If you’ve ever searched for volunteer abroad placements and tallied up the costs associated with airfares to get there, travel insurance and vaccinations, it can get pricey. Even if you select one of the cheapest programs out there, you need to be able to come up with a few hundred (or few thousand dollars) to make it a reality. The good news is that there are lots of organizations and companies out there offering volunteer grants and scholarships for those looking to do a volunteer abroad program. It may take a little more effort on your end (rather than just sending off an application to the volunteer abroad organization and booking your flights), but if you don’t have the funds available to make it happen otherwise, then it’s something you should seriously consider.
Where to search for volunteer grants and scholarships?
There is a whole range of organizations out there who are willing to assist young people making a difference – from local community organizations in your own backyard to big international companies. If you’re a student, then your school or university may have grants and scholarships specifically for volunteer abroad placements, while some employers offer them for staff wishing to take a vacation while giving something back to the global community at the same time.
Start by looking for businesses or organizations within your own community who you think might be interested in supporting a local. Make sure you clearly outline in your email or letter where you plan to volunteer and how it will help the community in which you will be working, as well as how it will assist you in gaining skills to become an active global citizen. Also, highlight any mutual interests that the organization or business may have in the field or destination in which you will be volunteering.
Keep an ear out for any organizations in your city which are dedicated to the service and volunteer sector who will be able to point you in the right direction when it comes to finding local businesses or groups willing to help fund volunteer abroad expeditions. It may take time and dedication to email, phone and message lots of potential donors, but you just never know who might be willing to assist you.
There are also numerous national volunteer grants and scholarships which you can apply for, funded by a huge variety of organizations and businesses. These tend to be more competitive with a lot of applications each year and sometimes specific eligibility requirements. So carefully consider if you are eligible before spending time putting together an application.
Keep in mind that many volunteer abroad organizations offer their own scholarships and grants for people participating in their programs. If you can’t see it outlined on their website, make sure you ask what opportunities are available when you contact the organization and follow up on any advice they might have for fundraising.
What makes a good volunteer grant or scholarship application?
When putting together your scholarship or grant application, it’s important to demonstrate that the volunteer or internship abroad program you want to participate in is going to help you achieve your academic or career goals. Try and illustrate that you are not just after a free trip overseas but looking for an experience that will help shape your life and develop important skills. Clearly outline why you have selected that particular cause and what you will personally bring to the program.
Active crowdfunding is a great way to show a scholarship or grant committee that you are dedicated to the program and cause you have selected. It indicates you are committed to it whether you receive a scholarship or grant and this will reflect favorably on your application, rather than reduce your chances of being awarded one.
If you’re not sure where to start, here are a few organizations who offer volunteer grants and scholarships particularly for those heading abroad:
Volunteer Forever is a great first port of call as it compares different volunteer abroad organization placements and helps you fundraise for your chosen program. You can select from Volunteer Abroad, Teach Abroad and Intern Abroad placements, then create a profile page to tell others about what you are doing and why. This can then be shared on social media or emailed to particular family members, organizations or businesses who can then make safe and secure donations into your fundraising account. At the end of your placement, you can also write a review about your experience for others and help them make an informed decision about which organization to choose.
Volunteer Forever also offers scholarships of between $500-$1,000 which you can apply for and combine with your fundraising efforts to cover your placement costs. Residents of the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the European Union are all eligible to apply, with the funds available to be used for your program fee, airfare or travel insurance.
Go Overseas offers two $500 scholarships each year for volunteers to use with an organization of their choice. It can either be a designated program outlined on their website or a customized trip with a particular NGO you feel strongly about. The money is usually given directly to the organization to ensure it is put to use on the project, with participants needing to fund their own airfares and travel expenses through other means.
Travel For Good
Travelocity may be one of the biggest online travel agencies but that doesn’t mean they’ve forgotten about the importance of “voluntourism.” Through their Travel For Good program, they offer $5,000 grants for travelers to head overseas with one of their partner organizations – the American Hiking Society, Cross-Cultural Solutions, the Earthwatch Institute, and GlobeAware. The grant can be used to cover project costs, airfares and in-country transportation, with four winners selected each year.
Dedicated to socially responsible construction and disaster relief projects around the world, Build Abroad offers a travel scholarship each year to participate in one of their programs in Latin America or Asia. Students or recent graduates in architecture, civil engineering, interior design or related fields are encouraged to apply, particularly those interested in a career in the humanitarian or disaster relief housing sector.