Volunteering Overseas - Please Explain Why Agencies Charge

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Volunteering Overseas - Please Explain Why Agencies Charge

Postby travel dude » Sat Jan 16, 2010 12:03 pm

I would like to Volunteer in Peru teaching English to the poor. I know it is volunteer work so there is no pay but why do volunteer agencies around the world charge the volunteers hundreds or thousands of dollars per month to people that are giving their time and effort for no pay and for the love of helping the poor. I understand that I should pay for my meals and outside expenses while I am there but why do I see such high fees?


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Re: Volunteering Overseas - Please Explain Why Agencies Charge

Postby NelsonSuarez » Sat Jan 16, 2010 12:12 pm

They're like brokers, they charge you a referral fee effectively. They'll of course dress it up in all sorts of other services, i.e. that they will support you while you're there, but they get you in, without you having to do the real search yourself.. of course much more entertaining is to do that bit yourself :) (and then not pay for it)
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Re: Volunteering Overseas - Please Explain Why Agencies Charge

Postby Claudia1973 » Sat Jan 16, 2010 12:17 pm

In America my church - Willow Creek Community Church - charges people about $700 month to serve the poor. Air fare and food and other things are extra.

On financial statements for not-for-profits - available on the Internet - about 90% of donations and fees, like this, go toward salaries and rent and marketing.

Serve the poor but give direct.
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Re: Volunteering Overseas - Please Explain Why Agencies Charge

Postby tomsax » Sat Jan 16, 2010 5:46 pm

travel dude wrote:I would like to Volunteer in Peru teaching English to the poor. I know it is volunteer work so there is no pay but why do volunteer agencies around the world charge the volunteers hundreds or thousands of dollars per month to people that are giving their time and effort for no pay and for the love of helping the poor. I understand that I should pay for my meals and outside expenses while I am there but why do I see such high fees?


I met someone who volunteered with Bruce Peru who said they had a good experience. I think it was around US$400 per month which to me doesn't seem too bad for also accomodation and food. And if some of the money goes towards the organisation and the work they do, so what? I understand your frustration but in my experience, programmes that do a good job with placement and supporting volunteers (who are often quite young) have to employ professionals which does incur costs. I have worked for an NGO who took on volunteers at times. Finding work for volunteers, supporting them and dealing with problems always took me from my other work and I was glad the organisation charged something.

On the positive side, volunteering with a good organisation can be an enriching experience and can be well worth some dollars spent!
Tom
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Re: Volunteering Overseas - Please Explain Why Agencies Charge

Postby americorps » Sat Jan 16, 2010 9:15 pm

There are a lot of reasons an NGO would charge to volunteer.

1. Many people use this as a cheap vacation, this weeds out those people

2. They often have to supply insurance, sometimes even pay taxes to local authorities because in many countries, volunteer work still requires some tax records. This is true in Peru (and the USA, by the way as I had to pay workmans comp for my volunteers.

3. Funding is very tight and every penny is needed for direct services. It can be quite costly to support a volunteer with housing, food, supervision, training and there is an investment just to train someone for a job and consider that the volunteer will be staying only a couple weeks to a couple months on average, you have to mulitply the cost of training them over and over again. If the NGO had to pay that each time, it would be expensive and suddenly they would have to spend their time raising money for that instead of direct services.

4. A certain number of people will drop out, this would be a tremendous cost to the agency.

5. Screening and marketing is often done by a third party agency because every little NGO in the world could not possible set up their own marketing plan for recruiting and screening volunteers as it is expensive. These third party companies are much needed but are not free, they have to pay for themselves as well.

I was a non-profit fundraiser for nearly 20 years in the states and a member of the National Society of Fundraising Professionals and I can say that many people with a lot of great vision about altruistic help do not always understand the tremendous costs involved.

I have no problem that the director of the Red Cross makes several hundred thousand dollars a year as he or she has to be constantly on, traveling all over the world, having no time with their family and has to be a manager of something as big as Microsoft in terms of world-wide logistics and to get someone who can manage the workload, the quality of professionalism needed and the politics..you have to pay them something similiar to what they would make in the private world It all costs money and if you want to do it right, it costs a little more.
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Re: Volunteering Overseas - Please Explain Why Agencies Charge

Postby tomsax » Sun Jan 17, 2010 5:16 am

Your're right to be somewhat skeptical of the organisations that charge a great deal. There has been a growth in the "gap year volunteering" business in the last 20 years and some of the schemes are just money making operations with little money actually reaching those in need. But not all charge so much and not all are just out to make money for their founders. And there may even be organisations that charge a lot but the money does go to where it should do.
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Re: Volunteering Overseas - Please Explain Why Agencies Charge

Postby Jonathanme » Sun Jan 17, 2010 8:07 am

Why would anyone pay to volunteer. Doesn't make since to me. They need your help. There are many places that do not charge you just have to research. Look through the SAE listings looking for volunteers.
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Re: Volunteering Overseas - Please Explain Why Agencies Charge

Postby americorps » Sun Jan 17, 2010 9:30 am

Jonathanme,

It can be quite expensive to run a volunteer program, insurance, training, logistics, room and board, recruitment, screening. As most agencies are cash-strapped to begin with, what would be your solution to that problem.

Tomsax is right, as in any industry, there are scheisters and anyone should walk in well researched, but charging seems reasonable to me.
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Re: Volunteering Overseas - Please Explain Why Agencies Charge

Postby tomsax » Sun Jan 17, 2010 9:44 am

Jonathanme wrote:There are many places that do not charge you just have to research. Look through the SAE listings looking for volunteers.


