Types of Organisations

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Now that you have considered your motivations for volunteering and looked at the possible alternatives, it’s a good idea to start thinking about the type of organisation that is most suited to you.

There are a large number of organisations that arrange volunteer placements, and the variety can be slightly overwhelming for someone who is just beginning to consider the options.

We have divided volunteer placement organisations into five categories: short-term/intercultural; long-term development; conservation/environment; recruitment/placement; and relief/emergency. All the organisations in the directory have been classified according to these headings.

Depending on the type of work in which you are interested, these categories aim to help you narrow down your choices within the directory. There can be advantages and disadvantages to all the different types of work, and it may be helpful for you to make a list of what you think these could be before making any final decision. You can use the box below to get you started.


Advantages Disadvantages 


 Chance to experience a country and work with local people  May be ‘gap filling’ if there is no long-term plan
Usually working very closely with local people, on long-term issues Can take a long time to see the results of the programme
Projects are often results-    orientated May experience tensions between the destruction of environmental resources and the need for economic development
Can help to find the best theoretical match between your skills and the jobs available Do not run programmes directly, so may not have strong connections with projects
/ emergency
Results of work are very visible Can be very stressful on a personal level
Faith-Based     Organisation Can be long-established and have generally formed deep ties with localcommunities

May–or may  not–conflict with volunteer’s         personal ethos and/or belief systems

 Short Term Intercultural

The Volunteer Charter sets out seven principles that aim to encourage responsible, responsive international volunteering. It contains lists of questions to help you to make sure that you have thought about the issues raised, and that you know they are important. By signing it you can show that you support the principles it sets out.

Short-term/ intercultural organisations engage in unskilled work, providing a service to a community. The volunteer is expected to participate in and benifit from intercultural learning. The sending organisations may be for-profit or not-for-profit. When you are searching the database, this term is used to cover all organisations that:

  • offer short-term volunteer positions (from one week to one year);
  • do not require that volunteers have specific educational/professional qualifications;
  • are not primarily concerned with conservation/environmental work (a separate category is provided for these organisations)

 Long Term Development

Long term development organisations focus on empowering local people. This often involves some kind of skills transfer, and will require specific educational or professional qualifications. When you search our database, all organisations classified as belonging to this category will:

  • Be not-for-profit;
  • Require that volunteers have specific educational/professional qualifications;
  • Include capacity building as a volunteer activity. This involves the transfer of required skills and knowledge to individuals and groups.

The focus of this work is on empowering local people. It often involves some kind of skills transfer, and will require specific educational or professional qualifications.


These organisations are primarily concerned with conservation/environmental work.

They have been classified separately, as there is an increasing number of organisations that works in this area whose emphasis is slightly different to the intercultural exchanges. The term is used to cover all organisations that list their primary activity as relating to conservation/environmental work.


This category is used to cover organisations that match volunteers with placements or programmes, but that are not themselves involved in organising or running volunteer programmes. 


The focus of this work is on emergency situations, which could arise as a result of conflicts or natural disasters. It concentrates on basic needs, such as the provision of food, water, sanitation, medicine and shelter. Examples of work include food distribution and emergency healthcare. For most of these placements, specific professional and educational qualifications will be required, as will relevant prior experience.

Organisations offer very few volunteering opportunities during emergencies due to security concerns and the danger of deploying untrained personnel in an unstable location or disaster area. In a crisis situation organisations are primarily looking for financial support from the general public.

Dóchas has published a guide How You Can Help which explains the necessary skill set and experience required of personnel needed during emergency relief situations as well as other vital ways to support the relief effort.

Volunteers can play an important role in promoting the long term development of a country and in challenging the root causes of poverty and inequality. This contributes to ensuring that some of the poorest regions of the world are not vulnerable to situations such as famine through having adequate resources in place to mitigate the effects of a crisis should it arise, be it ecological or man-made.




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