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How to Attract Volunteers from Abroad and Develop Your Organization

Michael, 25, flew from Germany to the U.S. this summer to put his accounting background to good use at a non-profit focused on homelessness and housing in New York City.

After meeting his new colleagues and helping out with a move to a new office, he got to work on the organization´s bookkeeping, providing much-needed support for their daily operations. Within a few weeks of his move to New York, he could already see the effects of his contribution to the organization, as well as a noticeable improvement in his English skills.

In today’s global environment, it is becoming more and more common for students and young professionals to go abroad in order to gain experience in international organizations. The skills and benefits international applicants bring to the table for host organizations, however, are far under-appreciated.

The Benefits of Hosting an International Volunteer

Even for organizations which are not operating internationally, volunteers from foreign countries bring great value and experience due to their high motivation, their desire to learn more about their chosen field, and their willingness to contribute.

1. Multicultural Atmosphere

International volunteers create a multicultural atmosphere within your organization and a dynamic office environment. Their language abilities and diverse experiences will add a new dimension to your organization and will potentially allow you to reach out to new populations.

2. A Unique Perspective

International volunteers bring with them new ways of thinking as well as insight into different operations that might not have been previously thought of. The contributions foreign volunteers make to American non-profits incorporate their professional and academic backgrounds in business management, the sciences, law, environmental studies, and the arts, among countless other fields.

3. Greater Availability

If you decide to host a foreign volunteer, he or she will be coming to the U.S. specifically to gain experience with your organization for up to twelve months. This enables your organization to save time and money on volunteer training as well as to be more flexible in regard to volunteers´ responsibilities, allowing them to participate in projects more effectively and actively.

What can you offer to foreign volunteers?

Young people who search for volunteer placements in the U.S. do so to develop their professional interests and learn about the culture of American non-profits. Their English language skills also greatly benefit from serving in an American organization.

By offering a foreign volunteer the chance to become part of your team, you are providing them with support in their professional development as well as gaining new perspectives for your own operations.

The visa process to bring foreign volunteers to the U.S. can be challenging, but we have found that organizations and volunteers both consider it to be worth the effort. If your organization is interested in attracting foreign volunteers, our team at the German American Chamber of Commerce California is always available for a free consultation about how you can tackle the visa process and develop your operations by hosting volunteers from abroad.

Kyle PoffenrothThe preceding is a guest post by Kyle Poffenroth, Director of Business Development and Placement Programs at the German American Chamber of Commerce California. GACC California is a non-profit organization serving individuals, corporations and academic institutions from all over the world. Its mission is to lessen the burden of government, promote cross-cultural education and support trade relations between the United States and Europe. 

Topics: Nonprofit Programs Volunteers Development