Why do I need to pay to volunteer?

In a previous article we showed you how you can find free volunteering opportunities. However, we also showed you that volunteering for free comes with a certain set of risks and is very rarely actually free. You will find when looking into volunteering abroad that there is always likely to be a fee involved. Many people wonder why they have to pay to volunteer abroad? After all, why should you pay to work?

Unfortunately, it doesn’t really work this way. Volunteer organizations rely entirely on the fees they charge you in order to do their job. The organizations that coordinate volunteer programs and volunteers have expenses they need to cover, even if they are Not for profit.

Any organisation has running costs. They need to pay the staff that make your volunteer experience possible. Like any business, volunteer organizations need staff to run and maintain the website, to clean the offices and to coordinate between projects and volunteers. They need to pay rent and to pay for advertising in order to attract new volunteers. Even finding and researching new projects requires funds.

In addition to this, there are the benefit you receive yourself for your fee. A host family needs to be paid a fair rate to cover your accommodation and food. You will actually find this is less than you would probably spend in the same country on a hotel and eating out if you went on vacation. Most organizations will also pick you up from the airport, which again would be a particularly high rate for a tourist.

Furthermore, whilst the project is more than happy for your time and support, it takes more than physical labour to maintain a project. In most cases, your fee will also cover a donation to the project itself in order to enable their work to continue. For example, if you are working in a school, they may use your fee to pay for school supplies or even food for the children.

If you have already looked at our article on free volunteer abroad opportunities, or you have conducted your research elsewhere, you may have realised how much extra work is involved. You need to find a project , you need find accommodation, you need to find your way to your destination. These are all aspects which are taken care of by your organisation and included in the price. Beyond that, you have the ongoing support of the organisation during your planning and during the project which will make your experience significantly easier. Whilst your organisation may not be able to get your visa for you, they can tell you how to apply, what documents you will need and provide contact details.

Volunteering abroad through an organisation also makes you a part of a global community. Most organizations have volunteers in many different countries and often have ways to contact volunteers on other projects. You are also likely to be volunteering in a group of like-minded individuals with whom you will establish long-lasting friendships.

So you are well within your rights to ask why you need to pay to volunteer abroad, and you are welcome to look for ways to avoid doing so. But you should be aware of where your money goes, and what it gets you, as well as what volunteering for ‘free’ may actually entail.