Few volunteers get full expenses back, survey finds

Only 7 per cent of volunteers who incur expenses are being fully reimbursed, according to a survey by the Cabinet Office published yesterday.

Researchers behind Helping Out: a national survey of volunteering and charitable giving approached the 2,705 people who took part in the 2005 Citizenship Survey – 62 per cent of these took part.

Unlike the citizenship survey, Helping Out measured formal volunteering through organisations, rather than help given to family and friends. It found that 58 per cent had both volunteered and donated to charity in the past year, compared with 44 per cent of those in the citizenship survey.

The proportion who had volunteered tended to be higher among women, respondents who were employed, those actively practising a religion, those not in a group at risk of social exclusion and those in the 34 to 44 and 55 to 64 age brackets.

Of those who volunteered regularly, 95 per cent said that their efforts were appreciated and nine out of 10 said they had the chance to do activities they liked. However, almost a third said their volunteering experiences could have been better organised by the organisations concerned and 28 per cent said too much bureaucracy was involved.

Justin Davis-Smith, acting chief executive of Volunteering England and one of the report’s authors, said: “Things definitely seem to be moving in the right direction, with the majority of the volunteers having positive experiences.

“But the fact that just 3 per cent of volunteers are being fully reimbursed for any expenses incurred shows that this is still not a high priority for many charities. In a number of cases, it wasn’t that people were refused expenses but that they didn’t want to ask because they were reluctant to take money away from the charity.”

The report also found that 81 per cent had donated to charity within the past four weeks and that the majority of them did so by putting money into collecting tins.

Those aged between 35 and 44 were the most likely to give and 84 per cent of women gave, compared with 74 per cent of men.

However, the report admits that the “higher figures reported here compared with some other studies cannot be taken as indicating an increase in donations”.

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