Why Must I Pay to Volunteer?

As a private, non-profit organization independent from government and religious funding, Global Volunteers’ programs are financed almost entirely by volunteer contributions. This is important because our community partners cannot afford the “open market” costs of the services and materials we provide.

Your service program fee pays your expenses in the host community. These include your food, lodging, work site transportation, program materials, team leadership, emergency evacuation insurance, and administrative costs. In addition, we provide supplemental financing to help meet our host’s many, on-going and special needs. But you benefit as well if you’re a U.S. taxpayer, because your service program fee and related expenses, such as air fare, are tax-deductible.

Here’s how Charity Guide explains the purpose of a service program fee:

“Volunteers are asked to pay for their own travel expenses, and even non-profit agencies need to be reimbursed for recruiting costs, volunteer training, and on-site coordination. Volunteer vacation program fees range from $950 to $3,000+, depending on the agency’s degree of involvement and the accommodation provided. Volunteer vacation program fees are relatively small when accommodation is “basic”, such as a tent in a national park, and when volunteers prepare their own meals. At the other extreme, program fees charged by organizations such as Global Volunteers can be as high as a few thousand dollars. But, in return for higher fees comes the comfort and safety you pay for: extensive pre-trip reading materials, someone to escort you from the airport, security when using public transportation in high risk areas, on-site training, hotel accommodation, prepared meals, a volunteer coordinator on-site at all times, assistance dealing with local officials, etc. As well, Global Volunteers will use part of your program fee to pay for supplies donated to the hospital, school, or community being served.”

LeAnn Joy Adam described the benefits of paying a program fee to volunteer when she worked as the Overseas Resource Coordinator at Stanford University:

  • Orientation. Including important pre-departure reading material as well as on-site orientation on local culture, history and customs.
  • Arranged accommodations. Providing an important connection to the culture and a first-hand view of social and political events in the country.
  • A safety net. Staff to provide logistical and emotional support.
  • Clear expectations. Your responsibilities (in the host community) are clear and well-defined.
  • Affordability. When you calculate the difference between traveling to a country on your own and the cost of participating in a program, you might be surprised by how little the difference is.

How We Allocate Your Service Program Fee

Ninety-seven percent of our funding comes from tax-deductible service program fees. This fee is used to support community development projects and the total service program, including your on-site volunteering expenses. Your service program fee covers:

  • Food: All meals – featuring local cuisine, and purified or bottled water.
  • Accommodations: Culturally appropriate hotels, guest houses and community centers, generally double-occupancy.
  • Ground Transportation: Airport transfers and community project transportation.
  • Team Leadership: Local Global Volunteers staff or volunteer team leaders,  plus any consultants and translators when needed.
  • Project Materials: Resources to complete or sustain community projects on each team. Additional funds are raised for special program requests throughout the year.
  • Program Coordination: The costs for project start-up and management, 24-hour emergency phone contact with U.S. staff, community evaluation visits and exploration, team orientation materials, volunteer preparation, individual emergency evacuation insurance and supplemental medical insurance for programs outside the USA, international staff training, and host communications.
  • Administration: Office overhead and logistical support.

Not covered in the service program fee: Airfare or other travel to the site, visas, free-time expenses, alcoholic beverages, and trip cancellation insurance.

Single Room Option and Fee

Service program lodging is generally double-occupancy in hotels and guest houses. As a courtesy, we make available an option for single occupancy, on a first-requested basis, where and when it is available. Please note that a single room can be costly, depending upon the base hotel room charge and the added cost for displacing another volunteer in providing you this option. In order to accommodate all team members, single rooms are possible only in lodging where such arrangements don’t raise the cost of lodging for the entire team. Not all contracted hotels are flexible enough to provide this option for you. Single room option fees are calculated in the same manner as in the tourist industry, based upon our individual vendor agreements. Please understand that we are not able to negotiate independent lodging arrangements with our lodging vendors.

Determining the availability of single occupancy rooms:
As a non-profit organization, our responsibility is to manage annual program costs responsibly. Our annual program budgets are designed for double occupancy lodging. In communities where and when it is possible, we offer a single option to accommodate volunteer needs.

However, it is not possible to guarantee the general availability of single rooms until the program begins. Late cancellations/additions frequently change team composition.  Changes in the hotel capacity can change up to check-in. Despite these complications, most often we can accommodate your single room preference.

Calculating the single room option fee:
The fee to reserve an available single room on a service program is calculated up to a year in advance of the program. This calculation is based upon our contracted hotel room costs and the anticipated number of single room requests in the budget year, based upon past requests.

The fee combines the difference between single and double room charges, and the added cost for the single room of the displaced volunteer. This is not the hotel’s “rack rate”, but is based on our negotiated lodging contract. Single rooms are sometimes available because of the gender composition of the team.  In theses cases, single rooms are offered to team members for no additional cost in order of registration date.  But, this is neither guaranteed nor promised until arrival in the host community. To secure a single room, you must request it with your registration, and pay a single room option fee.

Refunds for single rooms:
When choosing the single room option, please note that the amount charged for your single room cannot be refunded within 60 days before the program start date.  However, if you must cancel your participation on the service program within 60 days, we will refund that percentage of the single room fee that the hotel does not charge us for the room cancellation.