Nonprofit jobs and volunteering

Quite often when people, especially younger people, think of volunteering they think of international organizations and Peace Corps.

You might think of volunteering or working overseas as an adventure. There is also a perception that working in a less developed area provides more experience than doing similar work in an industrialized nation. While the experience may be different, the needs are equal in importance to those benefiting from the work. There are some issues which must be considered beforehand:

  • Finding an organization to work with
  • Consider your time frame
  • Finding a project to work on
  • Adjustment to returning home

There is a lot of planning and co-ordination which goes into volunteering or working overseas.

The Organizations

When considering volunteering or working overseas with any organization proper research is required. You should know these facts before signing on with any organization.

  • What is the work they are involved in
  • What type of people are they looking for
  • What are the terms and conditions you should expect

Volunteering and overseas work is divided into two basic categories:

  • Development - this type of work has long term goals which usually include raising the standard of living and empowerment.
  • Relief efforts - this type of work is most often short-term crisis response to such things as war, natural disasters and other immediate need responses.
  • You will want to find and research any information about specific organizations you are interested in. There are many good resources such as books, directories, or the internet which can provide both brief descriptions and more specific information. Direct contact with the organizations is a good way to find out more information. Create a short list of organizations that do volunteer or work overseas then contact them.

    Figuring Your Timeline

    When considering volunteering or working overseas, the length of time becomes a factor. There are two basic timelines for this:

    • Short term - anything from seven days to a year
    • Long term - anything from six months up towards two years

    Be aware that longer periods of volunteering or working overseas will most likely require having specific skills and/or qualifications. That said, there are some organizations which take only people with skills and qualifications for any length of time such as Doctors Without Boarders and certain disaster relief organizations.

    Other issues which you must address when considering the length of time are:

    • Going with someone - not all organizations allow this as it is an added expense
    • Taking children - many groups don't allow children
    • Going alone - this is the most likely option to travel, but family needs must still be considered

    Finding the Work

    When it comes to volunteering or working overseas, there are two options.

    • Going with an organization
    • Going on your own

    If you go with an organization, basic preparations are mostly taken care of in advance. The organization should be able to help with issues related to work permits, health issues and some travel issues.

    You can do volunteer work on your own. Some people do this by arranging as little in advance as possible to enhance the experience. This situation requires that you are fast thinking and can network enough to find work. You will also handle any permits or other issues before getting to your destination. Your nations embassy should be able to help you and possibly provide a list of possible volunteer organizations to contact.

    In either case, having some of your own money will come in handy when working or volunteering overseas.

    Returning Home

    The last issue you should make yourself aware of is the return home after volunteering or working overseas. You will have to readjust to life in your home country after being in a much different culture and setting. Many people returning find it harder to adjust after getting home than when away from home; this is especially true of long term projects.