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MAVA Voice

Volunteer Benefits
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Hi Samatha!

You've asked a very timely question - MAVA staff (Karmit and me) and volunteers (Mary Quirk and Judie Russell) have been part of an ad hoc work group formed with some colleagues in other parts of the country to explore the issue of how organizations reimburse and/or incentivize volunteers. You may have seen a survey sent out through MAVA on this topic a few months ago; we got a lot of great responses - many from Minnesota - and are still digging through the results but I can give you a taste of what we are finding.

It turns out that this not a clear-cut issue, as many organizations define conditions for providing reimbursements, or what might be considered a benefit, differently. Our work group was hoping to provide a tool to help Volunteer Managers make decisions on this, but we need to to first gather some more feedback, based on our initial findings. We plan to do so at the Points of Light conference, where we may be leading a workshop to present the findings to date and seek more input on what is needed by the field about this area.

One thing we have found is that while guidance on how to handle 'extra' benefits to volunteers is lacking, it does present the potential for problems, especially if that extra benefit could be seen as a form of compensation. