How Can I Create a Volunteer Expenses Policy For My Charity?

More and more organisations are starting to pay volunteer expenses, especially with the current rate of inflation and petrol prices increasing. The most important benefit of paying volunteer expenses is inclusion; by ensuring your volunteers are reimbursed quickly you are widening the pool of your volunteers and opening up volunteering to people from various backgrounds.   

 Great news, your organisations have agreed to start paying volunteer expenses. Where do you start?  

 It’s important to start by creating a volunteer expense policy.  

So what is a volunteer expense policy: An expense policy defines the type of expenses the volunteers can be reimbursed for. The policy also details how the volunteer should submit their expenses and set the expectation around the time taken for expenses to be reimbursed and any rules or timeframes to be considered.    

reading glasses on top of document

 Photo by Mari Helin on Unsplash

It’s important to write and publish your volunteer expenses policy on your website and make it very accessible to all volunteers. This way you are giving your volunteers clear direction on claiming expenses.

 For smaller charities, it is advisable to keep your volunteer expenses policy brief so your volunteers can scan through it, we recommend no longer than one A4 page. 

 Here are the top items that you should include in your volunteer expenses policy:   

  1. Claims - What Expenses Can Be Claimed and Reimbursed?  

    State clearly what type of expenses can be claimed by your volunteers. NCVO recommends you reimburse for travel to and from the place of volunteering, meals whilst on shift, care of dependents, equipment such as face masks and gloves, and administration costs such as postage and phone calls. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but it gives you an idea of what to include.  

  2. Rules – Are There Any Rules Associated With Each of Those Expense Categories?  

    You must ensure your volunteers understand any rules and limitations for each category here are some examples  

    • Travel on public transport, you can claim up to £10 a day for travel  
    • Milage is reimbursed at 0.45p per mile, you can claim up to £15 worth of mileage per claim 
    • Food, you can claim up to £5 for lunch if you do a shift longer than 5 hours  
  3. Process - Explain the Process of Claiming Expense  

    Detail to your volunteers what is needed to put a claim forward for approval. If it’s an emailed form make sure you give them a link to that form or make it easy to send them the form. You then need to explain where the form should be sent and detail any other instructions to do with the process.  

     If your organisation uses an expense system like vHelp you can mention the vHelp URL on your policy and ask your volunteers to register with vHelp and start claiming expenses through it.  

  4. Timeline - Be Transparent On How Long It Takes To Get Reimbursed  

     It’s really important to set your volunteer’s expectations when it comes to your timescale of reimbursing volunteer expenses.  Our research found organisations using manual processes take between 4-6 weeks for volunteers to get reimbursed which is a long time to be out of pocket so it’s important, to be honest, and transparent about this point so people can adjust their finances accordingly.  Automating volunteer expense payment processing reduces the reimbursement time significantly.  

     It is recommended that volunteers are reimbursed as quickly as possible to help with engagement and inclusion.  

  5. Deadlines - Are There Any Timeline Limitations?  

    Explain any timeline limitation and state deadlines clearly so volunteers can understand cut-off dates and submit their expenses in a timely manner to avoid delaying their expense payments.  

     Once you create your volunteer expense policy, ensure you revisit it regularly and make any updates to the above areas.  

     vHelp provides a swift way of reimbursing volunteer expenses. The volunteer can make a claim on the web or our App, once approved by the organisation the volunteer gets reimbursed within 24 hours.

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