Fees & Contributions

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People Before Profits

Operation Groundswell is a social enterprise where revenue is re-invested back into the organization through program planning, curriculum design, and modest salaries. We maintain a lean and sustainable organization, and think about our participants’ best interests, not our bank account. When you join OG overseas, you can be sure that you’re investing in people before profits!

In an effort to be radically transparent, we have separated our program fee from our community contribution – so that you know exactly where and how your money is being spent overseas.

Sign Up Stress Free

We want to make your decision to travel again as easy as possible. That’s why we have flexible, transparent policies that will ensure you can join us on an OG program when you are comfortable and able to.

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Universal Deposits

Your deposit guarantees you a spot on an OG program. It’s non-refundable, but it’s good for two years and can be used towards any OG program within those two years (as long as there’s space, of course!). Learn more about our fee structure here.

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Flexible Instalments

Typically, our program fees are paid in three instalments. We understand that everyone’s situation is different, though, and do our best to accommodate personalized payment plans. After you’ve paid your deposit, simply reach out to talk about your options.

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No Change Fees

If for whatever reason you don’t want to or can’t participate in the program you first applied to, you can switch programs for free. We just ask that you let us know up to 45 days before your program (60 days before if it’s a long program). Browse open programs here.

The Program + Membership Fee

Our organization was founded on the principle of accessibility. We’ve set out to develop the most affordable programs possible, while packing in adventure, cross-cultural dialogue, and meaningful community service.

Our program fee covers all your expenses on the ground including lodgings and accommodations, three local meals a day, excursions, dynamic program leaders, and all the magic that happens in-country.

But OG is more than just a trip. We are a community of ethical travellers pushing to create a more just, equitable, and sustainable world. By joining us on a program, you’ll become a member of OG. The membership fee covers program design and recruitment, leadership training, a host of alumni activities, project monitoring and evaluation, participant impact evaluation, scholarships, and much more.

From the modest office space where all the planning takes place right down to that plate of pad thai you’ll be drooling over in Thailand, your program and membership fee ensures the highest quality of programming!

You can find a list of our current program fees here.

What’s Included?

A comprehensive program itinerary and educational curriculum focused on the issues facing your specific region

All lodging and accommodations throughout the program

Three local meals a day

All group transportation on the ground

All group tours, entrance fees, and excursions

Experienced and caring program leaders with you 24 hours a day

Regular discussions and workshops to help you internalize and reflect on your experience

Support from OGHQ whenever you need it

What’s Extra?

There are a few things the program fee doesn’t cover. We want to be up front about some of the extra costs you should expect.

International flights to & from where the program begins

Travel visas and trip cancellation/emergency medical insurance

Independent Travel Time expenses (if applicable)

Personal souvenirs and extra snacks & beverages

Our Payment Structure

Operation Groundswell’s program fee is priced in Canadian dollars for all Canadian citizens and U.S. dollars for all other nationalities. Our fee is collected in three parts, and has been developed in consultation with the Travel Industry Council of Ontario to protect you as a consumer and ensure that our programs remain financially accessible.

Universal Deposit

The first is a non-refundable Universal Deposit, which secures your place on your program and is used to begin making commitments on your behalf. You can use it towards any program within two years, so long as you give us enough heads up!

Membership Fee

The second is a Membership Fee, which is used to support our organization as we prepare for your program and mobilize the greater OG community that you’ll soon be a part of! The Membership Fee also includes a variable Community Contribution.

Program Fee

The third payment is your Program Fee which covers the rest of your on-the-ground costs, and is held in trust for that purpose. Every Program Fee also includes a Carbon Offset which goes to ensure that your adventure is completely carbon neutral.

Program + Membership Fee Breakdown

There’s more that goes into every OG program than you may think. Your experience on the ground is just part of the magic, but there’s also a lot going on behind the scenes. Expand the sections below to see the details.



A huge chunk of your program fee covers all of your costs on the ground including meals, accommodations, excursions, local transportation, and stipends for your awesome program leaders!



OG spends precious time and resources reaching out to schools and other hotbeds for curious minds to find potential backpacktivists like you! Once you’ve joined our team, our staff supports you throughout your whole journey, from your visa needs right up to your packing questions.

And even after your program, we’re still here for you! We work hard to connect you with other engaged alumni making an impact in their home communities.


Running a lean organization like we do means some pretty savvy budget setting and careful financial administration.


Those comfy beds with your host family? That delicious local dish? That mind-blowing workshop? Those enriching experiences with our partners? We’ve been working year-round to develop your program, plan your itinerary, and build a solid educational curriculum to make all that magic happen on the ground!


To make all of this possible, we need some of the basics! A small portion of your program fee goes to enabling staff around the world to work in spaces conducive to productivity and collaboration…that means office rent, utilities, and of course, phone and internet!


Risk management training and resources for all of our program leaders, regional coordinators, and regional directors.


A part of your fee even lends a helping hand to your fellow backpacktivists! Through our Financial Needs Fund, we are able to provide grants for backpacktivists who might not otherwise be able to join us due to financial constraints.

Community Contributions


Every Membership Fee also includes a variable Community Contribution. These funds go to support the amazing local grassroots organizations with whom we work on the ground. From youth empowerment to environmental stewardship, from education to healthcare, our partners are creating positive change all around the world.

Carbon Offsets


Every Program Fee also includes a Carbon Offset. These funds are invested with dedicated environmental organizations to mitigate the negative effects of your international flights and our travel footprint on program. This is just a small, necessary part of our commitment to environmental justice.

Where Does it Go?


In Country Projects

82% of team members’ community contributions go directly to support projects implemented by the local non-profits, charities, and communities that we are partnered with. From constructing the first Ubuntu Blox styrofoam factory in Haiti to supporting literacy programs in Tanzania, our groups always strive to make a lasting impact. Each team contributes to one or two major local projects while abroad. Teams may also choose to allocate funds to the Alumni Project Fund, a communal pool to support alumni who have continued working on development projects with local partners.


Carbon Offsetting

There is no question that round-trip flights leave a large carbon footprint. If we are going to fly, we want to encourage environmental responsibility. For this reason, we carbon offset all of our programs. 10% of each community contribution is allocated to PlanetAir, a Canadian organization regarded by the Suzuki Foundation as one of the leaders in the industry.



Only 8% goes towards the administration of funds, maintenance of an interactive fundraising platform, and bank transfer fees. We do our best to maintain a lean organization!

Financial Support

We know that the cost of international travel can be high. That’s why we’ve set up a number of financial support options to help make this opportunity possible. We want to ensure all of our programs are as accessible as possible for everyone.

If not now, then when?