“It is not always a free service; especially if you want to make it a proper service. If you support volunteers properly there is going to be a cost associated to that. You need to think ahead in terms of what you can offer volunteers to keep them and what is going to appropriate so you manage the expectations.” Commissioner at Commissioner and Volunteer Focus Group
Our surveys showed that 73% of volunteers in family support services are offered expenses for the work they do. Offering expenses means that a wider diversity of people can volunteer. People volunteer in family support to donate their time and skills, it is unfair to also ask them to also be out of pocket- some people may not be able to volunteer if this is the case. Expenses should be reimbursed from receipts and should never be rounded up to a flat rate – this would mean you are paying volunteers and that has important legal consequences. Volunteers are never paid for the time they spend working for you.
Expenses might cover:
Travel- To and from the office or place of volunteering. Via public transport this can be claimed by tickets or receipts and by car this can cover petrol costs and wear and tear on the car and be calculated per mile.
Lunch/meals- If people are volunteering over a mealtime, it is reasonable for them to claim back the money they spend on food. Many organisations put a limit on this- check what is the reasonable cost of a meal in your area.
Childcare- Particularly for family support organisations, covering childcare expenses will attract more volunteers to get involved with parenting skills and experience to offer. If you are unable to offer crèche facilities, limiting this to a reasonable amount that at least gives a contribution to private childcare will help more people volunteer.
Equipment/administration- Although it may be better to buy any equipment or special clothing that people need then distribute it to volunteers, this may not always be possible. If a volunteer has to spend any of their own money in order to volunteer, it is good practice to have an agreement in place which allows them to claim it back.
There are several things to think about regarding expenses:
- Make volunteers aware of how and what to claim- have a written policy that makes it clear if there are any limits and what receipts are needed
- Make sure volunteers can access money that is owed to them as soon as possible
- It’s okay to provide expenses payments in advance, as long as receipts are provided once the money has been spent and any remainder is returned
- If the group or organisation can only process expenses claimed within a certain timeframe after it is incurred it should ensure volunteers know this so they do not miss the deadline
- Have a simple claim form
- Encourage all volunteers to claim
- If volunteers are being paid expenses whilst claiming benefits, they must tell their job centre or benefits office