As part of your due diligence, you should always do your own research on the volunteer programs abroad that you’re interested in and ask some important questions to the volunteer organizations themselves before determining which program is really right for you. Of course, an organization will give you their best answers to try to make a good impression, similar to how you would answer your questions during a job interview. In addition to asking questions, you should always do your own research and look for any negative reviews or red flags that may have been published in their local community papers online, search forums, and Facebook groups.
Here are 9 important questions to ask organizations before choosing a volunteer program abroad:
1. How do I know that your volunteer organization is legitimate (is it registered?) and do you follow a code of ethical standards?
2. How long has the organization been running for and when was it established? How many staff and/or board members do you currently have at your organization?
3. What are the main objectives and goals of the volunteer organization? What are some of the challenges you face as an organization? Where do you need help the most? Will I have to know a second language to be able to perform my duties?
4. Can you give me contacts of former volunteers, so I can reach out to see if they have any useful tips or advice for me? (always ask for at least 3 references). How many volunteers have worked with you in the past?
5. What are the security measures put in place for volunteers? Is there a screening process? And if so, what are the policies that are put in place to ensure my safety and the safety of the other volunteers?
6. What are the living and working conditions of volunteers like? Where is the location of housing and my volunteer placement? What is the distance between the two? Is it close by or do I have to account for extra travel expenses to get to work?
7. What type of volunteer opportunities are available (short-term, long-term, skill-based, non-skilled etc.)? Is there a description of what is expected of the volunteers? Will I have time to travel and enjoy some leisure time while volunteering?
8. Has the organization faced any challenges that I should be aware of in the past? And why do you feel as though I should volunteer with your organization?
9. What happens if I’m unhappy with my program? If there are any costs associated, such as fees, will I be issued a refund? What are your policies regarding this?
If you do not feel confident about the answers you receive and still feel unsure about a particular volunteer program, look for other options. If an organization doesn’t seem transparent with all of the questions you asked them, then don’t sign up with them. For a guide on how to choose the right volunteer placement, read my “A Step-by-Step Guide to Choosing the Right Volunteer Placement Abroad.”