Volunteer Abroad

21 Volunteer Abroad Scholarships & Grants to Apply For in 2020

Steph Dyson

Steph is a British travel journalist and former high school English teacher now based in Santiago, Chile. She left the classroom in 2014 and has since been traveling, volunteering and writing about off-the-beaten-trail adventures.

You want to do good around the world, broadening your horizons and enriching the lives of those in need along the way. Unfortunately, whatever the size of your passion for making an impact, when it comes to covering the price tag of volunteering abroad, nothing speaks like cold, hard cash. The reality is that, for many people, enrolling on a volunteering program is, well, not a reality; the high costs can mean waving bye-bye to that project abroad.

Like in the final scene of any good rom-com, there is still time to shout "wait, don't go!" at the prospect of that life-changing experience overseas. There's actually a ton of scholarships out there to get you on the road to volunteering abroad, but only for those who know where to look. And guess what, you're in luck -- we definitely do!

That’s why we’ve compiled this bumper list of 21 grants, scholarships, and awards, many of which so few people know about that your chances of scoring $500 -- or even ten times that amount -- are pretty good indeed.

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 have eligibility, helping to increase your chances of success.

Be aware, that this list was updated in February 2020 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.

Quick Links in this Article

If you come across any other scholarships that you think would be of benefit to the Go Overseas community, then please drop us an email so we see if it’s a good fit.

How to Find Financial Aid for Volunteering Abroad

  • 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.
  • Don't forget local organizations such as German clubs, Hispanic heritage groups, Chinese-American associations, who also often provide scholarships for travel abroad.
  • 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.
  • 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!

Databases of Volunteer Abroad Scholarships & Opportunities

There are slim pickings when it comes to databases of volunteer abroad funding, but, as ever, the internet is truly your friend. It’s worth checking back in on the following regularly as, the early bird really does catch the volunteer abroad grant, or something like that!

Youth Hop is one of the few options we've found. It's a constantly updated and exhaustive list of scholarships from around the world, most of which are applicable to those seeking to study abroad, however, the occasional service-learning or volunteer grant has been known to be listed.

Volunteer Abroad Scholarships for Those Currently Enrolled

Diversity Abroad Overseas Ambassador Program (USA)

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.

  • Age or study status eligibility: Current student or recently graduated (1-3 years out)
  • Award: up to $500
  • Requirements: Must be enrolled full-time in, or recently graduated from, a U.S. university or college
  • Deadline: February 1, June 1, November 1 (2020)
  • Application: Click Here

The GVI Trust International Scholarship Program

With grants awarded of $2,000, the GVI Trust International Scholarship Program is aimed at helping young people pursue an educational experience abroad. You'll need to choose your own project and organization and be able to articulate why you think it'll provide you the opportunity to develop your education, skills and career prospects and the project itself must be sustainable and working in the field of global development.

  • Age or study status eligibility: Aged 15-24 and must be currently enrolled in a learning institution (high school, college or university)
  • Reward: up to £2,000
  • Requirements: Must demonstrate financial need and be a U.S., U.K., or Australian citizen.
  • Deadline: Rolling basis
  • Application: Click Here

HI USA Explore the World Scholarship Program (USA)

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. Over 100 applicants were awarded the money in 2018 alone.

  • Age or study status eligibility: Ages 18-30, all current graduate or undergraduate students
  • Reward: $2,000
  • Requirements: Must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, a current or former Pell Grant recipient and live in one of the 13 areas where HI USA has a community presence.
  • Deadline: Applications open in Fall 2020
  • Application: Click Here

The National Grid: Samuel Huntington Service Award

Offered by the National Grid, one or two lucky applications win a $15,000 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.

  • Age or study status eligibility: Graduating college senior
  • Award: $15,000
  • Requirements: Can be of any nationality but must be graduating from a college or university based in the U.S
  • Deadline: January 18 (2021)
  • Application: Click Here

General Volunteer Abroad Scholarships

Go Overseas' Gap Year Scholarship

Yup, it's us! Here at Go Overseas, we give out a $3,000 scholarship to be spent on a gap year. Gap years take different forms (even volunteering!). You just have to be planning to take a gap year between May 2020 and 2021, take part in a USA Gap Year Fairs Keystone Program, and complete the application, which includes sending us a short essay and a creative submission about what inspires you to take a gap year.

  • Age or study status eligibility: Student
  • Award: $3,000
  • Requirements: Taking a gap year between May 2020 and May 2021; Participation with at least one USA Gap Year Fairs Keystone Program or Advisor
  • Deadline: April 30th (2020)
  • Application: Click Here

All People Be Happy (USA)

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.

  • Age or study status eligibility: Aged 18+
  • Award: up to $1,000-$2,500
  • Requirements: Must be a U.S. resident or U.S. citizen
  • Deadline: April 10 and September 16 (2020)
  • Application: Click Here

The Lord Mayor’s 800th Anniversary Trust (UK)

Since 1989, the Lord Mayor’s 800th Anniversary Trust has been giving out a range of awards to young people who plan on participating in community development, education, and conservation work abroad. Grants range between £50 and £1,000 and are aimed at helping successful applicants broaden their experiences through self-development.

  • Age or study status eligibility: Aged 17-24
  • Reward: £50-£1,000
  • Requirements: Must be U.K. resident; priority given to applicants with a close connection to the City of London.
  • Deadline: Twice annually, late Spring and late Fall
  • Application: Click Here

The Christianson Grant (USA)

Planning on volunteering for a six month period of longer on a project of your own design? You can get your hands on grants of up to $10,000 with The Christianson Grant. What's more, they're available three-times yearly and there are no criteria determining the type of international issue that your project needs to be focused on. Successful applications will write about their experiences through blog posts and a final report .

