Save Money While Volunteering? Find Out How!

Save Money While Volunteering
Written by Oana Schneider

Joining Habitat for Humanity, caring for animals in Ecuador, helping preserve the environment or teaching English to less privileged kids abroad – these are just some of the volunteer work that you can do in and out of the country. Whether you’re a single professional, a working mom or a student, there are plenty of volunteering opportunities that you can grab.

There are some volunteer work which lets you earn very little money while others offer no earnings at all, just an opportunity to help out – maybe with the exception of paying for your lodging and basic necessities.

Now, no matter what the arrangement is for your volunteer work, the one thing that’s clear is that you cannot use it to earn lots of money. There will be travel and perhaps career growth opportunities, but while doing the volunteer work, you do need to come up with ways to save on your existing funds. This is part of the challenge of doing volunteer work. Here, we will take a look at how you can save money while volunteering, so that you can do some meaningful work without having to burn a hole in your own pocket.  

Volunteering Statistics in the US

First, check out a few volunteering-related statistics according to

  • When employees were asked whether they have benefited from volunteering in the work-environment, 60% said yes. Less than 60% said that they feel more positive about their organization as a result of volunteer work.
  • For 2012, 46.79% of volunteer travellers were male, while 53.21% were female.
  • Also for the year 2012, 58% of members of generation Y who are aged 20 to 35 years old said that they preferred short-term volunteering commitments over longer ones.
  • For 2009, the volunteering rate among adults aged 25 years old and up as differentiated by level of educational attainment are as follows:
    Bachelor’s degree or higher = 43%
    Some college or associate degree = 30%
    High school graduate = 19%
    No high school degree = 9%
  • For the year 2012, the most popular volunteer traveller activities in the US are as follows:
    Working with children = 15.27%
    Working in education = 15.27%
    Environmental protection or recovery = 13.99%
    Wildlife recovery or habitat = 10.18%
    Local job creation or economic projects = 10.18%
    Clean water projects = 7.89%
Save Money While Volunteering? Find Out How!

It Is Possible to Save Money While Volunteering!

  • For the past five years, here is the percentage of the American population who does volunteer work:
    2013 = 25.4%
    2012 = 26.5%
    2011 = 26.8%
    2010 = 26.3%
    2009 = 26.8%
  • For the years 2010 to 2013, the number of Americans doing volunteer work added up to 62.79, 64.3, 64.5 and 62.6 million. For the same time span, the number of hours that these volunteers worked is 129, 132, 132 and 129 hours per volunteer. For 2013, according to, 62.6 million Americans volunteered nearly 7.7 billion hours. Based on the average value of a volunteer hour, this amounts to nearly $173 billion worth of service.

Top 10 Ways to Save Money as a Volunteer

As you can see from the above statistics, a lot of people are more than willing to do volunteer work.  Once you have given the commitment to volunteer, how can you save money in the process? Let’s say that you volunteered to cruise a boat down the Amazon River to conduct a survey of one animal species.

The only expenses covered are food, lodging and airport pick-up so you need to save up for the flights and the incidental expenses while you are there. How can you save money in the process? Take a look a the following list of how you can save money as a volunteer, no matter which type of work it is you end up volunteering for:

1. Find a volunteer job that perfectly suits your personality

First, find a volunteering job or stint that perfectly suits your personality and pushes for a cause which you believe in. Let’s say that you would like to help build houses for the needy, volunteer at Habitat for Humanity. If you took up hiking as a hobby, volunteer at the American Hiking Society.

You can also work on a farm and get free boarding at World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. Other organizations to consider are Global Volunteer, Sierra Club, Idealist, STA Travel and many more.

2. Look for ways to add money to your volunteer savings account

After deciding which organization to volunteer for, the next thing you need to do is build a savings account. If you’re on the artsy side, make crafts or drawings and sell them online. Indicate that you will be using the proceeds for volunteer work, and you should be able to sell most of your work, and maybe even earn a little extra for an extended stay.

3. Get rid of the stuff you don’t need

Another way to pad up your volunteer savings account is by getting rid of the stuff that you don’t need. If you signed up for volunteer work abroad, clean out your closet and sell all the slightly used clothes, dresses with the tags still on it, accessories, your records collection, almost anything can be sold online these days. By getting rid of the stuff that you don’t need, you can start your volunteer work with a clean slate and even use the funds on your trip.

4. Work, save then budget

Some volunteers are so passionate about their cause that they are willing to spend for the stint using money from their own pockets. If you belong to this category, what you can do is work, save, then budget. Pool together your earnings from your day job, as well as anything extra that you made by selling your stuff or your artworks online. Once you have enough funds saved up, make sure to come up with a budget that you can easily stick to once you are already at your volunteer work destination so that you can make the funds last.

