People considering volunteering overseas sometimes express surprise at being asked to pay a participation fee. However, it needs to be remembered that volunteering can be an expensive undertaking, with possible costs including transport, accommodation, food, administration, training, on-the-ground support, and potentially, medical and other insurance. Most organisations cannot cover these costs unless you have significant skills and experience that will contribute substantially to their work, or unless they are in receipt of substantial financial supports, for example from regular public donations.
Not-for-profit organisations, as the term suggests, do not seek commercial gain though they are, of course, interested in their own financial survival. Their principal objective is usually to achieve certain social aims or fulfil certain social needs without financial gain. These objectives are normally set out in organisations’ mission statements.
Participation fees can vary a lot: it is often the case that organisations that require volunteers with specific educational or professional skills will not charge fees, and will cover accommodation and food costs for people while they are overseas. Some will also provide a small living allowance. Other organisations will not charge a placement fee, but will require that volunteers cover all their own travel costs. Some charge programme fees that cover matching volunteers to programmes, in-country transport, accommodation and food. And others charge fees that include everything from flights and visas to food and accommodation in the host community.
Get detailed information: Before making a final decision about which organisation you would like to volunteer with, ask for a breakdown of how the fee will be spent. This will help you to get a more detailed picture of how the organisation is structured. If you are planning to fundraise to cover the costs of your placement, it will also provide you with information to pass on to potential donors.