Volunteer Programs in the USA
Guide to volunteering abroad in the USA
Whether you're an international volunteer or you're an American looking to lend a hand outside of your hometown, there are plenty of fulfilling and meaningful projects available across the 50 states.
From volunteer vacations working with horses on a ranch in Wyoming, learning about wildlife conservation in the marshes of Florida, or assisting with youth development in the south, there's a project out there to meet any level of experience, interest, or duration requirement.
Popular volunteer project types in the USA
The US has volunteer opportunities in nearly every field but there are a few project types that are more popular with both international and local volunteers.
Wildlife & nature conservation
The US is vast, so there’s no surprise that you can find nearly every type of terrain. Mountains, forests, deserts, and craggy cliffs along the ocean: whatever you fancy, you can likely find it in the US. With over 6,600 state parks and more than 400 national parks, opportunities abound in wildlife and nature conservation.
Volunteers can get involved with projects to restore trails in state parks in the Pacific Northwest, rehabilitate injured seabirds in California, or participate in beach cleanups in Hawaii.
📍Best states for wildlife & nature conservation volunteering: Utah, South Dakota, West Virginia, Hawaii, California
Youth support & mentoring
Urban and rural support and mentoring programs for kids exist throughout the US. These organizations generally aim to provide after-school activities for children and teens, help kids access healthy meals and new clothing, and mentor high schoolers to educate them on their options after graduation. Volunteers can find opportunities in non-profits, summer camps, and federal programs.
📍Best states for youth support & mentoring volunteering: New Jersey, Alabama, Wyoming, Alaska, Nevada
Communities across the US can use a pair of helping hands to address a kaleidoscope of social and physical infrastructure issues. Interested volunteers can get involved with community projects in fields such as construction, women empowerment, violence/harm reduction, and more in both rural and urban areas.
📍Best states for community development volunteering: Maryland, Illinois, Louisiana, Florida, Kentucky
There is a wide range of opportunities to volunteer with human rights organizations in the US. Some of those include efforts to support indigenous communities, the unhoused, and immigrants and refugees.
Each population of people faces unique challenges and has specific needs. Projects can vary from helping with translation at the US-Mexico border, leading enrichment activities for elders at the Blackfeet Nation reserve in Montana, to advocating for Native American youth across the western US.
📍Best states for human rights volunteering: Texas, Arizona, California, New York, Washington
How to volunteer in the USA
When planning to volunteer in the US, following these simple steps can help you make it happen.
- Choose a project that fits your goals and passions. Determine what moves you and pick a project and provider that aligns with your ideals. Consider a volunteer vacation program if you want to combine service and sightseeing. Try to maximize your impact and engagement!
- Determine how long you can volunteer for. Whether you have a week or several months, there are projects to accommodate your needs. Knowing how long you can volunteer will help you draw up your budget.
- Start budgeting for your volunteer trip abroad. Scholarships and grants can help reduce overall costs. Don’t forget to include flights and insurance in your budget!
- Apply for your visa, passport, and travel insurance. Depending on your country of citizenship, you may need a visa to volunteer in the US. Check with your local American embassy to learn about the requirements for your country.
- Be a responsible volunteer abroad and put the community first. Research the local culture and customs (yes, they differ across the US!), and learn about the background and history of your project. Above all, focus on being gracious and respectful to hosts, leaders, and community members.
Cost and funding
An important part of your volunteer journey is understanding the costs you may encounter.
Average volunteer trip costs
Volunteer trip costs vary by location, length of program, and provider. Program providers, like those found on this page, tend to include everything from housing and meals to local transportation. They often partner with some of the best volunteer programs in the USA so you’re guaranteed to join an impactful and well-run program. You can expect to pay between $1,000-$4,000 USD per week for all-inclusive volunteer projects.
Although there aren't usually paid volunteer opportunities available in the USA, some programs may provide non-monetary compensation through things like housing, meals, transportation, or social events.
Scholarships and grants for volunteering
Scholarships and grants are available specifically for volunteers like you. If you’ve been wondering how to fund your volunteer experience in the US, research and apply for as many opportunities as you are eligible for. Funding is available to both US citizens and foreigners interested in volunteering in the USA.
How long can I volunteer in the US?
Volunteers can stay for as long as their tourist visa permits. If you want to volunteer long-term, you will need to apply for the appropriate visa for your country.
Are there paid volunteer opportunities in the USA?
Generally, it is not legal to undertake paid work without a visa in the US. While you won’t be paid, some organizations do offer free accommodation and/or meals to volunteers in exchange for their hard work.
Where are volunteers most needed in the US?
Volunteers in the US are most needed in places like animal shelters, food pantries, and after-school programs. States such as Florida, Nevada, California, and Alabama have some of the lowest rates of volunteerism and could use a pair of helping hands!
Do I need a visa to volunteer in the USA?
Nationals of 40 countries including the UK, EU member states, Australia, and New Zealand can volunteer for up to 3 months on a tourist visa. If you want to volunteer for longer than your tourist visa permits, you will need to apply for a volunteer visa.
Can a non-U.S. citizen volunteer in America?
Yes! Citizens of most countries can volunteer in the USA. Whether you need a visa will depend on where you’re from and how long you want to volunteer.
How do I volunteer in the US?
To volunteer in the US, you’ll need to choose a project and decide how long you can participate. Depending on your country of citizenship, you may need a visa.
What kind of volunteer projects are most common in the US?
Wildlife and nature conservation, human rights, community development, and youth mentoring are a few of the most common types of volunteer projects in the US.Related Content