Floods in southern Germany: How you can help by donating and getting involved

Frequently Asked questions

We are CO2-compensated

For volunteers

General information

What is vostel.de?

vostel.de is a digital volunteering platform that connects volunteers and non-profit organisations. vostel.de is not the social organisation or the organiser of the social projects themselves, but acts as an intermediary platform between people who want to get involved and non-profit organisations that need support in the form of a short-term commitment or classic longer-term volunteering. Our services are aimed at non-profit organisations with volunteering opportunities within Germany as well as volunteers who live in Germany.

Since our foundation in 2015, more than 40,000 volunteers across Germany have already been able to find a suitable volunteering opportunity for themselves, meaning that over 1.700 non-profit organisations have received voluntary support from vostel.de volunteers.

Do I have to pay to use vostel.de?

The use of our website and our services are completely free of charge for non-profit organisations and initiatives as well as for private volunteers. We cover most of our costs (mainly personnel and the development of the platform) by planning, organising and implementing corporate volunteering programmes for companies and by offering our own workshops.

Employees who would like to get involved in a corporate volunteering programme in their company cannot therefore use vostel.de free of charge, but are asked to contact our Corporate Volunteering Team via E-Mail.

Can I also find a voluntary service (FSJ, FÖJ, BFD), internship or job via vostel.de?

Since 2023, vostel.de has also included the first offers for a voluntary social or ecological year and for federal volunteer services. As we focus exclusively on volunteering, no internships or jobs can be found on vostel.de.

How old do I have to be to get involved via vostel.de?

In general, anyone with a minimum age of 14 years can use our platform. However, a minimum age of 18 is required for some volunteering opportunities. This applies in particular to projects and voluntary work where the commitment is emotionally challenging (e.g. working with seriously ill or dying people) or where the commitment takes place late in the evening or at night and is therefore not suitable for underage volunteers. Most organisations provide information about the required age in their volunteering offers. If you are not sure, you can ask the organisation of your choice directly.

I speak little or no German. Is that a problem?

No, on vostel.de you will find many projects for which little or no knowledge of German is required. You can use our filters to set the right German language level for you and find a project that matches your language skills.

I live abroad and would like to get involved in Germany. What are the next steps?

Until further notice, we will only place volunteers in non-profit projects who are already living in Germany. We recommend that you take a look at websites such as www.weltwaerts.de, which could help you find a long-term volunteer placement in Germany.

Can I obtain a visa with the help of vostel.de?

Unfortunately not. Neither our partner organisations nor we can assist with visa applications or provide food and accommodation.

Can I also donate via vostel.de?

We do not broker monetary donations via vostel.de, but we can act as an intermediary for donations in kind if necessary. If you have donations in kind*, we offer two options:

  1. As a registered user, you can use our donations in kind tool to view various donation requests from our social partner organisations. If your donation in kind matches a search query, you can use the tool to get in touch with the respective organisation and clarify everything else, such as the handover.
  2. If your donation is not actively being sought, you can send us an E-Mail with a list of your items. We will then endeavour to find a charitable organisation from our network that needs your donation. Please note that we only accept intact donations in kind.

*Please note: We do not broker clothing donations (exception: rejects from companies available in larger batches), as the donations on offer (often women's fashion) usually do not match the recipient organisation's requests for donations in kind (usually men's clothing). For clothing donations, you can contact clothing banks (e.g. from the German Red Cross, the social welfare organisation Diakonie or the station mission) in your city.

As a volunteer, how can I be sure that the organisations on vostel.de are reputable?

We check all organisations that register on vostel.de carefully. Specifically, this means that we take a close look at the online and social media presence of newly registered organisations and also look at external reporting on the organisation. In addition we check whether the NPO in question is a legal entity under private or public law. We clarify any ambiguities personally.

In order to be listed as an organisation on our site, the public welfare orientation of its work must be clearly recognisable. In addition, we base our decision for or against an organisation on specific guidelines, which you can read about below in the section "For Non-Profit Organisations" under the point "What criteria must organisations meet in order to use vostel.de?".

In addition, we collect feedback from all volunteers to ensure that everything goes as planned on site and during the volunteering activity. We always investigate discrepancies or incidents directly and also reserve the right to delete organisations from our platform. However, this is an absolute exception. There have never been any incidents that are incompatible with the law.

Your commitment with vostel.de

How can I get involved via vostel.de?

On vostel.de you will find charitable projects throughout Germany that are looking for one-off, project-based or regular support. Many of the social, ecological and cultural projects take place at a specific location, but you can also find numerous opportunities to get involved digitally or remote on vostel.de.

