Coinage and Volunteering: Hard to Find the Handouts

It seems a little strange that someone would ask you for money to volunteer, especially when all you want to do is help. It is and it isn’t. Many volunteer programs require a fee that covers certain expenses, mainly yours. While these organizations may be privately funded or funded by the government, it doesn’t mean that they are wealthy enough to pay for your trip.

Many volunteer organizations you find on the Internet end in .org. That means that in most cases they are a non-profit organization and need donors and volunteers to maintain their hands-on and active role in areas of need. So, sometimes you’ll have to pay for a volunteer adventure. But, don’t despair, here’s how your money will be used.

Most of the time you’ll be paying for your personal expenses and that’s it. For example, with some volunteer organizations you’re paying a nominal fee to help them find you a place to work and live. These organizations will have in-country associates or host-country nationals (citizens of that country) who work for them. Also, you may be paying for your entire stint’s food and shelter (but most likely, not your plane ticket). So, the money is actually benefiting you and/or your host family, with whom you’ll most likely be staying. You will also, as mentioned, have to pay for your plane ticket to the destination.

If paying to volunteer doesn’t seem like it’s a viable option for you, there might be a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) who’d be willing to help you complete an internship with them. While this is volunteering, it may not be full-fledged fieldwork with home-stays. One such organization in the United States is the Peace Corps (actually supported by the government thanks to Kennedy) that will pay for and completely train their volunteers. After a two-year service, volunteers are given a “readjustment allowance” when they come back home. So, while being paid to volunteer might be ideal, it doesn’t happen often. It shouldn’t hinder you, however, from venturing abroad.

Unless you have some money saved, are a “trust fund baby,” or find an organization willing to support your venture, you may really feel that the financial side of things is impossible. Plus, you may have bills back home to pay. One thing you could do is to work and save money to cover such expenses for the short time you’ll be gone. Plus, the money you raise for your volunteer experience will go much further in areas needing volunteers abroad.

Another way that you may be able to help finance your trip is through local social organizations, religious groups or churches. Often, these organizations set aside funds to help support those wishing to volunteer. Simply put a posting in one of the weekly newsletters. Another ingenious idea is to throw an organized get-together, whether it be with a church or other social group, where you try to raise funds to help pay for your travels. This option works best for those just getting out of college (or university) as adults sympathize more with the educated poor who haven’t found work yet. Be sure to stay in contact (especially with the big contributors!) while you’re away so that they may live vicariously knowing that their money is helping you to help others.

One final idea may be to throw a benefit dinner. It doesn’t have to be anything formal – perhaps a barbecue. Many caterers are more than willing to give you a discount knowing that they’ll be helping your cause. It may even be a tax write-off for them (and/or others who help you).

So, while many volunteer packages require that you pay for your plane ticket and your in-country expenses, don’t become alarmed. If you are organized and work things out ahead enough, anything is possible. There is money available through different clubs and organizations if you should find yourself really needing an extra financial boost. Don’t let finances be what holds you back from completing your dreams of helping others. As they say, where there’s a will, there’s a way!