Although not necessarily applicable to the practice of volunteering in all cultures, reimbursing expenses can enable the less well off to be involved in volunteering. To this extent the reimbursement of expenses is an equal opportunities issue. Travelling to the place of volunteering and paying for a meal out can claim a significant percentage of income for those on benefits or low wages. To ensure that your volunteer opportunities are accessible to a broad range of people, you will need to build volunteer expenses into any funding application.
Systems for reimbursing should be individually tailored to each organisation’s accounting procedures; however there are some general guidelines.
- Reimbursement should be offered before being asked for and paid promptly in cash.
- A system utilising receipts wherever possible can be useful when balancing petty cash.
- Agreement should be reached beforehand on what expenses will be reimbursed and this should be detailed in your expenses policy.
- If reimbursement for out of pocket expenses is part of an organisation’s common practice, it should be mandatory for all volunteers – otherwise a situation is created where a wealthier volunteer will not claim expenses and thus leave the less well off volunteer feeling stigmatised. It is also helpful if all volunteers claim expenses when monitoring the cost of involving volunteers and the impact this has on future grant applications.