Like planning a holiday, preparing for a volunteer experience abroad requires some thinking on how to be financially sustainable during your stay.
The vast majority of legit and ethical international NGOs require volunteers to pay for their travel and living expenses. This is because they must conserve limited resources for the communities they serve.
Here some tips and suggestions on how to calculate the costs of your volunteer abroad experience and get the funds to cover those expenses.
1) Make a list of all your potential expenses you may incur
- round-trip flight ticket
- health and travel insurance
Recurring expenses, which may differ depending on the duration of your stay.
- additional cash for extra thing.
If you are not used to independent travelling, ask for help and have a travel agency or volunteer organizations sort out the logistical aspects for you. However, bear in mind that by doing so you will incur in extra costs for service.
2) Know yourself and your requirements for comfort
Each of us has fundamentally different needs when it comes to our everyday life. What are the things you cannot live without? This is particularly important to know when you’re visiting a developing country, where even basic elements may only be available with an extra cost. Some people cannot live without air conditioning, while others need a WiFi connection or want to be in the city centre amongst the nightlife.
Make a list of life’s pleasures that you would not be able to live without and factor them into the extra costs.
3) Ask other volunteers who have gone through the same experience
Make the most of social media and connect with volunteers who have had similar experiences, or even just with people who have travelled abroad. Get tips on the local lifestyle and the cost of living.
4) Enquire about the benefits of the volunteer role
If you apply for a specific volunteer project , enquire about the tangible benefits the hosting organisation is offering in exchange for the volunteer work. They may largely vary depending on the hosting organisation’s size, budget and volunteer policy.
5) Find ways to reduce travel expenses
Don’t travel during tourist season, stay at hostels or shared rooms. Organize your volunteer trip yourself, skipping the cost of third parties providers, such as travel agencies or volunteer organizations.
6) Run a successful fundraising campaign
You could use crowdfunding tools or ask your friends and family to contribute to your dream volunteer project prior to your departure. Global giving.org provides useful tips on useful crowdfunding tools and strategies. Or, kick off your campaign straight away with the Find and Seek website.
7) Find alternative ways to raise funds for your volunteer project
If the overall cost of the volunteer trip is still way above your budget, do not give up! Think creatively.
If you have some specific expertise or skills and you do not mind working extra hours, you could allocate time for some paid freelancing or teaching work online before or while you’re overseas.
Let your motivation find the way
If you’re really motivated to make a volunteer overseas experience happen, take the time to assess the necessary expenses, and plan a strategy to cover your funds. It’s exactly what you would do when planning a holiday abroad, with the difference being that this one could turn out to be a deeply meaningful and life-changing experience!