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 

“I don’t get any visibility of volunteer expenses being paid” 

 The bigger the charity the bigger the problem!

 Due to the nature of their job, finance managers need to understand the detail of current spending and budget for the future, so visibility and some control over spending are critical for them. 

Why There Is Lack of Visibility With Volunteer Expenses? 

The simple answer is that volunteer expenses are processed manually.

Last year we surveyed 60 charities of diverse sizes asking how they process their volunteer expenses. Our research included charities with income in excess of £100m and thousands of volunteers.

We found that 100% of those charities processed their volunteer expenses manually. For example - a volunteer may fill out an excel expense form and email it to the charity. The charity then pays the volunteer via bank transfer

We weren’t surprised with this clunky process, as this was the reason we created vHelp, we could not find a single solution that helped charities reimburse those not on their payroll, such as volunteers. This also means charities struggle with the visibility of those expenses given the lack of an audit trail of transactions.

Why Are Manual Processes a Nightmare? 

Manual processes mean, that if a finance manager wants to understand how a branch/project of their charity is doing with their expenses they need to request the information from the volunteer managers, then get provided the information in the form of: 

  • Spreadsheets + 
  • Emails + 
  • Receipt photos or physical receipts 

For each expense claim! 

Imagine the job of going through so much paperwork to understand why Project A spent £X on expenses in the month of June. 

How Can Finance Managers Have Visibility of Volunteer’s Expenses 

Automation is the answer. It saves you hours of sifting through transactions and gives you visibility and control at your fingertips. 

Take what we do at vHelp as an example, the charity can be set up so the volunteer manager can make the first approval of expenses, and then the finance manager can provide a second layer of approval for those expenses. This gives finance managers full visibility of spend before any money goes out. We also give the finance team a full reporting suite where they can search by projects, dates, team’s parameters and get full extracts of data. 

Such easy access to data also helps finance managers understand the challenges and needs of volunteer managers and volunteering teams, helping them plan and budget for the needs of their volunteers, making finance a supporting partner and champion of volunteers!

Photo by NORTHFOLK on Unsplash

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. 

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