Volunteering abroad is a great way to see the world, broaden your horizons, and enrich the lives of those in need along the way. Unfortunately, it can also be expensive, and seem infeasible. But, there's actually a ton of volunteer abroad scholarships and grants to get you on the road to volunteering overseas.
That’s why we’ve compiled this list of volunteer abroad scholarships and grants, that often go unnoticed by travelers. This means your chances of scoring $500 -- or even ten times that amount -- are pretty high!
But before you go click-happy on the links below, be aware that there are also plenty of requirements standing between you and that volunteer scholarship. Many organizations expect you to be currently studying or able to demonstrate evidence of financial need. Others are merit-based, where you'll need to prove creativity and your commitment to promoting cross-cultural integration and working with those around the world.
Either way, the pot is big -- we're talking hundreds of thousands of dollars big -- and available to applicants from countries across the globe. Aim to focus on a least five or more grants for which you are eligible for, since it may increase your chances of success.
This list is updated on a rolling basis and we’ve worked hard to make sure that deadlines are accurate and the scholarships listed are true to what each organization offers. However, it’s your job to confirm the details and official deadlines through their website, as these things have been known to change throughout the year.
If you come across any other scholarships that you think would be of benefit to the Go Overseas community, drop us an email, so we can see if it’s a good fit.
How to find financial aid for volunteering abroad
- Start in your own community. Many businesses and organizations will be glad to help someone local, especially a young, compassionate person looking to invest in service learning. Your local Rotary Club may also be able to offer funding through their New Generation Service Exchange programs, which link you up with volunteer options linked with Rotary Clubs in other countries.
- Unlike funding for study abroad programs, volunteering abroad doesn’t yet have the same federal financial backing, so you will struggle to encounter government grants in this field. That said, it doesn’t hurt to keep an eye on all the options –- and read the eligibility criteria carefully -- online on the US Department of Education FAFSA website.
- Some volunteer program providers have their own scholarships specifically for their prospective participants and we've listed a couple below. If applying for a project not on this list, it's worth reaching out to the organization to inquire about grants they have available or any suggestions they might have for other local organizations or institutions to contact instead.
- If you’re currently studying at a college or university, the on-campus International Office may be able to inform you of travel grants or scholarships available, either generally for all students or those linked specifically to your major.
- Churches, libraries, local non-profits, and community centers may also be good places to look for scholarships or funding. Remember that it never hurts to ask and to always be appreciative of any advice or assistance that you receive.
- Don't forget local organizations such as German clubs, Hispanic heritage groups, Chinese-American associations, who also often provide scholarships for travel abroad.
- Try asking your program advisor about scholarships. One of the largest funders of volunteer scholarships are the programs themselves! These funds can come from either the actual project or NGO in the country you are working with, or the program that connects you to these projects.
- Google, google, google! Scour the internet for any other funding opportunities that you can find and throw yourself into the applications. You never know what you could be awarded if you don’t get cracking!
With these tips, plus the scholarships and grants listed below, you should be well on your way to reducing (or possibly eliminating!) the cost of your volunteer abroad trip -- allowing you to focus on having a positive impact!
Volunteer abroad scholarships & opportunities
When it comes to databases of volunteer abroad funding, the internet is truly your friend. Youth Opportunities is one of the few options we've found. It's a constantly updated list of scholarships from around the world, most of which are applicable to those seeking to study or intern abroad, however, the occasional service-learning or volunteer grant has been known to be listed.
Below you can also find open scholarships and grants to help fund your volunteer efforts around the world. Make sure to check back regularly, as new applications open up, because you know what they say, the early bird always catches the volunteer scholarship!
Omprakash Ethical Global Engagement Grants
The Ethical Global Engagement Grants, funded by volunteer platform Omprakash, are for those planning on volunteering with an Omprakash partner abroad and who also wish to enroll on the EdGE learning platform, but are financially unable to do so. They have a range of scholarships, including:
EdGE Gap Year Grant: Available to those aged 22 and under who plan to volunteer for six months with an Omprakash partner and completely covers the cost of the EdGE tuition, plus $2,700 towards travel and living costs abroad.
