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Tips and Examples

Tips and Examples

Supplement to Financial Disbursements to Volunteers 

Here we share some of the useful tips and examples from our survey.

Tips from the Field

Suggestions from the survey and interviews with volunteer engagement leaders include:

  •  If there are costs that affect most volunteers, explore whether you can avoid reimbursement by making an item available to volunteers, such as securing free parking spaces or purchasing needed equipment (i.e., gloves or tools for physical labor).
  • Align applicable parts of the volunteer reimbursement policy with staff reimbursement policies.
  • Provide opportunities to opt in or out of receiving reimbursement as some volunteers may not want reimbursement.
  • Require authorization in advance before purchases are made.
  • Address relevant details in the policy, such as any caps on reimbursement for meals and whether alcohol is an allowed expense. 
  • Explore ways to make it easy to submit requests, such as not requiring receipts for expenses under a certain amount or investigating how technology can assist, such as accepting photos of receipts attached to online forms.

Interview with Jean Nierenhausen, Volunteers and Interns – Manager, October 2019

Minnesota Historical Society

 “The biggest issue that we face is communicating with staff and volunteers on process, as volunteers rarely make purchases.”

Overview: The Minnesota Historical Society (MNHS) annually involves more than 2,000 volunteers at 26 historic sites and museums statewide. Volunteer roles range from oral history transcriptionist to event assistant. Free parking for volunteers is available at locations that charge for parking to reduce cost-related barriers to volunteering. Providing this free benefit eliminates paperwork for reimbursing volunteers individually. The MNHS volunteer policy also includes a section on reimbursements to volunteers for occasions when volunteers incur other costs.


  • Require staff approval of purchases before they are made to avoid volunteer purchases without authorization.
  • Develop a mileage form, MNHS adapted the staff form to use for volunteers.
  • With a large volunteer program, communication to staff and volunteers on the policy/procedure can be a challenge as volunteers rarely make purchases.
  • When considering new volunteer roles that have expenses attached, do a ROVI (Return on Volunteer Investment) calculation; the cost of covering those expenses may be less than you assume.

Interview with Rut Kessel, Courier Program Specialist, November 2019

Be the Match National Bone Marrow Program

“Policies are essential to ensure consistency and [that] everyone is on the same page.”

Overview: The National Marrow Donor Program – Be The Match (NMDP/BTM) annually involves 3,000-plus volunteers in roles that range from Couriers delivering life-saving products to supporters of patients and caregivers. They have a detailed volunteer reimbursement policy for Couriers as well as a reimbursement policy for other volunteer roles. The Courier expense policy covers allowed expenses such as hotels, meals, transportation, tips, international calls, etc. and the process for submitting reimbursement requests.


  • State the objective clearly at the beginning: “The objective of this policy is to establish uniform requirements and guidelines within the National Marrow Donor Program ("NMDP")’s courier program.”
  • A clear reimbursement policy helps to articulate to volunteers what is reimbursable, resolves reimbursement challenges with volunteers, and keeps volunteers, finance and legal departments on the same page.
  • Formalize communication and training on the policy; NMDP/BTM requires Couriers to complete online training on the expense policy annually.
  • Be mindful when making changes to policies, as it will mean all volunteers need to learn the new policy.
  • View the reimbursement policy as part of the organization’s risk management practices, as it directs what volunteers do by clarifying which expenses are eligible to be reimbursed. 

Supplement to Financial Disbursements to Volunteers