5. Consider going on a ‘volunteer vacation’

If you love to travel, consider going on a volunteer vacation trip where you will work for a non-profit organization while also enjoying some much-needed vacation. What’s good about taking this route is that as compared to taking an actual vacation, the costs are considerably lower. You can have tax write-offs and actually help out for a good cause.

6. During your volunteering stint, write off what you do spend

When going on a volunteering vacation stint, the best benefit is that you can write off what you do spend. Although you would still need to have a hefty amount saved up to participate in the program, especially if you are flying halfway around the world, you can easily write off all the other expenses as part of your tax benefits.

Save Money While Volunteering? Find Out How!

Volunteering at a Community Center Could Save You a Lot of Money!

7. Figure out what you need

While packing your bags, do some research about the place first. You’d want to take everything that you need to make your stay comfortable, but you don’t want to bring too much at the same time. Volunteer organizations usually give out a packing list for volunteers, something which you can follow. Of course, you need to bring your own travel necessities as well like clothes, toiletries, medication, a sleeping bag, a rain jacket, mosquito repellent, hiking boots and a backpack.

8. Know what to do once you arrive at your destination

If there’s a manual or a handbook given out to volunteers, read it carefully. It will usually indicate what you should expect once you arrive at your destination. You can also do your research beforehand so that you would know how the locals are, which language is spoken by the locals, whether public transportation is easily accessible or not, etc.

9. Live frugally and look for inclusions

While doing your volunteer stint, remember that you do not have an unlimited budget. To make your funds last, live frugally and look for inclusions. It’s the everyday things that matter – like sending out postcards instead of buying pricey souvenir items for family members back home. Live as the locals do and know which stores to buy your necessities from so you can save money. Find out if someone in the organization is willing to host you in their home if they do not have an office at the area which you are visiting.

10. Never forget about the reason for your volunteering trip in the first place

Finally, do not forget about the reason that you volunteered in the first place. You are working for very little or even no salary because you believe in the cause, and you know that the experience is something that will enrich your own life as well as the lives of others. Whether you’re at that stage in your life when you are still building a nest egg or if you’re at that age when all the kids have moved out, you will find volunteerism to be a very unique, fulfilling experience.

Knowing how to save money during your volunteering stint will help you a lot, so heed these tips and enjoy the experience to the utmost.

About the author

Oana Schneider

Oana Schneider is a published author located in Chicago, Illinois, who currently works for as a communication specialist and blog editor. She writes about lifestyle, family budget, has a degree in Communications and advocates for women’s rights. Her future plans include getting a Labrador and losing a few pounds.


  • It may come as no surprise to people, but I really love volunteer work. I wouldn’t volunteer in the first place if I didn’t would I? Obvious joking aside, I love the idea that I’m contributing something to the community and adding to it as a whole. It can sometimes be very hard to save both money and time when volunteering. It is after all a tiring process; it’s no joke. When they day’s done however, I take solace in the fact that I’ve done something good today.

    • A major time commitment is often required for volunteering, but that’s fine if you’re passionate about it. You might lose some time and not save much money. However, you can definitely reap a personal benefit in doing so by feeling great about what you’re doing! Saving money is just some more icing on the cake!

    • We seem to have a similarity when it comes to our reasons for volunteering. Even though volunteering can be hard sometimes, the rewarding feeling is absolutely great. When volunteering, I think of it as a hobby that I do for fun on my free time rather then as work.

  • Volunteering does come with some financial benefits that don’t cut into the proceeds of a given non-profit organization. You can grab some great tax write-offs and benefit in countless other ways. I’m not big on volunteering myself, but I spend so much time taking care of other things. I commend people that volunteer with any regularity.

  • I definitely agree with the part of the article about living frugally. There are a lot of easy ways to be frugal when volunteering. It a good idea to volunteer locally instead of going faraway. You don’t have to worry about housing or cultural barriers that way and keep your budget low. You can also get to network with people in your community. It also good to volunteer at places that provide free food to volunteers.

  • wow there is so many ways to go about the volunteering. you are doing something great for others but at the same time benefiting yourself, its a win win situation, great article gave me many ideas

  • Volunteering can be an amazing experience if you ever have the chance to be involved in it, but money is something that needs to be thought about, because a lot of people seem to think that it is something that they would never be able to afford. But, thanks to this article, I feel that a lot more people may be able to see that it is something that is certainly achievable. Indeed, you can gain so much from the things that you volunteer to do that it could change your life for the better, so it is more than worth spending a little time thinking about finances if it will enable you to do things like this.

  • It hasn’t been too long since I have begun volunteering, but the tips given in the article are just amazing. Starting a savings account is just an amazing idea and I can not wait to try i out! Volunteering is such an amazing experience and the rewarding feeling is just addicting.

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