your Go Get Funding page on your social channels, email it out and mention it to people in person. Encourage friends and family to share it as well!
- Show your appreciation and incentivize donations. For example, when people donate over $100, think of a unique way to say thanks. Maybe you could send them a postcard when in country?
Offset cost with these fundraising ideas
Previous volunteers have also utilized the following fundraising methods to successfully raise funds to support their volunteer trips and enable them to volunteer abroad for free:
Fill Your Bank With Empties
Many IVHQ volunteers take advantage of the opportunity to trade in their empties (or others’ empties) for cash! IVHQ volunteer, Kaila Cochrane, made around $800 from collecting empty beer cans and wine bottles! Her advice is to hand out flyers in your local neighborhood and organize a pick-up date. Kaila also recommends picking a date after a holiday weekend when your neighbors will have plenty of empties to spare!
Plan A Profitable Party
If throwing a party and raising money to help you volunteer abroad for free sounds like a sweet combo, you’ve come to the right tip! Whether you’re selling tickets for a dinner party, movie night, dress-up party, or quiz night, you can use the money from the ticket sales to purchase the ingredients/elements for a top night and put the profits towards helping you volunteer abroad for free! IVHQ volunteer, Larissa Rodrigues, hosted an English tea party/dessert night and invited all her friends (and their friends). Larissa baked lots of treats, organised old fashioned games, and asked her guests to contribute $10 towards the night, rather than bringing anything!
Convert Clothes To Cash
Turning old clothes or unused household items into cash can also get you on your way to volunteer abroad for free! Set a date for a yard sale, host a silent auction, strike up a deal with your friends, run a Facebook auction, list your items on eBay or Craigslist… The options are endless! IVHQ volunteer, Julie Gowan, collected all the clothing items she no longer needed and sold them for $5 a piece to her friends, so they got a real bargain and Julie made hundreds of dollars for items she no longer wanted – win win!
Have your own stall at local farmers markets, festivals, galas, at work or even outside your house on the street. Get your friends and family on the bandwagon to help prepare the goods. Cakes, slices, cookies are popular sellers while preserves are particularly profitable. Incorporating a “guess the weight of the cake” competition and a raffle are always great money spinners as well.
While you are putting in the time and effort to muster up an awesome fundraising campaign it’s important to also look at your own saving habits. To make your dreams a reality buckle down and save every penny. For you, that might mean no more takeout, not eating in restaurants, taking your lunch to work, cutting back on that coffee habit or saying no to that new top. Keep a spreadsheet and track where your money goes - this can be a bit alarming at first but it’ll be worth it when you’re volunteering abroad. Also, consider doing the following:
The 52 Week Challenge has proved a successful way for previous IVHQ volunteers to set achievable savings goals and build up funds for their volunteer overseas trips over the course of a year. If you’re not familiar with the 52 Weeks Challenge… During the first week of the year, you save $1. During the second week, you save $2. Keep adding a dollar each week so that during the last week of the year, you’re putting away $52. Even without interest, this adds up to $1,378 over the course of a year!
Trade Presents for Donations
If a birthday, anniversary or Christmas is looming and gift-giving is on the agenda, ask your loved ones to substitute your presents for monetary donations that you can use to put towards your upcoming volunteer abroad trip! This is arguably the easiest way to get you on your way to volunteering abroad for free!
See if you qualify for these free volunteer abroad options
With further research, you’ll soon discover that the majority of the free volunteer programs often require a minimum time commitment, which many volunteer travelers simply can’t afford to offer. For example, you’ll need to put aside 27 months for the Peace Corps, while UN volunteers need to commit to volunteering for 6 months. Many of these organizations often require skilled volunteers, so if you’re fresh out of high school or university, your chances could be slim at getting accepted. If you have the time and skills available and you’re looking to step away from your day-to-day life, one of the following alternative free volunteer abroad options could be perfect for you:
For those with 2 years to dedicate to volunteering abroad and the right qualifications, the Peace Corps offers free volunteering options for citizens of the United States. Presented as an opportunity for graduates and professionals to gain a new lease on life, or retirees to devote their spare time to a community in need. The Peace Corps has built a trusted reputation for delivering passionate volunteer work around the world. If you want to become a part of the Peace Corps, you must be at least 18 years-old and apply at least 9 months in advance. You then must complete an intensive application process before you can be accepted into the program. You can find a detailed description of how to apply for the Peace Corps here.
As with the Peace Corps, those joining UN Volunteers provide specialized skills to communities for long-term durations. With openings listed on a need basis, you must become part of the UNV talent pool to be considered available for the position. Openings can range from 6 months in duration and extensions may be required whilst in country. In order to be considered, volunteers must be 25 years-old and older (no upper age limit), have a university degree or higher technical diploma and at least 2 years of relevant work experience in a professional background, and good working knowledge of English, Spanish or French. Confirmation on your deployment can take up to 6 weeks and approximately 2,000 assignments become available per year. More information on how to volunteer abroad with UN Volunteers can be found here.
Volunteer Services Overseas
Volunteer Services Overseas has built their reputation around volunteer work in Africa and Asia, having worked in the region for almost 60 years. VOS requires a thorough screening process depending on your personal and professional commitments, with 3 to 5 months of time needed for training. With a key focus on matching highly skilled individuals to communities in need, volunteers can expect to work in their chosen community for up to 12 months. Learn more about how to volunteer with VSO here.
Is It Possible To Volunteer Abroad For Free?
Volunteering abroad for free can be difficult to achieve without using the strategies detailed in this guide above, however with time, patience and successful fundraising initiatives it’s definitely an achievable goal.
Combining a solid fundraising campaign, a large group of financial supporters, extensive research on general travel expenses along with IVHQ’s affordable program fees, you’ll be able to live the free volunteer abroad dream before you know it!
Contributing to the costs of your volunteer program is the length of your time abroad. For example, IVHQ volunteers can choose to volunteer abroad for periods ranging from 1 week to 24 weeks, while feeling confident that they’re being connected with meaningful community-driven projects that have a genuine need for support. As an IVHQ volunteer, you also have the flexibility to choose a volunteer project which aligns with a particular field that interests you. This means you can apply your existing skills and qualifications, or build up work experience to aid future career prospects as part of your volunteer project.
As an IVHQ volunteer, you’ll also be connected with a team of dedicated volunteer travel experts. We’ve visited all IVHQ destinations and projects, ensuring that our trusted advice and travel tips stem from first-hand experiences. Plus once you arrive at your destination, you’ll sleep easy knowing that you have access to 24/7 support from our local teams, giving first-time and seasoned travelers alike extra peace of mind. This leaves you to focus on making a positive contribution to the community in which you’ll be working. Your program fees will also ensure that you’ll have access to clean and safe accommodation, along with nutritious local meals, which both contribute to lowering your day to day costs.
IVHQ is dedicated to keeping the costs of volunteering abroad to a minimum, offering the world’s most affordable volunteer programs in 50+ different destinations across Africa, Asia, Central America, South America, Europe and the Pacific.
To discover the adventures waiting for you with IVHQ check out our awesome range of affordable volunteer abroad programs to get you started!