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Volunteer expenses

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Although volunteering is unpaid, it should not cost a volunteer anything either. That’s why it’s good practice to reimburse a volunteer for out-of-pocket expenses incurred in the course of their volunteering.

Why reimburse expenses?

Expecting volunteers to cover their own expenses could be a barrier to people with low incomes or little spare cash. Not reimbursing expenses could also deter people who feel they are already contributing a significant amount of time.

Which expenses should be reimbursed?

Any reasonable expenses incurred while volunteering should be reimbursed. This includes but is not limited to:

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

For expenses such as meals and refreshments, it may be useful to set a limit. Many organisations do this so it’s worth checking to see what others in your area do and to ensure that they reflect what local costs are in your area.

You should ensure your volunteers are aware of the rules about expenses, to ensure they don’t incur unnecessary costs. This can be outlined in a volunteer expenses policy which should be shared with volunteers when they are recruited, and could be part of induction or a volunteer handbook if you have one.

Further information

NCVO members can access our volunteers and the law section for guidance on understanding your legal rights and obligations when managing volunteers.

NCVO has published a report Time Well Spent, based on a national survey of over 10,000 people about the volunteer experience. The report contains findings on attitudes towards reimbursement of expenses.

Page last edited Jan 24, 2019

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