EdGE Travel Grant: For those committed to volunteer for at least three months with an Omprakash partner, with grants ranging between $500 and $1,500.
- Must enroll on the EdGE learning platform
High Mountain Institute Award
If you’re looking at one of the four High Mountain Institute programs to Patagonia, consider applying for financial aid. Your application must include tax forms from the last two years and will be awarded based on SSS (school and student services calculator) used by National Association of Independent Schools, which HMI is apart of. In addition to tuition and other travel costs, High Mountain Institute also provides discounted gear rentals to financial aid recipients.
- Must be attending a High Mountain Institute program and demonstrate financial need
United Planet Service Scholarships
Several scholarships are available for those looking to volunteer for a short or long-term period abroad with the non-profit organization United Planet, who work with communities in over 35 countries around the world.
- Applicants must be first-time Quest participants.
- This scholarship may not be combined with any other scholarships offered by United Planet.
- You must be 16 years of age to join
Rustic Pathways Scholarships
Every year, travel company Rustic Pathways give away $250,000 to students from across the world. Scholarships are varied and it's worth checking back in after they've been awarded as late-season scholarship redistribution -- where uncollected grants are reallocated to new applicants -- takes place a few months later. Among their scholarships, the most relevant to prospective volunteers are the following:
Service Scholarships: Available to those who have never participated on a Rustic Pathways program before, this scholarship covers most or all of the program fees for a service-learning project with the company and is available to those who demonstrate financial need.
Gap Year Scholarships: Recognizing academic merit, these scholarships are available to cover some of the fees of a one-semester gap year program with Rustic Pathways.
- Merit or financial-need based
Operation Groundswell Financial Needs Grant
For those interested in an Operation Groundswell program, consider applying for financial assistance through the Operation Groundswell Financial Needs Grant. You'll submit information about yourself, the program you want to go on, and why you need financial assistance, and the OG team will review your information to determine what financial assistance they can provide. Applications are accepted throughout the year, so be sure to apply as soon as you apply for the Operation Groundswell program you choose.
- Must be attending an Operation Groundswell program
You can get your hands on a range of different International Volunteer HQ sponsorships throughout the year, with the money you win going directly towards the cost of one of their two-week programs. You'll also get a flight voucher in the value of up to $1,000 from STA Travel and travel insurance to cover the duration of the program from World Nomads. Recent grants have included an “Alternative Break” scholarship, where Spring, Summer or Winter break programs were fully funded.
- Must have a passport with at least six months validity.
GoEco Volunteer Scholarships
To assist prospective volunteers in taking part in one of their programs, GoEco, an eco-tourism company, awards one flight voucher of $1,000 and waived fees for a two-week program, plus travel insurance to successful beneficiaries of their scholarships. To apply, you must be currently enrolled at an educational institution to be eligible for the award.
- Aged 18+
- Students currently enrolled in a college or university
The RSAA Travel & Adventure Award
The U.K.-based Royal Society for Asian Affairs grants £1,000 to adventurous travelers who plan their own trips to Asia (i.e. no organized programs) and which have a focus on environmental conservation. The successful applicant is required to submit a 1,500-word report of their trip upon returning home. *Please note, at this time the program is not accepting applications due to COVID-19.
- Applicants must be aged 21-28 at the time of application.
- Applicants may be of any nationality but should be normally resident in the UK.
Jack Petchey Foundation (UK)
The Individual Grants for Volunteering programme encourages young people across London and Essex to get involved in volunteering projects in the UK and overseas. We’ve helped young people to travel all over the world to help local communities, support schools, improve access to health services and contribute to conservation projects.
- Live in London or Essex, UK.
