Pathfinder Repository


Volunteer Service Programs

This Pathfinder is no longer being actively maintained by ipl.


Looking for a way to serve your community or a community somewhere in the world and need help finding opportunities? If yes, this guide is designed to help you do just that. It is primarily for individuals looking for information on volunteer opportunities with time commitments mostly between two months and three years, both in the U.S. and abroad. Sources include books, journals, and web sites of opportunities. Volunteer/work vacations are not included in this pathfinder, nor are programs that are for less than two months.

Three important notes: First, this site is just a stepping stone to aid in one’s research and contains only a few of the many opportunities that exist for voluntary service. Secondly, the following programs have not been extensively evaluated for quality but effort has been taken to list well-known, established programs and resources that have received positive and credible reviews. Thirdly, some of these programs require a fee of $1,000.00 or more to pay for airfare and other program costs.


The following books and journal contain important and valuable information about how to choose a program, some basic facts and tips about volunteering and life in other countries, and lists of programs with their descriptions. If you wish to locate similar books, they can be found under the Dewey Decimal numbers 361 or 910 and the Library of Congress subject headings of:

Peace Corps (U.S.)

Check you local library or use the ISBN number listed for each book to order it from a book store, an online bookstore such as Amazon.com. or directly through each publisher.

Volunteer! The Comprehensive Guide to Voluntary Service in the U.S. and Abroad
edited by Max Terry. Council on International Educational Exchange and The Council of Religious Volunteer Agencies, 1992. ISBN Number:1-882036-12-3

    An older book that gives basic information on short-term and long-term projects, how to find them, four volunteer experiences in their own words, and a listing/description of programs divided into short-term and long-term placements.

Alternatives to the Peace Corps: A Directory of Third World &U.S. Volunteer Opportunities
edited by Phil Lowenthal, Stephanie Tarnoff, Lisa David. Food First Books, 1996. ISBN Number:0-935028-69-2

    This book answers common questions about voluntary programs, practical information on matching one’s motivations and goals for volunteering, and a list/description of U.S. and International Voluntary Service organizations, alternative travel and study opportunities, and other program information.

The Peace Corps and More: 175 Ways to Work, Study, and Travel At Home &Abroad
by Medea Benjamin, Miya Rodolfo-Sioson. Global Exchange, 1997. ISBN Number:0-929765-04-4

    “Global Exchange is a nonprofit research, education and action center” that has produced this guide of listings for U.S., Canada, and Third World country volunteer opportunities. Also contains tips on how to create options, finance a trip, staying healthy and other practical tips.

The Volunteer Survival Manual: The Practical Guide to Giving Your Time and Money
by Darcy Campion Devney. The Practical Press, 1992. ISBN Number: 0-9630686-9-5

    A guide on how to select and manage your volunteer experience. It is not geared toward volunteer program experiences such as the Peace Corps, but on opportunities, mostly part-time, in your community. Also explains how to transfer your volunteer experiences to your resume and has an appendix of resources of biographies, addresses and magazine titles that discern different aspects of volunteerism.

Who Cares Magazine
by Editor Samantha Stainburn

    A bimonthly magazine that features stories and resources on &for national community service organizations, such as “The Rocky Mountain Youth Corps” and “How to start up a nonprofit”. This is a great resource to learn about potential program to join and/or support. Plus, the subscription is free at this time-only donations are accepted at this time!


The Internet can be a great place to find information on organizations. However, because many of these organizations usually do not have huge budgets and limited time and money, many may not have created web sites or have been able to keep them updated. Please do not limit yourself to strictly relying on the Internet for your search.

Note: Most of the information derived below is from Yahoo’s Society and Culture:Issues and Causes:Philanthropy:Community Service and Volunteerism. One then has a choice of the subcategory Organizations for mostly U.S. based organizations or International for foreign opportunities.

U.S. Opportunities

Lutheran Volunteer Corps
“Lutheran Volunteer Corps (LVC) is a one year service program that matches people with nonprofit organizations in twelve cities across the United States…Positions span
a wide spectrum of direct, indirect, public policy, and community organizing.” Applicants must be 21 years or older.

