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How Do I Become an NGO Volunteer?

By C. Mitchell
Updated May 17, 2024
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There are many different ways to volunteer with a non-governmental organization, but the process almost always includes an application, a time commitment, and a desire to serve. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) do work in a host of disciplines, from environmental clean up to children’s education initiatives. The hardest part of becoming a volunteer with these sorts of social organizations is finding a group that best matches your interests. From there, you will need to decide how much time you are willing to give, then contact the organization to seek more information on available opportunities.

Most non-governmental organizations depend at least in part on volunteer efforts. There is some leeway when it comes to precisely defining an NGO, but in most cases, these sorts of groups are privately funded and work for some sort of social good. Many NGOs are not-for-profit organizations, as well, which makes volunteer efforts all the more important. Becoming an NGO volunteer is a great way to help support a cause you believe in while aiding a group that may really benefit from your time. The process can be very different depending on the group, however, which makes research and a bit of planning essential.

Some of the larger NGOs have developed volunteer programs in place. If you wish to give your time to this sort of group, the process is usually relatively straightforward. All you need to do is call or e-mail the organization’s volunteer coordinator, explain your proposal, and ask about different options.

You will usually need to have your time frame in mind very early on. Volunteers can serve for as little as a few days or as long as a year or more. Volunteering can be a great option for someone traveling near a specific NGO’s headquarters, as well as for a person who may want to temporarily move to or travel around in another part of the world. There are a range of NGOs in nearly every country.

NGO volunteer opportunities are also popular for groups. Spring break service trips often connect students with the work of civil society organizations, for instance. Youth groups and community organizations may also wish to donate time out of their schedules to volunteer with local NGO projects. Organizations with dedicated volunteer coordinators will usually be able to tailor opportunities for any range of different circumstances, age groups, and time frames.

The process is often harder with smaller independent organizations. While these groups may be in need of volunteer services, not all are readily equipped to deal with part-time help, particularly not for short periods of time. Many organizations in this category ask for minimum time commitments from volunteers. They may also have more stringent experience requirements to help ensure that the volunteer experience will not take more time in training than it gives back in time served.

In nearly all cases, asking is the only way to find out what sorts of NGO volunteer opportunities are available. Research enough about a particular organization to give you a good sense of what they do, then talk to a representative about how you could fit it. Particularly with smaller NGOs, it is very important that you frame your inquiry in terms of what you can do for the group.

Popular groups often get more NGO volunteer applicants than they can accommodate at a given time, and smaller organizations may need a bit of encouragement when it comes to taking you on. Clearly stating your interest and motivation at the outset can be a good way to set your interest apart. Knowing what you want to achieve before you begin can also make your NGO volunteer experience a more fruitful one.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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