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Zaytoen Domingo is a content writer and editor based in Cape Town, South Africa. She is currently enrolled in the Masters program in English at the University of the Western Cape. After graduating with an Honours Degree in English and Creative Writing, Zaytoen completed a skills-development program for writers and became an alum of the GVI Writing Academy.
Is it better to give to a charity or volunteer

The images in this article were taken pre-COVID-19.

Many things in life come down to whether you have the time or the money. Making a contribution to initiatives is no different, and you might find yourself wondering whether it’s better to give to a charity or volunteer. 

So which is better?

The simple answer is, if you have the money and not the time, give to a charity. If you have more time you can choose to volunteer. There are many other factors to consider though, as both have benefits on a personal and global level.

So, let’s take a closer look at each option.

It’s better to give to a charity when

You don’t have time to travel

For people who don’t have the time or funds to travel to another country, giving to a charitable cause is a great option.

This could include anyone working full-time, parents with young children, or even someone with a cat they just can’t leave. Whatever the situation, sometimes your commitments at home make it trickier to travel abroad.

But, if the desire to make a contribution is still there, adding to a charitable cause is a wonderful way to make an impact in the world. Many charities rely on monetary donations to keep functioning, so never underestimate the importance of giving what you can.


Participants carefully scrub the tank, and shell of a turtle | donate or volunteer


Giving to a charity is ideal for people short on time, as it’s easier and faster to do than ever before. It can be something as simple as an online donation, which takes seconds. Plus, you can do a lot of research online to make sure you’re giving to a reputable charity, and keep up to date on their various projects and accomplishments.

How is volunteering different? Well getting involved in sustainable development activities on the ground can offer a more meaningful experience than watching from afar. Because of this,  volunteering might be an even better option when it comes to making a contribution.

It’s better to volunteer when

You have the time to spare

You’ve probably heard people say time is money, and it’s true – they both have value.

Contributing your time can be beneficial to charitable causes, and by joining a volunteer project you can make a sustainable impact. 

Whether it’s doing wildlife research in South Africa, contributing to women’s empowerment initiatives in India, or championing preventative healthcare in local communities in Thailand, there are important projects around the world in which volunteers play a vital role.


teen volunteers working abroad in Costa Rica


You don’t need oodles of time, either. Volunteer projects range from short to long term, and can even be done over part of your holidays, so you can commit for the amount of time that suits you.

You’re seeking to expand your skill set

One of the best things about volunteering is that it works both ways. As well as contributing where it counts, volunteering abroad can help you to reach your own career or personal goals through the benefit of experience.

Plus, the skills you get from volunteering, and the meaningful effects of making an impact could inspire you to pursue a career in international development or conservation, allowing you to make an even greater contribution.

Further reading: 17 excellent reasons to volunteer 

You want to understand the world better

GVI interns learn about Laos culture while teaching abroad


Volunteering enables you to become a global citizen. Acting as ambassadors for their countries, volunteers working in communities abroad play a role in adding to global intercultural understanding and tolerance. 

By contributing time and volunteering abroad, you will help to cross the cultural bridges thrown up by distance. 

Further reading: How to not feel like a tourist when volunteering

You don’t want your contribution to be once-off

Local women lead a session on menstrual health education in Laos


Volunteering abroad has ripple effects. Part of the reason for this is that as a volunteer on a reputable program, you’ll contribute to local capacity development, to ensure communities are not reliant on volunteer resources in the long term. 

When you go home, you’ll want to tell everyone about your experience. By doing so, you’ll help to dismantle stereotypes about other cultures, raise awareness of critical global issues, and introduce your friends and family to realities different to their own. 

Who knows, you may even inspire others to volunteer, and make an even greater impact!

You want to know exactly where your money is going

A teaching intern in Thailand teaches students about shapes


Knowing exactly what happens to your donation is one of the concerns that comes with donating to charities. You can do your research to find reputable organisations, but there’s always an element of trust when you hand over your money.

On the other hand, when you’re volunteering and you make a contribution to help the project reach success, it’s a lot clearer. When you’re on the ground you can see exactly how that money is used and the direct benefit it has. 

You’ll see your time and money going straight into maintaining programs and contributing to sustainable development in local communities, which is both eye-opening and rewarding.

Find out more about GVI’s international, award-winning volunteering programs and internships, and choose from community development, teaching, women’s empowerment, and conservation projects worldwide.

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