To find a suitable volunteering opportunity, you can filter all projects by location, language skills, time budget, topics and much more. Click on the projects that interest you to get more information about the activity. If you are interested in a project, you can register on vostel.de and get in touch directly with the person responsible, sign up for a volunteering date or add your name to a list of interested people.

I have found a suitable project for me on vostel.de. What are the next steps?

There are different ways of contacting the project managers. For some - primarily short-term - projects, you can sign up directly for an "volunteering date" and then simply get involved directly on this date. Some organisations invite you to an open introductory meeting or an information event so that you can find out about the project first, without any obligation. However, most of our partner organisations prefer you to contact them individually via our messaging function. You will find information on how to make initial contact directly in the description of the volunteering opportunity.

I have registered on vostel.de or signed up for a commitment, but have not received a confirmation email. What could be the reason for this?

Please first look in your spam folder or in the trash folder (some providers also place supposed spam directly there). If the e-mail cannot be found there either, please contact us by e-mail.

I have questions about my commitment. What should I do?

We from vostel.de are not the sponsors or organisers of the volunteering opportunities listed on our platform, but merely intermediaries between volunteers and non-profit organisations. If you have project-specific questions, we are generally not able to answer them as good as the project organisers themselves. It is always best to get in touch with the relevant contact person directly by using the message function on vostel.de. You must be registered on vostel.de to do this. If you have already signed up for an assignment and have questions about the project (e.g. "Can I come an hour later?"), you will find the contact details of your contact person in your briefing email, which you will receive from us after registering for the project.

If you have any general questions about your commitment via vostel.de or how to use the platform, please feel free to contact contact our team via E-Mail.

Can I bring my friends/my partner to a commitment?

Of course you can volunteer together with your loved ones. However, they also have to register on vostel.de and sign up for the volunteering event. This way, the organisations know in advance how many people and who will be coming along to support.

Can I bring my child(ren) to an assignment?

We think it's great to introduce even the very young to volunteering. In most organisations, the minimum age for volunteering is 14, in some even 18. This is mainly due to the fact that the focus on site is on volunteer work and there is often little time and capacity to consider children and their needs. If you are sure that the volunteer work is also suitable for a child, you can of course contact the organisation directly and simply ask.

Unfortunately, I can't come to the project I signed up for. What should I do now?

Please sign off from your commitment via your personal dashboard on vostel.de by clicking on the "Cancel registration" button. If you have already been in personal contact with an organisation, please let your contact person know directly. The earlier you cancel, the more likely it is that a replacement can be found for you.

I enjoyed my shift and would like to work there again straight away. Do I have to sign up for a shift again via vostel.de?

Yes, please always sign up for a shift via vostel.de if you have not already agreed your next assignment with the project managers on site. This is the only way the organisations can keep track of how many volunteers are coming to which shift and ensure that your support is actually needed.

Certificate, insurance, management and health certificate

Can I receive a certificate for my commitment?

Please speak to your contact person at the organisation directly, as we cannot issue a certificate for your commitment on its behalf.

Am I insured during my commitment?

Whether you are insured or not depends on the organisation you are involved with. In most projects on vostel.de you are covered by liability and/or accident insurance. It is important to discuss the topic of insurance with the organisation in advance. If you are not insured by the NPO, please make sure that you have valid accident and liability insurance before you volunteer for the first time. For volunteers in Berlin, for example, the Berlin Senate provides a collective liability and accident insurance. You can find more information about this here.

What do I need a criminal record certificate for?

A criminal record certificate is an extract from the Federal Central Criminal Register that you can use to prove that you have no criminal record. In volunteer work, it is often required in projects where you work with children and young people. In this case, you even need a so-called "extended criminal record certificate". You can find the application form at fuehrungszeugnis-service.eu. To apply free of charge, you will need a letter from the social organisation you are working for.

What do I need a health certificate ("red card") for?

The health certificate, also known as a "red card", is expected in many areas where you come into contact with food - even if you only serve it and do not produce it. You can usually find out whether or not you need a health certificate for your volunteering programme in the respective volunteering opportunity on vostel.de. Your volunteering organisation can support you in applying for the "Red Card".

For non-profit organisations

General information

What exactly does vostel.de do?

The vostel.de volunteering platform makes it easy for organisations to find and manage volunteers. As an organisation employee, you can register your organisation here on vostel.de with just a few clicks and publish volunteering opportunities yourself. Our team will advise and support you throughout the entire process and advertise the volunteering opportunities published on vostel.de on social media, in our newsletter and in our network.

