Section 4 – Sending Agencies in the Spotlight

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An overview of issues relating to sending agencies

Learning Outcomes

  • Knowledge of different types and durations of volunteering
  • Insight to some of the issues relating to money and volunteering
  • Useful questions and information relating to sending agencies



Not all sending organisations provide the same opportunities to the volunteer, so it is important that you take your time in choosing the right sending organisation for you. The types of programmes that organisations work on in host communities mean that the volunteer programmes have a specific focus and offer different activities. Comhlámh suggest that you start with the list of organisations who are signatories to the Code of Good Practice (CoGP).




Comhlámh suggests that you start with the list of organisations who are signatories to the Code of Good Practice (CoGP).


The majority of people travelling to volunteer in the Global South are going for short term placements of less than three months[1]. Some organisations specialise in this type of placement while others specialise in longer term placements, so it’s important to do your homework before deciding where you’ll go and who you’ll go with.




Activity 1 – How long?


Step 1


Study the lists below and consider which duration best suits you. Think about family, career, study and anything else that you think is important in making this decision.

Please remember that this is not an exhaustive list, and there can be cross-over between short- and long-term placements.



  • Volunteer travel, volunteer vacations or voluntourism is travel which includes volunteering for a charitable cause
  • Vary widely in scope, from low-skill work cleaning up local wildlife areas to providing high-skill medical aid in a foreign country
  • Voluntourism is appealing, as it is specifically targeted at travellers who want to make a positive change in the world, while still providing a tourist experience
  • Most often run by for-profit companies who benefit on the volunteers goodwill
Short-term (Typically less than 3 months):


  • Focuses on cultural learning experience
  • Can be for-profit or not-for-profit
  • Often they do not require that volunteers have specific educational/professional qualifications; (however, some organisations recruit volunteers with a particular skill for short periods of time e.g. Operation Smile & Global Schoolroom)
  • Normally a volunteer has to fundraise or pay a fee.
Long-term (Typically 1 year plus):


  • It often involves some kind of skills transfer/capacity building
  • Will require specific educational or professional qualifications.
  • Tend to be not-for-profit;
  • Often require you to have 2-5 years’ worth of work experience
  • Costs are often covered


Step 2


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Step 3

Using the Comhlamh Code of Good Practice and the Comhlámh website, research which organisations provide placements to match the duration & type you are interested in?

We’ll cover what type of questions to ask them in another activity.


Activity 2 – How Much?

In most placements you are required to pay for flights, vaccinations, visas and other related costs. In some you may also be expected to contribute financially towards development in the host community and running costs of the organisation.


It is important that you feel comfortable with where and what the money will be spent on.



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Activity 3 – Questions for Sending Organisations


Volunteering overseas is a significant investment of time and resources for you, the sending agency and the host community. By asking the right questions before you commit to anything, it should enable you to start making informed choices.


Step 1


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Step 2

Take a look at a few sending agencies who have signed up to the Comhlamh Code of Good Practice.

Review their websites and information to see if any of your questions are answered. Feel free to make contact with the sending agency to ask for clarifications if needed.



If you can’t think of any questions or you are looking for inspiration, click here to view some


Activity 4 – Financial Considerations

Comhlámh creates awareness and provides information on the Protection of Interests of Overseas Volunteers and Development Workers. Comhlámh are responsible for the administration of certain social insurance and pensions schemes on behalf of Irish Aid.

In the excitement, hurry and idealism of preparing for overseas work, it is not uncommon to place low priority on one’s own financial interests! However, there are a few items that may need your attention as you decide whether volunteering overseas is the best fit for you.

Step 1



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The Volunteer Development Worker Scheme allows you to keep your tax credits up to date while overseas. The scheme is open to anyone volunteering for longer than one week



Step 2


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