3 December 2009
Call to value volunteers by reimbursing expenses
In marking International Volunteer Day (5 December), community and other organisations who involve volunteers in their
programmes should review how well they value the contribution those volunteers make according to Alison Marshall,
Chairperson of Volunteering NZ.
“Reimbursing volunteers out of pocket expenses is a very tangible way of showing that volunteers are valued and the
recent changes to the Taxation Act making it clear that reimbursement payments are not taxable income provides an
opportune time to review policies on paying reimbursements,” she said
Research on reimbursement payments undertaken by both Volunteering NZ and a Victoria University honours student showed
that a significant proportion of organisations do not pay any reimbursements.
Many do not because they say they do not have sufficient funding to make such payments. Others have policies that
determine that they do not make such payments.
“This latter group of organisations might well ask themselves why they should not make such payments,” said Ms Marshall.
“It is accepted that volunteers give their time for free, but that does not mean they should have to be out of pocket
through paying for transport and other costs when volunteering unless they choose to not claim reimbursements.”
She also suggested that organisations which do not have the funding to pay reimbursements consider building such
payments into the budgets they use when seeking funding support. Through this they may achieve the extra income needed
to make reimbursements, while at the same time reflect the true costs of running their particular service.
The organisations can benefit in the long run, because it will make it possible to recruit those potential volunteers
who do not volunteer now because they cannot afford the out of pocket costs.
“This will particularly affect those wanting to volunteer after losing paid employment as well as those who have little
or no income”, said Ms Marshall.