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Paying volunteer expenses

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Why you should pay volunteer expenses

Although volunteering is unpaid, it should not cost a volunteer anything either.

Not paying expenses can be a barrier to volunteers on low incomes or with little spare cash. It could also put off volunteers who feel they should not have to contribute money as well as time.

Funders and donors often also like to see that you will pay volunteer expenses.

What expenses to cover

You should reimburse any reasonable expenses incurred while volunteering.

This includes, but is not limited to:

  • travel (including to and from the place of volunteering)
  • meals and refreshments
  • care of dependents (including children)
  • equipment such as protective clothing
  • administration costs (such as postage, phone calls, stationery).

For expenses such as meals and refreshments, it may be useful to set a limit. Check what other organisations in your area do and consider what local costs are in your area.

If a volunteer is disabled and has someone who supports them while they volunteer, you should pay expenses for that person too.

Payment of volunteer expenses that is more than out-of-pocket expenses will be treated as taxable income.

How to pay expenses

You should follow your organisation’s process for paying expenses. But make sure this works for your volunteers.

For example, some volunteers (such as people seeking asylum) might not have a bank account. If your process is to pay expenses by transfer, discuss with your organisation to see if you can adjust this.

Think about how to make your process as easy as possible for your volunteers. For example, give all volunteers copies of your expenses form at their induction so they don’t have to ask for it.

You should make it clear how soon you will pay expenses, so volunteers don’t have to worry.

Volunteer expenses policy

A volunteer expenses policy makes sure volunteers know your rules for expenses. This helps them avoid unnecessary costs.

You should share this policy with new volunteers when they join your organisation. It can form part of their induction or volunteer handbook if you have one.

Last reviewed: 12 April 2021

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This page was last reviewed for accuracy on 12 April 2021

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