“AmeriCorps is a national network of hundreds of programs throughout the US.” AmeriCorps directly manages two programs nationally and supports hundreds of local organizations across the country. The time commitment for these programs is from ten to twelve months and members, upon completion of the program, receive an educational award for past or present college expenses. The AmeriCorps site contains information on what benefits and opportunities exist and listings of programs that are a part of AmeriCorps. See the AmeriCorps site for state by state listings. However, because the listings list email addresses but few web site addresses, a short (not complete) listing of AmeriCorps programs are detailed below.

AmeriCorps*NCCC – The National Civilian Community Corps
The National Civilian Community Corps is a “ten month residential national service program for young women and men between the ages of 18-24 of all social, economic, and educational backgrounds.” Members work on team-based projects focused on the environment.

AmeriCorps*VISTA – Volunteers in Service to America
“AmeriCorps*VISTA, with over 1,000 projects and more than 5,000 members, places individuals in disadvantaged communities for a full-time, full-year commitment to build the capacity of small community-based organizations…The members address issues in the areas of human needs, health, education, public safety, and environment.”

City Year
“City Year is a national youth service organization uniting young people, ages 17 to 23, from diverse backgrounds for a demanding year of full-time community service, leadership development, and civic engagement.” City Year is located in ten cities across the country and has over 600 corps members.

Habitat AmeriCorps
Habitat AmeriCorps is a partnership between AmeriCorps and Habitat for Humanity International “aimed at mobilizing more volunteers in the fight against poverty housing.”

A twenty month commitment, while you are in college of tutoring pre-schoolers for ten hours a week during the school year, and a full-time position in a pre-school over the summer. Receive a stipend and AmeriCorps educational award.

Public Allies
Public Allies creates “full-time professional apprenticeships in non-profit and public agencies where Allies take responsibility for projects in areas such as youth development, health, education, economic development, and public safety.” Applicants must be between age 18 – 30 and available for a 10 month commitment. “Allies receive a living allowance, health and child care benefits, and an educational award.”

International Opportunities

Amigos de las Americas
“Provides opportunities for high school and college students in the United States to make a difference through public health projects in Latin America.”
Email: info@amigoslink.org

Catholic Network of Volunteer Service
Coordinates approximately 184 Catholic and Christian organizations which need volunteers. Long-term and short-term appointments available.

Habitat for Humanity International
“Habitat for Humanity International’s Global Village mission trips introduce concerned people to hands-on home-building work around the world.” Volunteers are placed for three year periods in Africa, Asia and the Pacific Islands, Latin America and Eastern Europe.

Voluntary Service Overseas
A “British-based volunteer-sending agency enabling people to share skills, build capabilities and promote international understanding with poorer countries.” They are two year appointments.

Peace Corps
“For more than 30 years, Peace Corps Volunteers have been fighting hunger, disease, poverty, and lack of opportunity.” Volunteers work in 80 countries around the world and appointments are for two years and are very competitive.

Up With People
“This year-long program of intercultural education, community service, on-stage musical performance, and extensive world travel helps students develop career skills, a greater awareness of themselves and the world around them, and a commitment to serving their communities.” Participants do pay a fee but scholarships are available.

World Teach
“International social service program which places volunteers as teachers in developing countries that request educational assistance.” Eight week, six month and full year programs available. Email: info@worldteach.org

Web-based Databases

There are also databases on the web that can help match you with volunteer opportunities, based on your zip code, length of time you wish to serve, type of service, etc. A few are listed below.

VolunteerMatch is a service of the nonprofit organization ImpactOnline, that is a database that lists thousands of one-time and longer term volunteer opportunities that are categorized by zip code, category, and date. There are three different pages to perform a search, each asking for slightly different information. One then signs up for email to receive messages of opportunities from selected organizations.

SERVEnet is a database tool produced to match the skills and interests of volunteers with nonprofits and organizations that need volunteers, as well as serve as a resource for these organizations.

Points of Light Foundation Volunteer Center Locator
This is a service of the Points of Light Foundation and matches volunteers with Points of Light awarded organizations, according to geographic location preferences.

Don’t forget to look in the Social Issues and Social Welfare Resources section of the Internet Public Library’s Reference Collection for ideas and information. One can always approach an organization that does not have a formal medium to long-term volunteer program and perhaps create an opportunity.

Good luck with your searching! We hope this helps you find the right program!

This pathfinder created by Astrid Olfenbuttel.