There are currently over 1,700 social organisations, sponsors and initiatives as well as almost 40,000 volunteers registered on vostel.de.

In addition to private volunteers, we also support companies in the planning, organisation and implementation of their corporate volunteering programme, as well as in the search for volunteering opportunities for their employees.

Do I have to be a registered association to be able to use vostel.de?

On vostel.de, any type of organisation can look for support from volunteers that has a recognisable public welfare orientation. The public welfare status does not necessarily have to be stipulated in the legal form, but should be clear in the ideas and activities. We examine this individually for each organisation and follow specific guidelines for our decision.

What criteria do organisations have to meet to be able to use vostel.de?

  • The voluntary work for which support is sought must take place within Germany.
  • A clear public welfare orientation in the form of a social, ecological or cultural purpose must be recognisable. However, the organisation does not necessarily have to have this stipulated in its legal form.
  • Sports clubs can use the platform to find support if a social purpose beyond sport is recognisable (e.g. sports activities for disadvantaged children, integrative events for refugees).
  • At the same time, there are a number of organisations that we do not support in their search for volunteers. These include:
    • Organisations with anti-democratic, homophobic, racist, anti-Semitic, sexist or other discriminatory views
    • Political parties or associations with the intention of forming a party
    • Unconstitutional and banned associations
    • Organisations that seek volunteers for activist activities that contradict basic democratic principles and incite or potentially incite criminal behaviour
    • Organisations with the intention of distributing drugs or active substances or testing them with the help of volunteers
    • Organisations with a clear (religious) missionary intention
    • Organisations whose services are only available to people from certain confessions (e.g. a homeless charity run by a Christian organisation that only offers its services to people who identify as Chrstians).
    • Private individuals, initiatives or organisations that use a non-profit activity to acquire or promote their profit-oriented business operations. (e.g. free language courses that are aimed at promoting cost-based language courses)

Is the use of vostel.de free of charge?

The use of our website and our services are completely free of charge for non-profit organisations and initiatives as well as for private volunteers. We cover most of our costs (mainly personnel and the development of the platform) by planning, organising and implementing corporate volunteering programmes for companies and by offering our own workshops.

Can I also find donors/donations via vostel.de?

Yes, you can also use vostel.de to find donations in kind (but not monetary donations!). After registering, you can publish your organisation's need for donations in kind on vostel.de. Volunteers and our partner companies can view your requests and donate. You will also find current offers for donations in kind from our partner companies in your dashboard. Communication and arrangements for donations can be easily made via the platform.

How can I use corporate volunteering in my organisation?

Via vostel.de you have the opportunity to recruit an entire team (between 10 and max. 50 people) from one of our partner companies to support your organisation. We always organise these (half or full) days (so-called Social Days) according to your needs and in close consultation with your organisation. As group assignments always incur costs (e.g. for building materials or catering), we ensure that your organisation also receives a donation.

If you are interested, you are welcome to contact us here via E-Mail at any time and we will plan suitable corporate volunteering activities together with you.

How can I book a workshop/input from you for my organisation/association/event?

We are delighted that you are interested in a workshop with and from us. Here you can find an overview of all the workshops we currently offer. Feel free to contact us by E-Mail if you have any questions or would like to book a workshop. We will get in touch with you to discuss the further steps.

Find volunteers

How can my organisation find volunteers via vostel.de?

First, you can register your organisation on vostel.de and create a profile in just a few steps. Once your details have been checked by our team, you will be given access to your personal dashboard and your search for volunteers can begin.

You can organise your volunteering opportunities on vostel.de in different ways. For example, you have the option of setting up volunteering dates in the form of shift schedules (see example here) or creating introductory meetings (e.g. in the form of an information event) for which volunteers can sign up. Alternatively, you can also choose to have volunteers contact you directly via our message function. You also have the option of creating interest lists to first gauge general interest in your project. We will be happy to advise you on which method best suits your volunteer search. 

Who exactly are the volunteers on vostel.de?

You can reach a diverse target group via vostel.de, which is predominantly made up of young and international people. Around half of the volunteers registered on vostel.de are between 18-34 years old. Around 60% have a newcomer background. Newcomers are people who were not born in Germany but live here (e.g. people who have fled their home country, au pairs, expatriates or exchange students). We therefore recommend that you indicate in your volunteering offer what level of German the volunteer needs for the task and whether you can communicate in English or other languages.

Can I also find long-term volunteers via vostel.de?

