Tips on volunteering - where to start?
I regularly get questions about volunteering, so I thought I would write a quick summary of the tools and websites I use when looking for positions, and also share a few tips.
In the beginning, when I would have accepted almost any position in a field I'm really interested in (for example international development, sustainable transportation, nature conservation), I was browsing sites like Idealist.org, ReliefWeb.int, Aidjobs.org or unjobs.org/organizations and just applied to whatever came up there. After a few volunteering trips and when my interests became narrower and more focused, most of the time I started by deciding on the topics that I'd like to get involved with (for example marine biology or primate conservation) and the dream places I'd like to go to (like Alaska or the Caribbean). With a thorough Google search I found dozens of organizations that I sent cold emails to with a short introduction, a CV/portfolio and a link to my LinkedIn page.
Even with experience from several continents in working for NGOs, it always takes a lot of work and patience, but in the end, it's chasing a dream, so of course I'm never giving up. You shouldn't either, not even with no initial luck. I got my first unpaid internship after seven months of trying, and every single time I looked for a volunteering opportunity again, it easily took a hundred emails sent and organizations contacted to find a place. I'd say maybe twenty responded, of those ten was automatic. Of the ten remaining, most didn't work out for budget reasons, either on my part or theirs.
The most important things you need are a good and professional CV, language skills and perseverance. Well, and of course a budget, there's no going around that, but it's not always as expensive as it looks. The best organizations, or the ones in very remote locations will quite often offer you free accommodation and sometimes even cover your food. There's still travel, insurance, vaccines and all the rest to pay for, but if you're going to volunteer for 2-3 months at least, and your food and board is covered, the rest can be comparable to what you would spend on rent and everything else back home. Sure, you are missing out on some income by not working in a paid position, but that's a sacrifice a lot of us are willing to make.
There's more to say on this subject for sure, but that's it for this blog post. Do feel free to ask anything though!
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