How to Compare Volunteer Abroad Programs and Providers

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Your BFF has been raving about her epic year volunteering in Namibia. Now, you’re totally sold and ready to sign up too. Okay, pause! Before you make such a huge decision, compare a few more volunteer abroad programs first. Maybe Namibia isn’t one of the best places to volunteer abroad for the construction volunteering you love. Or, your friend’s volunteer abroad provider might be way above your budget. 

Girl looking inquisitively at camera

Go a little deeper when researching which volunteer program is right for you.

There’s more than meets the eye to finding the best volunteer abroad programs. However, knowing how to compare volunteer abroad providers will get you the best pickins. Here’s what you want to compare.

Why you should compare volunteer abroad programs

Choosing to volunteer abroad is an exhilarating decision. With all the excitement it can be tempting to sign with one of the first two programs that pop up on Google. Easy there, buddy. That is not how you want to go about picking volunteer travel programs. Set aside time to properly research volunteer trips overseas—there are major benefits in comparing and contrasting your options. For starters...

  • You’ll get the best bang for your buck. We’re not saying to treat picking the best volunteer abroad programs like thrift shopping. Super cheap or free quality volunteer abroad programs are few and far between. However, if you’re on a budget, you don’t want to miss out on an equally awesome but more affordable volunteer abroad program. Comparing the best volunteer programs will help you to find the best one for your wallet.
  • You’ll pick the best program for your skills and interests. These days, there are endless ways to volunteer abroad. You’ve got plenty of volunteer travel programs to choose from that will match your skill set. You can mentor young kids, do health outreach, help with conservationism, and much more. So, think about how you want to volunteer and start comparing your options. You’ll get a full scope on all the volunteer travel programs out there. 
  • Comparing providers creates informed volunteers—and trust us, you want to be an informed volunteer. Want a good overview of what different programs offer? Comparing volunteer abroad programs will teach you the ins and outs of each one. It will also teach you how to discern the ethics of different organizations, the sustainability of projects, and whether or not you can make the impact that you seek. That’s how you start volunteer life with a bang! 
Coffee cup that says begin

Sometimes the hardest step is just starting your research. We’re here for you!

The necessary tools to help you compare volunteer abroad programs

What’s a proper volunteer program comparison without a good search tool. When it comes to comparing volunteer abroad programs, there are several ways to search.

MyGoAbroad

Google is cool as a starting off point, but just be prepared for a gazillion and one results to sift through—supremely overwhelming! Your results are often far too convoluted for the type of shopping we need to do. So, if you really want to find the most reputable volunteer abroad programs, hit up the mother of all search tools to compare programs. 

There’s a powerful and free program search database just a few clicks away! Our MyGoAbroad search tool makes finding the best volunteer abroad programs easy peasy. You’ll be able to quickly bookmark programs that interest you, stack the volunteer abroad programs side-by-side to visually compare, and then read articles and reviews tailored to your interests. There are even Online Advisors who will personally match you up with the perfect programs based on your preferences. We know, we’re all 😍😍😍, too! 

If you’re a student, your academic advisor is a great resource.

Set up a meeting with your high school or college advisor to find out the best volunteer programs abroad. Once you explain your volunteering interests, they’ll suggest the top volunteer abroad programs and give you support throughout the application process.

If you’re not a student, we still think our Online Advisors are a fine substitute!

Individual program websites

If you’re anything like me, having multiple tabs open is basically a way of life. So put all those loaded web pages to work! Load individual program websites and flip back and forth between them to get a better feel for the organization, how they talk about their programs, the types of photos they’re publishing (Are participants riding elephants? Are there participants from a variety of backgrounds? How do they talk about their impact on the local community and long term goals?). 

And that’s just the start. You’ll also want to compare their costs, what’s included, and their level of service. Does it offer the accommodation situation you prefer? Can you get credit for the program (if you’re a student?). Will your new skills set contribute to your future goals?

Be picky—there are so many programs out there, you can absolutely afford it.

Arms raised in the air

Remember all of the good you are going to do and the people you are going to help if you start feeling overwhelmed.

What you’re actually comparing in volunteer abroad programs 

With all the different types of overseas volunteer work out there, you can quickly find your head spinning.  Plus, you don’t just want good volunteer abroad programs, you want the best volunteer abroad programs. Here’s an overview of what to compare as you’re sussing out providers. 

ロ Program fee. Most volunteer abroad programs have a program fee—this amount can cover anything from orientation to accommodation. Exactly what will be covered will vary program to program. So, to look closely under anything like a “what is covered section” and compare the overall price of the programs you’re looking at. 