It is often assumed that young volunteers in particular would prefer to volunteer on a short-term and spontaneous basis. However, our own volunteer survey in 2020 shows that there is still a tendency among young people towards longer-term volunteering. And also the behaviour of the volunteers registered on vostel.de shows that there is a high willingness for long-term commitment.

Nevertheless, we have seen time and again that providing "starter projects" in the form of one-off, low-threshold volunteering opportunities is a great way for non-profit organisations to attract new volunteers. In this way, both the organisations and the volunteers can develop a feeling for whether they are a good match before they ideally agree on a longer-term commitment.

How does vostel.de support me in my search for volunteers?

To support you in your search for volunteers, we are available to answer any questions you may have and ensure that you can make the best possible use of vostel.de for your volunteer search.

To draw volunteers' attention to projects, we also advertise selected volunteering opportunities on social media (Instagram, TikTok and Facebook), in our newsletters and on our blog.

We also offer our workshop on "Volunteer management 2.0" at regular intervals and give you lots of tips and tools on how you can attract young volunteers in particular to your organisation and retain them in the long term. You can find more information here.

Approximately how long does it take to find volunteers via vostel.de?

We cannot predict exactly when you will receive the first messages or registrations from volunteers via vostel.de. Volunteers are as diverse as the opportunities to get involved and the popularity of volunteering opportunities depends on many factors. Whether volunteers are looking for a short-term or long-term commitment or which German language skills they bring with them and are required for your offer plays just as much a role in their decision as the currentness of the topic.

The design of your project description and your organisation profile are particularly important for the volunteer’s decision to get in touch with your organisation. In this blog article, we give you helpful tips on how you can win volunteers for your project on vostel.de.

Are the volunteers insured via vostel.de during their assignment?

No. Most organisations in Germany have already taken out insurance (usually liability and accident insurance) for their volunteers. If this is not the case in your organisation, we advise you to request written confirmation from the volunteers that they have accident and liability insurance. This will allow you to exclude any liability claims from volunteers in the event of an accident or damage. Please note that vostel.de, as an intermediary between volunteers and organisations, is not liable for any damages incurred.

How can I coordinate volunteers via vostel.de?

In addition to finding volunteers, vostel.de also supports you in managing volunteers. You can contact them by message and manage registrations for your shift schedules or interest lists. You can also add as many organisation employees as you like to your profile on vostel.de, who are then individually responsible as contact persons for the individual projects. Email notifications from us inform you about new registrations, messages and entries on your interest list so that you always have your volunteer management well under control.

We use a multi-level registration and reminder process to ensure that people who register for a project actually turn up. If something does go wrong and volunteers do not turn up for a project despite having signed up, you have the option of informing us via your dashboard on vostel.de. This way, we can keep an eye on unreliable volunteers and remove them from our pool if necessary.

In addition, all volunteers involved in your organisation have the opportunity to give feedback, which you and your employees can view. This way, you always know what is going well and where there may still be room for improvement.

For other requests

I am from an office/authority and have a question about or for a shelter (GU) or a social organisation. Are you the right contact for that?

We at vostel.de mediate volunteers to non-profit organisations and are neither sponsors of nor contact persons in the respective organisations listed on vostel.de.

If you have a question for an organisation registered on vostel.de that is not related to volunteering, please contact the organisation directly. For data protection reasons we are not allowed to give out contact information. We ask for your understanding.

I am a teacher and am looking for a volunteering opportunity for my whole class. Can you help?

We think it's a great idea to get students interested in social activities at an early age.
We don't organise group assignments for students ourselves, but we recommend that you contact the organisations listed on vostel.de directly. Some of the organisations may offer special programmes or opportunities for (school) groups and would certainly appreciate your interest. Please note that in most organisations the minimum age for volunteering is 14 years, in some even 18 years.

We are a visitor group of students/pupils/experts/... and would like to visit you. Is that possible?

We receive enquiries from visitor groups on an almost weekly basis and unfortunately do not currently have the space or time to organise visits and company presentations. We occasionally arrange digital meetings to get to know each other. Please feel free to send us an E-Mmail with your request.

Are you available for expert interviews for final theses (Bachelor's, Master's) and scientific papers (doctorate, PhD)?

Unfortunately, we are currently unable to fulfil the many requests for interviews. If you are researching young volunteering, you are welcome to take a look at our study from 2020 on the topic of "Engagierte 2.0 - wie tickt die neue Freiwilligen-Generation" (available only in German). We wish you every success with your research and hope that you can find other valuable sources for your work.