Ethical Volunteering - What Does this Mean?
Whether you are just now exploring the idea of volunteering or are a well-experienced volunteer both at home and overseas, you may have seen the terms responsible volunteering or ethical volunteering thrown out across various platforms on the web.
But what does this actually mean? Why is it important?
Why it Matters
Sadly, some “volunteer” organizations you may come across might be scams – exploiting children, animals, or the volunteers who work with them, purely for monetary gain – especially those located in underdeveloped countries with vulnerable, disadvantaged populations. The claims they make can be false, and they are only lining their own pocketbooks, rather than providing assistance.
Other well-meaning organizations who work with volunteers may have good intentions and sincerely want to help those in need. However, if they do not operate in a responsible, ethical manner, they can cause more harm than good.
With this in mind, once you make the decision to volunteer, you should do your research before you choose a project or volunteer organization. Ethical volunteering opportunities take time to research but it is worthwhile time considering the commitment needed to volunteer abroad.
How do I tell if a project has Ethical Volunteering practices?
When trying to determine if a project or organization is ethical, there are a few things you should think about and questions you should ask.
- Do they have a long-term, sustainable goal? Do they have a bigger plan beyond your volunteer experience? Are they addressing actual needs? Do they have a plan to maintain sustainability after volunteers are no longer involved?
- Why do they need volunteers? How would your presence or donation be helping the project or organization?
- If they work with children, what are they doing to protect the children’s interests? Do they require volunteers to undergo background checks?
- Are they supporting the local economy by doing things such as hiring permanent employees from the local community?
- Will they provide you with support, instruction, and guidance when you arrive?
Finances and Registration
- Is this a not-for-profit or for-profit organization? This is difficult to tell on the surface – but sometimes organizations give the appearance of being a non-profit, when they are in reality more of a business – simply making money from volunteers. Being a non-profit does not mean that the organization does not receive money – but it does mean that the money is spent in certain ways.
- Are they transparent about where your money goes? Knowing how the expenditures of an organization are spent is important in recognizing if they are operating in an ethical way – if they make it difficult for you to find this information, that should raise a red flag.
- Are their accounts and financial activities audited by an independent, non-biased, trustworthy party?
- Are they registered or monitored by any sort of larger governing body? Such as the Charity Commission in the UK or the IRS in the USA? Can you see proof of their reporting to these agencies?
If you are unable to find the answers to these questions on an organization’s website or social media profiles, be sure to reach out to them directly about their ethical volunteering practices.
Know the Difference and Make a Difference.
It can be difficult to tell whether the organisations you are looking at are indeed ethical volunteer organisations. Many volunteer organizations (especially the for-profit ones) may at first give the fake appearance of being ethical. But if you start to ask questions and dig deeper, you may find that they are not. We encourage everyone to do extensive research on any project with which they plan to volunteer or donate. Make sure it follows ethical and responsible volunteering practices before you make your final decision. It will put your mind at ease to know that you are truly helping to make a difference!
And of course, we’d love for you to volunteer with us! We believe in ethical volunteering and responsible practices in operating our projects and choosing partners. Apart from being a UK registered Charity – meaning that we are 100% not-for-profit and legally bound to use every penny we raise for our charitable objectives – we are also members of Keeping Children Safe, and are vetted by Global Giving.