  • Age or study status eligibility: Aged 18-28
  • Award: up to $2,500-$10,000
  • Requirements: Must be U.S. resident or U.S. citizen
  • Deadline: March 15, July 15, October 15 (2020)
  • Application: Click Here

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.

  • Age or study status eligibility: Aged 18+
  • Reward: Unknown
  • Requirements: Only open to residents of the U.K. or Europe
  • Deadline: mid-March and late September (2020)
  • Application: Click Here

Jack Petchey Foundation (UK)

Living in London or Essex, U.K? Grants of up to £400 have your name on them -- well, only if you have plans to volunteer abroad for the first time with an organization that is registered in the U.K. To be successful, applications must be made at least between three and nine months prior to your departure.

  • Age or study status eligibility: Aged 11-25
  • Reward: Up to £400, that is paid directly to the organization through which the volunteer program is arranged.
  • Requirements: Live in London or Essex, UK.
  • Deadline: Ongoing
  • Application: Click Here

The Ferguson Trust (UK)

The UK-based Ferguson Trust awards up to 250 grants of £300 to students who choose to take a gap year abroad, which can include a stint of volunteering. Award money can only be paid to an organization, so you must be traveling with a registered company to be eligible for the funds.

  • Age or study status eligibility: Aged 16-18
  • Reward: £300
  • Requirements: Only open to U.K. residents
  • Deadline: On a rolling basis, first come, first serve
  • Application: Click Here

The RSAA Travel & Adventure Award (UK)

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.

  • Age or study status eligibility: Aged 21-28
  • Reward: £1,000
  • Requirements: Must be a U.K. resident
  • Deadline: Usually November to apply for following year
  • Application: Click Here

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.

  • Age or study status eligibility: Aged 18+, students currently enrolled in a college or university
  • Reward: Full program cost for one week at one of their programs
  • Requirements: Only available to students who are currently receiving financial aid and possess a passport with at least six months validity.
  • Deadline: Not yet announced for 2020, but likely end of December based on past years
  • Application: Click Here

International Studies Abroad (USA)

If you plan on volunteering with International Studies Abroad (ISA), you're in luck; they have over $600,000 in grants and scholarships available to current students who are accepted into one of their programs. Exact requirements vary between the scholarships and several are exclusively open to students on financial aid. Those most relevant to prospective volunteers are:

Community Engagement Scholarship: Exclusively open to those accepted onto a service-learning program with ISA, this scholarship awards $1,000 to help fund their program.

ISA Diversity Scholarship: Aimed at students from all walks of life -- different cultural backgrounds, sexual orientations, first-generation college students, those with accessibility needs, and more. Successful applications receive awards of $2,000 - $5,000 to support their education.

ISA Gap Scholarship: Available to graduating high school students before they enter their freshman year and who have successfully been excepted onto an ISA Gap program. Grants of up to $1,000 are available.

  • Age or study status eligibility: Graduated high school student or current undergraduate student
  • Award: up to $1,000-$5,000
  • Requirements: Must be enrolled in undergraduate studies at a U.S. university or college or are a graduated high school student
  • Deadline: February 28, April 30 and October 30 (2020)
  • Application: Click Here

IVHQ Scholarships

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.

  • Age or study status eligibility: Aged 18+
  • Reward: Fees for a two-week program, $1,000 flight voucher and travel insurance for the duration of the program
  • Requirements: Must have a passport with at least six months validity.
  • Deadline: Ongoing
  • Application: Click Here

Mente Argentina Scholarship Program

The Short & ELAP Programs Scholarship offered by Mente Argentina is awarded to those undertaking intern, volunteer or study abroad program in Buenos Aires for between four and 12 weeks in duration. It can be used to cover the costs of travel or program fees directly with the organization, Mente Argentina.

  • Age or study status eligibility: Aged 18+
  • Award: $250-$1,000
  • Requirements: Must be enrolled on a volunteer program with Mente Argentina
  • Deadline: Ongoing
  • Application: Click Here

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.

Crowdfund Matching Grants: Those who use the Omprakash Crowd Funding platform to raise money for volunteering abroad can receive up to $1,500 in matching funds.

  • Age or study status eligibility: None
  • Award: $100-$2,500
  • Requirements: Must enroll on the EdGE learning platform
  • Deadline: Rolling basis
  • Application: Click Here

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.

  • Age or study status eligibility: None
  • Award: Varies
  • Requirements: Must be attending an Operation Groundswell program
  • Deadline: Ongoing
  • Application: Click Here

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.

  • Age or study status eligibility: Recently graduated high school students and students currently enrolled at university or college
  • Reward: Partial or full coverage of program fees for a service-learning or gap year semester
  • Requirements: Merit or financial-need based
  • Deadline: Varies
  • Application: Click Here

United Planet Service Scholarships

Five $500 scholarships and one full scholarship covering all program fees 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.

  • Age or study status eligibility: Aged 16+
  • Award: up to $500-$1,000
  • Requirements: Long-term programs are only available to residents of the U.S. and Canada. Short-term programs are available to all nationalities. You can't have volunteered previously with United Planet.
  • Deadline: March 31 (2020)
  • Application: Click Here

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.

  • Age or study status eligibility: None
  • Award: up to $15,900 (full tuition) plus flight and travel costs
  • Requirements: Must be attending a High Mountain Institute program and demonstrate financial need
  • Deadline: Rolling basis; preferred by April 2020
  • Application: Click Here

Although it might feel like a grand task to comb through the above scholarships and get applying, these two steps are literally all that is standing in between you and that volunteer abroad program of your dreams. So, what are you waiting for?

This post was originally published in July 2018, and was updated in February 2020.