Out of pocket expenses

Volunteers are not paid and being a volunteer can sometimes cost money

If you are not prepared to refund these expenses (for travel, equipment, childcare etc) you might prevent people with low incomes or little spare cash from volunteering for you.

Be reasonable

In general any reasonable expense incurred as part of the volunteering activity should be reimbursed. This might include:

  • travel, including to and from the place of volunteering
  • meals and refreshments (if volunteers work more than four hours)
  • childcare or care of other dependents
  • protective clothing/other essential equipment
  • postage, phone calls and admin costs if working from home

For expenses such as meals and refreshments, it may be useful to set specific limits.

When money is tight Volunteering Kirklees recommends that organisations make a minimum commitment of reimbursing travel expenses. This should be the actual amount paid (use receipts or mileage rates).  It is very important to never pay expenses at a flat rate as this can be viewed as a contract of employment.

Whatever you choose to do it is important to have a clear policy on volunteer expenses and to inform potential volunteers about it as early as possible.

Remember to consider volunteer expenses when you draw up project budgets and funding applications.

Organising expenses

  • Reimburse expenses as soon as possible. Cash or bank transfers are generally more convenient than cheques.
  • People on low incomes might appreciate being paid expenses in advance, but you must get receipts (and any remaining cash) once the money has been spent.
  • Use a simple expenses form (see link for an example).
  • Use the Inland Revenue’s mileage rates to reimburse volunteer drivers
  • People claiming benefits should check with their benefits advisor before volunteering, but it shouldn’t affect their right to benefits as long as the only money they receive is to cover volunteering expenses. See this leaflet from direct.gov.uk for more details.