So hopefully by this point you've identified five to ten volunteer-sending organizations or programs that might be a good fit. Now it's time to start to doing your research.
Here are three different ways to determine whether a volunteer-sending organization or program is right for you:
Keep in mind that not all organizations will have websites, and even those that do may not have all the information you seek. This isn't necessarily a sign that they aren't well-managed or legitimate; it could just be that their website is incomplete or they don't have the capacity or resources to launch one. You can always ask them detailed questions yourself in later steps of the research process.
Next, go to your favorite search engine and plug in the name of the organization (be sure to use quotes around it to filter the results better). See what types of links come up—news articles, former volunteers' blogs, message boards, their organizational partners' websites—and just start reading. If you participate on a social networking site like Facebook or MySpace, search to see if alumni of the volunteer-sending organization or program have their own group or webpage. Finally, consider going to travel or service message boards (like these discussion forums on Idealist) and posting queries of your own.
We really can't stress this enough: former volunteers will hands-down be your most valuable resource for learning more about a volunteer abroad program or experience.
Having said that, don't forget to also talk to others you already know. See if family and friends, or even friends of friends, have any experience with this organization. Talk to people at your job, school, place of worship. Again, the more opinions you can gather, the more well-rounded your data will be to determine if this volunteer-sending organization or program is right for you.
After doing all this research, you'll likely still have some questions, so here's our list of what to ask to get you started…
NOTE: Link to discussion forum isn't working as forums are not on prod yet. Also, margins need to be adjusted and sidebar migrated.