If that is the case that is great and I guess I am out of date! When I was younger I worked as a volunteer in the UK, Czechoslovakia, Turkey, Northern Ireland, Spain and the US and never had to pay much for the privilege. But I think the organisations I worked through relied on a lot of local volunteer workers and also donations from charities and government. That's why they could charge so little (usually just a placement fee). If that is the case now in Peru it's great but bear in mind it is unlikely that all the work is done by volunteers and that any volunteer programme will incur some costs. So someone has to pay for it!

Here's the SAE sites listings and there do seem to be some that charge nothing or very little. It might partly be a case of you get what you pay for though. For example what sort of accommodation do you get and what sort of food?

http://www.volunteersouthamerica.net/
Tom
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Re: Volunteering Overseas - Please Explain Why Agencies Charge

Postby trujillobart » Sun Jan 17, 2010 7:46 pm

I know of several reputable options for low cost volunteering in Peru. There are quite a few snake oil organizations as well. I am the director of an NGO to build wind generators for communities without electricity and I am personal friends with 2 other NGO directors who are overseeing volunteer programs teaching with low income commnities. We all raise funds outside the volunteer program because there is no extra money left after we pay for supplies, food & lodging, and for people to assist the volunteers. For more information on any of these programs, feel free to contact me via this forum or through our website It is www dot windaid dot org. P.S. I already have another job and I volunteer to oversee the wind generator program. Thus, I am happy to pass interested folks on to another NGO. This NGO work is not paying any of my bills. Thanks
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Re: Volunteering Overseas - Please Explain Why Agencies Charge

Postby cuymagico » Tue Jan 19, 2010 4:57 pm

As long as you speak Spanish reasonably well, you don't have to pay to volunteer. Contact South American Explorers for opportunities as the other poster said.

I'm sorry but there are some pay-to-volunteer things that really are about making money for the group's founder. Often one of these things are started by some expat who wanted to live full time in some poor but beautiful locale. A large part of the donations end up going to pay this person's salary. On the other hand, there are some legitimate organizations doing this.
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Re: Volunteering Overseas - Please Explain Why Agencies Charge

Postby catch_scott » Fri Jan 29, 2010 2:20 pm

I agree, absolutely crazy to pay to volunteer. I volunteered at 2 schools in Cusco 2 years ago and now created myown social project in Lima (Sonrisasenperu.org).

The best way is just to search the net. It's a slow and painful process and took me a few months to find the school in Cusco (aldeayanapay.org). It was totally free and such a great experience. Sadly like the World Vision organisation of the 1980/90s, up to 80% of donated money never makes it to the schools/kids/people it is supposed to be supporting. It is paying for high wages in the U.S., company cars, expensive offices in dowtown U.S. and European cities. You're best of searching for the smaller organisations...and i definately recommending waiting until you arrive in a city and asking around. There are always many small organisations happy to have some help!
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Re: Volunteering Overseas - Please Explain Why Agencies Charge

Postby travel dude » Fri Jan 29, 2010 3:50 pm

catch_scott wrote:I agree, absolutely crazy to pay to volunteer. I volunteered at 2 schools in Cusco 2 years ago and now created myown social project in Lima (Sonrisasenperu.org).

The best way is just to search the net. It's a slow and painful process and took me a few months to find the school in Cusco (aldeayanapay.org). It was totally free and such a great experience. Sadly like the World Vision organisation of the 1980/90s, up to 80% of donated money never makes it to the schools/kids/people it is supposed to be supporting. It is paying for high wages in the U.S., company cars, expensive offices in dowtown U.S. and European cities. You're best of searching for the smaller organisations...and i definately recommending waiting until you arrive in a city and asking around. There are always many small organisations happy to have some help!
Scott


Thanks for the reply. I have found some schools that don't charge. It is hard to find but am locating some schools online and soon I will see.
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Re: Volunteering Overseas - Please Explain Why Agencies Charge

Postby curlyguy18 » Mon Feb 01, 2010 10:37 am

I had to go through an agency as well to come to the UK to do volunteer work. And of course, I had to pay them an X amount of money. They agency helped me with all the paperwork, though.
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Re: Volunteering Overseas - Please Explain Why Agencies Charge

Postby Guest » Mon Feb 01, 2010 9:39 pm

Volunteering is free when you show up at a school/club/organisation and say you'd like to volunteer. But if you are in another country and require placement, room and board, training, orientation, etc. It is only logical you will need to pay for these services.

As mentioned before, if you know Spanish, you can probably get by on your own (also consider finding a place to stay), if not, joining a programme is the best way.
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Re: Volunteering Overseas - Please Explain Why Agencies Charge

Postby Donny Spoel » Wed Feb 03, 2010 5:10 am

I am doing some promocional work for Proyecto Peru, a Spanish school in Cusco. As many of you already have said, it is a lot of work to run a volunteer program. Therefore it's logical you charge money for that service. Some organizations ask a fixed fee, others (like Proyecto Peru) offer their volunteer work program if you take lessons or accommodation. There is nothing wrong with that as long as it remains a reasonable amount. Most people don't mind paying something, as long as the quality of the service is excellent, as long as they can see what you do for it. However in this business there are a variety of mainly foreign based organizations who ask a lot of money (which they can of course), but promise to donate a share of the money to local social projects. Of course this (almost) never happens. These schemes worry me and can effect the image of this business and therefore also local organizations who really work with their heart on the right place.

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