Going overseas for work and volunteer experiences can be a costly endeavor. There are program fees, insurance fees, airline fees, spending money, etc. So how do you make your trip more affordable, and how do you fund you trip abroad? There are several ways to cut costs so you can participate in work and volunteer opportunities. Some suggestions require more effort than others, but as long as you are motivated to find a way to fund your experience, it's all doable.
Perhaps one of the easiest ways to find money for your trip overseas is to tell friends and family that you don't want traditional gifts for holidays and special occasions, but would like contributions towards an experience abroad instead. If you worry that you may spend the money before you're able to allocate it to a work/volunteer program, you can ask for the money to be sent directly to your sponsoring organization. Sponsors such as InterExchange Working Abroad can apply these donations toward your chosen volunteer or work project. Most likely, this will require you to do all your research early, so that you can decide on a program you want to work with, and begin your application process.
Hold your own fundraiser
We've had a few proactive participants host fundraisers to fund their trip abroad. There are a several ways to host a fundraiser: bake sales, an event at a bar or restaurant, or selling candy or other items (like you did in school).
Selling items, like candy, is a simple and effective way of earning money for your trip abroad, especially if you have a lot of people to sell the items to (read: college campus). It's important to note that selling items often requires that you purchase the items in advance. Some companies are also set up to be done in a group setting, such as with a team; however, if you plan on getting a group together to go abroad, then this shouldn't pose much of a problem. A few companies that sponsor fundraising are World's Finest, See's Candies, Hershey's, and Krispy Kreme. Start an online search to find other companies that offer fundraising, as well as great tips on how to start your fundraising efforts.
Another fundraising idea is to throw an event at a bar or restaurant. At minimum you will need to purchase some food or drinks in advance. You might charge at the door for all you can drink or offer the drinks at a discounted price. You might also want to raffle off something, to earn some money off the raffle ticket sales. Some bars and restaurants specialize in these types of events, so you just need to start calling them up and doing the math.
For most fundraising activities you will need to put money upfront in order to purchase fundraising items in advance. An alternative would be to create a fundraising profile through The Point. You set up the amount of money that you need and once you get to that point, through people's contributions, you will be able to receive the money, but not before.
Discounts for Volunteers
Let's face it…volunteering can be expensive. Although you are freely giving your time to contribute to a cause, there are many expenses involved in participating in these types of programs, from meals and housing to transportation and overhead costs. The good news is that there are a few ways to make volunteering abroad less expensive. You can take advantage of discounted airfare through organizations such as Fly for Good. You will be required to submit documentation of your volunteer experience, but the airfare is really reasonable through these types of organizations. Also, your volunteer program may be tax deductible. Consult with your tax advisor to see if you qualify. Finally, some universities allow volunteers programs to be considered an internship, depending on the requirements. Earning college credit while volunteering might also open up other avenues for funding your experience, like grants and loans.
As a non-profit organization, we keep our program fees as low as we can, but sometimes it's not low enough. The Au Pair programs offer the best "bang for your buck." Meals and housing are included in all of these programs, a major expense that's taken care of with your assignment. You can also earn back what you spent in program fees and airfare in a relatively short period of time with most of our Au Pair programs and, depending on where you go, you may receive insurance through the government.
If you had a great time on one of our programs and want to suggest us to a friend, you may be eligible for the refer-a-friend program. As long as you've been on the program and the person you're referring is currently on or has been on the program, and you accurately fill out and submit the refer-a-friend form, you will receive $50 back from us! It's a great and easy way to get some money back and spread the joy of spending time overseas.
Finally, the InterExchange Foundation offers two grants for people wanting to go abroad. The Christianson Grant is for individuals who've found a program on their own that is at least six months in duration and includes a work component. The Working Abroad Grant is for individuals who have been accepted to the Working Abroad program. The grants are limited and competitive.
A fan of independent cinema and proponent of the Oxford comma, Matthew began his career at a Miami-based tech startup before returning to West Virginia University to pursue his M.A. in Foreign Languages. He has worked at InterExchange since 2006 and currently serves as a Marketing Project Manager.