Although it is best practice for volunteer-involving organisations to pay out-of-pocket expenses for volunteers, it is also the case that some do not have the resources to do so. Organisations should make it clear to volunteers from the beginning if they can cover their expenses while volunteering. If at all possible it should be recognised by volunteer managers that the reimbursement of volunteer expenses can help your organisation offer equal opportunities to all. The cost of traveling or a meal eaten out is significant to someone on a low income or who receives state benefits. Volunteer expenses should be built into funding applications and annual budgets as part of the regular cost of not just your volunteer programme but of the delivery of your service.
When considering the issue of volunteer expenses and developing a policy on this please think about these three issues:
- Should a volunteer be out of pocket because of their volunteering?
- How can you keep an accurate account of how much a volunteer spends and set a limit to that spend?
- How should you plan your system so that it is easy for volunteers to claim and easy for you to quickly reimburse the volunteer?
Which expenses should be reimbursed? The answer is any reasonable expense incurred by the volunteer as part of their volunteering activity such as:
- Travel while volunteering for your organisation
- Meals taken while volunteering
- Postage, phone calls made from a personal phone, stationery
It is important to explain to the volunteer that all expenses must be reasonable and in line with your expense policy which is given to the volunteer as part of their induction pack. This policy will outline how much you are willing to pay for each claimable expense.