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Free (or Cheap) Volunteer Work in the USA

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Free or Cheap Volunteer Work in the USA


There's so much for volunteers going on in the States that we've barely scratched the surface. Expect lots more listings here soon.


Grassroots Volunteering in the USA

The organisations listed below have either got in touch with us to add their details to this or another of our websites, or we otherwise have reason to believe they are actively looking for international volunteers and charge reasonable or no fees to join in, live and work with them:

Passport in Time

A volunteer archaeology and historic preservation program of the the US Department of Agriculture Forest Service. Volunteers work with professional FS archaeologists and historians on national forests throughout the US. Activities include archaeological surveys and excavation, rock art restoration, archival research, historic structure restoration and oral history gathering.Over the years Volunteers have helped stabilise ancient cliff dwellings in New Mexico and excavated a 10,000 year old village site in Minnesota. Projects run most months of the year except December and January. Special skills, such as construction or digital photography skills can be helpful on some projects but are not a requirement. Many projects are open to under 18s if accompanied by an adult.

Where: All across the USA.
Accommodation & Costs: Accommodation varies from back country camping to motel or B & B lodging. Where applicable accommodation costs are the responsibility of the volunteer. There is no fee to participate. Depending on the project, volunteers either pay for their own food or contribute a small fee to the camp cook.

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American Bear Association

Do bears shit in the woods? Volunteers at this Minnesota black bear sanctuary will find out as part of the duties include bear poop scooping. Most tasks involve manual labour so volunteers should be physically fit and over 18 years old. Volunteers are required between May and September.

Where: The Vince Shute Wildlife Sanctuary, near the town of Orr.
Accommodation & Costs: No fee. Every effort is made to accommodate long term volunteers on site but shorter term volunteers will most likely have to stay off site.

Volunteering in the USA


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Colorado Trail Foundation

Stretching 500 miles through the Rocky Mountains from Denver to Durango, the Colorado Trail is maintained by trail crew volunteers each summer who enjoy the outdoors and the social atmosphere around camp. You must be at least 16 years of age and in good physical condition; younger people will be accepted if accompanied by an adult.

Where: Colorado.
Accommodation & Costs: It's $60 a week to join a trail crew where, at camp, the CTF provides food. Participants share the tasks of setting camp, daily chores, meal preparation and cleanup. Bring a tent.

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Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado

Volunteers combat invasive weeds, build urban trails, repair park facilities and plant trees. From March through October they offer a range of hands on opportunities to volunteer outdoors and help care for Colorado's natural places.

Where: Colorado.
Accommodation & Costs: No fees. On multiday projects, volunteers usually camp overnight. VOC will provide a place to camp, and food. You just need to bring your own tent and camping supplies.

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Friends of the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad

Another Colorado trail, this one runs on rails and steam and is billed as a place for those born too late. Various programmes are available including keeping the rolling stock in good order and working on the trains.

Where: Colorado.
Accommodation & Costs: Volunteers pay their own expenses. One or two small fees, such as for insurance, are required here and there.

Volunteer Work in the USA


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Koke'e Resource Conservation Program

Participate in weed control projects in native Hawaiian forests. Volunteers work four days each week and have three days off and in exchange are given seven nights of bunk house accommodation and transport to and from the airport.

Where: Hawaii.
Accommodation & Costs: Volunteers must have insurance to take advantage of the provided rustic accommodation. The camp is isolated but they can help volunteers get to the grocery store.

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Farm Sanctuary Internships

Volunteers here spend their days working on projects with one goal in mind: to create a more compassionate world for farm animals. Internships are available year round in the New York and two California sanctuaries. Interns must commit for one month (but two or three months is preferred) and are required to be vegan while on the sanctuary premises.

Where: New York and California.
Accommodation & Costs: Accommodation is provided but interns are responsible for buying and preparing their own food and are required to pay a refundable $150 deposit.

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Appalachian Trail Conservancy

Trail crews spend a week or more in the backwoods helping to maintain the 2,000 plus miles of the Appalachian Trail stretching from Georgia to Maine.

Where: Eastern United States.
Accommodation & Costs: Accommodations at the project sites vary, ranging from primitive backcountry tent camps to tenting in developed campgrounds to cabins accessible by vehicle. Food is also provided. There is no application or participation fees to participate on the ATC's Trail Crew Programmes but a donation of $35 is appreciated and entitles you to a one year membership in the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.


Festival Volunteering in the USA

Typically the rewards of volunteering at a festival are a free ticket and a better camping pitch.

Seattle International Beerfest

Earn beer money. The festival is made possible by beer loving volunteers. One shift gets you ten free beer tickets, a t-shirt and a glass, three shifts equates to 43 beers. Cheers. The festival, along with another held in Portland, is in July.


Other Opportunities to Volunteer in the USA

Broadcasting to isolated Eskimo villages, volunteers have been critical to the success of KNOM, a Catholic radio station in western Alaska. Only 15 per cent of applicants (who must be US citizens or authorised to work in the US on an unrestricted basis) are accepted but those successful will receive room and board, round trip air transportation, health insurance and a monthly cash stipend for the duration of their one year stint. Volunteers work in a variety of positions including DJ, producing feature interviews and documentary programmes, news reporters and producers. Also in Alaska, the Alutiiq Museum preserves the historic cultural traditions of the Alutiiq people. Among other things, volunteers greet visitors and give tours, monitor archaeology sites, work on a dig or as a laboratory technician.


Help Exchange Networks in the USA

Workaway -
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HelpX -


Other Ways to Travel or Stay for Free in the USA

Stay for free in return for caring for local residents' homes or pets. Join Trusted Housesitters to live rent free as a house sitter (Americans may prefer this link). You can also get a free $25 Airbnb credit from us here.


Volunteer Experiences*

How to Volunteer at a National Park (And Live For Free!) - Veronica and David appreciate how lucky they are to be able to explore the great American outdoors for free through the National Parks Service.
Volunteer Project: Humboldt Garden Collective - Amy, a former volunteer outreach coordinator for a large non-profit, tries to develop her green thumb in California.
Farm Life in Northern California - With an interest in one day living sustainably on her own farm, Kirsty Henderson learnt about growing food and farm life in Boonville, Mendocino County.
Trail Building: A Volunteer Experience for Nature Lovers - Sarah Palmer describes three trail building projects in the USA.
Volunteering Gone Waaayyy Wrong and 10 Tips to Avoid a Bad Volunteer Experience - Lash has a bad WWOOF experience in Florida.


* not all these volunteer experiences are with grassroots NGOs or low cost organisations

Images courtesy USFWSmidwest and Lee Ruk