Volunteer FAQs

Want to know more about becoming a Big Apple Greeter volunteer? Here are answers to many of the more Frequently Asked Questions. Please feel free to call us at (212) 669-3429.

Greeter & Visitors
Photo by Sherry Ott

What does a Greeter volunteer actually do?

  • Highlight the cultural and ethnic diversity of New York by introducing visitors to neighborhoods in all five boroughs, including those that visitors might not see on their own. Some of the things Greeters can show include street fairs, flea markets, parks, historical landmarks, and the little shops and restaurants which give a neighborhood its color and flavor.
  • Show visitors what life is really like in New York by accompanying the visitors through their own or other familiar neighborhoods. Visit appointments last about four hours and are meant to be neighborhood walking experiences.
  • Orient visitors by answering questions, introducing them to public transportation, and helping them feel more comfortable, welcome, and informed in the world’s most exciting city.

Who are the volunteers? How are they selected and trained?

  • The volunteers are a diverse corps of more than 300 New Yorkers from all walks of life representing many different neighborhoods in all five boroughs. The volunteers are about 50% men – 50% women, and we estimate that about 55% are working either full- or part-time.
  • Applicants are selected for their enthusiasm and knowledge of New York City, and whether they are a good match for our current needs in terms of foreign languages and neighborhoods. Volunteers are chosen without regard to race, color, creed, gender, age, sexual orientation, marital status or disability.
  • After completing a lengthy application, selected individuals are interviewed and attend a mandatory three to four hour orientation session. Acceptance for becoming a Big Apple Greeter volunteer is not guaranteed.

Are volunteers required to speak a foreign language?

  • No, but as our visitors come from countries all around the world, the ability to speak a language in addition to English is highly desirable. There are currently about 22 languages spoken among the volunteers, and Big Apple Greeter is always interested in recruiting volunteers with additional language skills. Knowledge of American Sign Language is a definite plus.

I am a New Yorker with a disability. Can I volunteer?

  • Yes, volunteer opportunities are open to everyone without regard to race, color, creed, gender, age, sexual orientation, marital status or disability.
  • Choose the volunteer opportunity that is right for you. As a Greeter, you would be sharing your love of New York City with visitors who may or may not have a disability themselves. As an office volunteer you would be helping Big Apple Greeter fulfill its mission. The office at 1 Centre Street is ADA compliant.

Who are the travelers who use Big Apple Greeter’s service?

  • Virtually any visitor who would like a “friend” to help them get the most out of their stay in New York.
  • Travelers with special interests, leisure travelers, business travelers and their families, travelers with disabilities, families of long-term health care patients, armed forces personnel and their families, parents and students exploring educational institutions, and travelers with apprehensions about the big city.
  • Journalists writing about New York City.
  • Any visitor who wants to discover something “off the beaten path.”

How are Greeters and visitors paired? How do they meet?

  • Greeter and visitor are paired by neighborhood requested, language needs, and, when possible, interests. Greeters meet from one to six people, all of the same party. Greeters are not “shared” among unrelated parties.
  • Big Apple Greeter confirms visitor requests in advance, giving the volunteer’s name and arranging an appropriate date/time. Greeters wear a Greeter button and always meet visitors at a public location.

Who administers the program? How is it funded?

  • Launched in May 1992, Big Apple Greeter is an independent not-for-profit corporation governed by a volunteer Board of Directors. (It is not a part of the New York City government.) The program has a paid staff of two and about 30 office volunteers who all work to help the agency meet its mission.
  • Funding is generated through individual donations; corporate and foundation grants; in-kind contributions; and proceeds from special fundraising events. Greeter services are free of charge to the visitor, and there is a no-tipping policy.