If you are someone who is looking to get started in the volunteering sector, then you may have many questions – particularly surrounding expenses and how to get reimbursed for what you spend. In this article, we will be looking at what your rights are as a volunteer, what qualifies as an expense, and ways that you can get easily reimbursed from the organisation that you work with.
When volunteering your time for an organisation, charity, or business, it’s vital that you understand what can and can’t be paid back. An ‘expense’ is any cost that has been incurred during, before, or after working with an organisation.
When it comes to your rights as a volunteer and expenses, it’s very simple. You may be paid tax-free for any out-of-pocket expenses, which you have incurred whilst you performed your role. As you are already volunteering your time, organisations are required to reimburse you for anything you spend during your time with them.
So, what qualifies as an ‘expense?’ Let’s break down what an ‘expense’ actually means.
If you travel to your position, whether that be in your car, on the train, using the local bus services, biking, or even, using a form or taxi or uber, then this will qualify as an expense. Remember to explain to your employers during the screening process how and why you will take your chosen form of transport to your volunteering role. This is in good practice, as they will then be aware of your upcoming reimbursement requests.
If you send something, like a letter or package, using the postal service and you pay for a stamp or shipping, then again, this can be considered an expense. Even if it’s as little as a few pounds for a stamp, you can still include this on your invoice as you are paying out of your personal pocket.
Protective clothing is another one that many volunteers forget. If you need to purchase something to make you feel safer at work and perform your role more efficiently, then this can too be considered an expense that can be reimbursed. For example, if you need a high-vis jacket or steel cap boots.
Now that we have covered what is considered an expense, what is the easiest method when it comes to asking to be reimbursed? Before the pandemic, money was typically exchanged for expenses. Invoices would be handled manually and you would usually raise any reimbursement queries face-to-face.
But now, many payments are done online, via bank transfer to avoid unnecessary close contact between parties. You may have to email your banking information to the correct point of contact within the organisation and then they would input it into their system. Both of these methods are time-consuming and unsafe. By emailing across any personal information, you will always run the risk of having your details stolen or seen by unauthorised personnel. Not to mention, it takes a lot of time for the internal team at the organisation or business to complete this method of reimbursement. Even though these payments are done online, they will have to put them into their payroll system by hand, and that is also assuming that all the details from the volunteer are correct the first time. If the volunteer has accidentally given the wrong information, then the payroll authoritative will have to go back and further communicate to receive what they need to make the payment.
Systems such as vHelp, which is both a website and app, can help organisations pay their employees more efficiently and in turn, help their volunteers get paid faster. With vHelp payments are reimbursed within 24hrs, ensuring your volunteers or users are not left out of pocket for long periods. As well as this, using systems such as this can actually reduce admin and paperwork by over 85%. The organisation will have to register with vHelp where all of their card details will be stored securely and then simply, invite their users or volunteers to register. Easy peasy, and a lot more effective!