What are Volunteer Expenses?

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Volunteering is work undertaken for free, to benefit a community-focused organisation or cause. However, that doesn’t mean that it should cost you anything other than your time. So, most volunteering organisations will reimburse out-of-pocket expenses.

Out-of-pocket expenses simply cover the costs you have already encountered, within the boundaries set by an organisational policy. Such expenses are not taxable and should not have any impact on volunteers who claim benefits.

Most often, out-of-pocket expenses for volunteers include:

Travel Costs

If you are required to travel as part of your volunteering or to participate in your chosen volunteering activity, your chosen organisation may reimburse the costs associated with that travel. You won’t be paid a block of money up front, instead you’ll have to pay first and then the organisation will pay you back.

Sometimes, organisations may offer to reimburse your fuel costs. This is normally calculated at a set value per mile of travel (normally between £0.20 and £0.50), which includes your fuel costs and a nominal payment towards the upkeep of your vehicle.


Subsistence covers your necessary food and drink, though this is only relevant to certain types of volunteering opportunity. Normally, organisations will only contribute or cover your subsistence costs if you are participating in a residential or high-energy activity. These expenses will normally be paid in the same way as travel costs; you’ll be given a budget the organisation can support (like £5 for a lunch time meal) and then you’ll be able to claim back up to that £5 on applicable food/drink items.

Note that alcohol and expensive fancy restaurant meals are rarely included, so be sure to check with your volunteering organisation before buying anything! Else, you’ll be out of pocket when they say they can’t reimburse your costs.

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