The Stigma Around Volunteers Claiming Expenses

We all know the value volunteers add in the UK and how time and time again they rise to the challenge.  These incredible people give their valuable time away and the least organisations can do is ensure they don’t incur any costs in order to volunteer. 

The government recommends that volunteers should be paid expenses as the individual should not be incurring costs whilst volunteering to support a charity, community or cause. 

However, there are two types of stigmas that we see when it comes to volunteer expenses.  

The Stigmas associated with Volunteer expenses 

Firstly, there is the organisational culture stigma. We often hear charities declare that ‘our volunteers don’t claim expenses’ and it’s often said with pride.  

We understand charities want to show how much their people love and support them. But what charities leaders don’t understand is the stigma they are creating around claiming expenses. They’re almost praising and parading the volunteers that don’t claim expenses, which leaves those volunteers who need to claim in an uncomfortable position. 

Secondly, there is the stigma imposed by other volunteers who don’t need to claim expenses.  Motivated by their love of their charities, these volunteers may shame other volunteers who need to claim expenses.  This becomes very apparent when the claiming process is very manual – for example when volunteers need to complete and submit physical forms at the end of their shifts. They may feel awkward completing forms in front of other volunteers or get a sly comment questioning if they need the money.  

With the rising cost of living, it’s important for charities to tackle these stigmas to help with the recruitment and retention of volunteers.

How can charities remove the stigma around volunteers claiming expenses? 

  • Communicate openly to your volunteers and tell them it’s perfectly ok to claim expenses. As a charity, you must show that you empathise, especially with the rising cost of living and how that can impact people’s circumstances. 
  • Making the claim process as simple and discreet as possible; some people are embarrassed by the fact they are claiming expenses, so try to keep it low-key and offer them tools that make the process less public 
  • Remind your volunteers that everyone is different and not to pass judgments on those who are claiming expenses  

 If you are worried about increasing your costs by encouraging expense claims, then you must weigh the risk of losing those loyal volunteers. The time and cost involved in recruiting new volunteers will always be greater than paying expenses. 

 This will not just help your charity retain your current volunteers but will also help your organisation be more inclusive and attract volunteers from diverse age groups and backgrounds.

Why is Paying Volunteer Expenses Important for Inclusion?

According to Scottish Household Survey 2019, people who volunteer in Scotland are mainly employed or in education, live in less deprived areas and have higher incomes.

Volunteer expenses – The Lack of Visibility

We regularly speak with finance managers within the charity sector and the first pain point we hear about is