ロ Program reviews. You probably want to think twice about volunteering abroad with a program with horrible reviews. Programs with four and five stars are a better deal. Definitely read and compare volunteer abroad programs reviews. You’ll get the 411 on the most reputable volunteer abroad programs around. Read all volunteer abroad program reviews here.

ロ Regions offered. As you compare providers, look closely at the countries they offer volunteer programs in. Maybe you’d like to volunteer near Botswana’s Okavango delta. Or perhaps a remote village in Cambodian village is more your steelo. Not all volunteer travel programs will offer opportunities in the region you’re interested in. So, read the fine print to find the best places to volunteer abroad. 

ロ Cause. With volunteer abroad programs, one of the biggest things to compare is the type of volunteering. If you’re passionate about literacy, you’ll want an English teaching program. While if healthcare is your yen, you will want to scour through the best medical abroad volunteer programs. There are endless types of overseas volunteer work. By comparing your options, you’ll sign up with the one that closest fits your desires.  

ロ Day-to-day life. Some volunteer programs schedule in include daily language lessons. While, others arrange after hours social activities for volunteers. You will find programs with more rigorous schedules and others that allow for more free time. Compare the differences and go with the program whose schedule you gel best with.

ロ Effectiveness of projects. Sustainability is king in the volunteer world. So, lean towards volunteering with programs with a proven record of making a positive difference in the local communities. The most effective programs have monitoring and evaluation techniques in place and partner with local organizations to keep them on the right path. Find a program that publishes their impact online or in their pamphlets? This is a great sign! 

Guy doing woodwork while volunteering abroad

Do you want to get your hands dirty? Work with kids? Conserve the planet? Build awesome stuff?

ロ Accommodation. While comparing volunteer travel programs, you will see that housing options differ. Some programs will offer homestays (housing with local families) and others will have volunteer houses set up. Volunteer abroad providers generally place housing specifics right on their website, so you’ll know exactly what to expect. 

ロ Duration of program. Only able to spend a semester overseas? Then pay attention to the lengths of the short volunteer abroad programs you’re comparing. If you’ve got more time to spare, you should be comparing long term providers such as one year volunteer abroad programs. You will find programs that place volunteers for as little as two weeks and others may require a minimum of six months.  

ロ Age requirements or specifications. Narrowed down a few awesome volunteer in India programs? If you’re a teen, make sure you’re matching programs that accept folks under 20! Or, let’s say you’re a retiree. Then you should compare the best volunteer programs for older adults. Approaching your junior year of college? Then you should be comparing the best volunteer abroad programs for college students. Be sure to look carefully at the various guidelines and specializations that providers have.

ロ Volunteer support. Are volunteer-staff relationships are high on your requirements for volunteer trips overseas? Then compare programs that offer volunteers round the clock support. You should also take a look at the types of support (eg weekly one-on-one chats?) different volunteer programs offer. 

ロ Post program network. For many volunteers abroad, staying in touch with foreign friends and fellow volunteers is important. You will find that some programs have alumni networks built right in to help you keep your experience alive. Don’t see info about post volunteer support on a program website? Feel free to ask the provider for more details.

ロ Level of cultural immersion. Different organizations have varying approaches to helping their volunteers get immersed into the local community. Cultural excursions and community engagement are generally easy to compare, as they’re placed on program websites. Stuff you will want to keep an eye out for: Does the program include opportunities to explore the local community? Do they offer basic language lessons? For a more meaningful volunteer experience, go with the program that weaves cultural immersion into the program.

ロ Health and safety record. While comparing volunteer programs, pay attention to the types of health and safety measures programs have in place. You’ll see some programs print info about their emergency or evacuation plans right on their website. The safest volunteer abroad programs have more thorough precautions, This means more peace of mind for you (and your parentals too!). 

Now you know what to look for to find the right volunteer abroad program for you

Two people in hammock

You’ll be smooth sailing—and volunteering abroad—in no time.

Now that you know how to compare volunteer abroad programs, making an informed choice will be a breeze. With this thorough understanding, you’re more likely to choose the provider that best matches your interest and passions. This is crucial because the more passionate you are, the better a volunteer you’ll be for the cause you’re helping. Ready to take the plunge and start researching volunteer abroad programs? With this blueprint, you’ll know exactly what to keep your eyes peeled for. Happy researching!

Find & compare volunteer programs now with MyGoAbroad

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