Hazel’s Footprints Trust Footprinter Grant
Since 2005, Hazel’s Footprints have been offering Footprinter grants, which are open to individuals looking to volunteer with an educational project abroad, which must last for a minimum of six months and be based in a developing company. Applications from those planning on volunteering for a full year are preferred. You can apply from any part of the U.K. or Europe, but applications must be written in English.
- Aged 18+
InterExchange Foundation Christianson Fellowship
The InterExchange Foundation Christianson Fellowship awards up to $10,000 to young Americans who are passionate about helping communities abroad thrive and are eager to learn about the local culture. Fellows identify a project or an organization working on an issue they care about, and with the support of the Christianson Fellowship, contribute their skills and passion to that endeavor for at least six months on-location abroad. This intercultural experience is a meaningful way to help others, improve skills, and gain insight about another culture.
- 18-28 years old at project start date
- U.S. citizen or permanent U.S. resident
- Participating in an impact-oriented internship or volunteer abroad project for at least 6 months
- Willing to submit blog posts and a written report upon completion
All People Be Happy
Volunteers who’ve been accepted onto a six-week or longer volunteer abroad program focusing on education and training, healthcare, or sustainable agriculture can apply to receive a scholarship of up to $2,500 from All People Be Happy, based in the U.S. In the past, they’ve awarded up a grand number of 25 scholarships in one year.
- Must be a U.S. resident or U.S. citizen
The National Grid: Samuel Huntington Service Award
Offered by the National Grid, one or two lucky applications win a $20,000 stipend to be put towards the costs of a one-year, meaningful public service project that seeks to further public good anywhere around the globe. The winner can spend the money on a volunteering project that they organize themselves, or on an established program.
- Can be of any nationality but must be graduating from a college or university based in the U.S
HI USA Explore the World Scholarship Program
If you've limited experience of traveling abroad, the Hostelling International World Scholarship Program is likely right up your street. Awards of $2,000 are available to help young people from the US travel abroad and experience cross-cultural exchange. To be successful, your planned trip must have an educational or service-learning element.
- Be 18-30 years old
- Be U.S. citizens or permanent residents
- Have a demonstrated financial need
- Reside or attend school in one of the 13 metropolitan areas where HI USA has a community presence
- Be planning an upcoming international trip that involves an educational and/or volunteer service component
Diversity Abroad Overseas Ambassador Program
Stipends of $500 are available for those who successfully apply to become a Diversity Abroad Overseas Ambassador. The money is put towards a Spring or Fall semester volunteering or studying abroad program. Ambassadors are expected to blog about their experiences for the Diversity Abroad community with the aim of inspiring other members to travel.
- Must be enrolled full-time in, or recently graduated from, a U.S. university or college
- Have a minimum cumulative 2.75 GPA at an accredited U.S. university or college
- You are energetic, creative and have a passion for international engagement
What do I do if I can’t find a scholarship?
Remember, it is OK to pay to volunteer!
Even if there aren't any scholarships available for you at the moment, know that the money that you are paying to volunteer is usually money well spent. Although the organizations are more than thankful for your service, your monetary contribution helps them stay active.
Consider your time spent volunteering and your money spent on the program a one-two punch for the cause that you are championing. Also, don't forget that housing and food are usually included in the program fee, which is always a bonus!
What to do if you can’t find a scholarship:
- Try fundraising. GoFundMe is a great tool for sharing your cause and connecting with friends and family, who may be excited to support you in your efforts.
- Apply for a no-fee volunteer program. Although some volunteering programs might look quite costly, there are plenty that are no-fee or completely free (bear in mind, you will still most likely be required to pay for your accommodation and food and the range of projects to choose from may be limited).
Volunteering abroad can be a life changing opportunity, and while cost matters, don't let the price tag discourage you! With ample scholarships and financial resources available, we're sure you'll be on your way to traveling the world and helping to make it a better place for others.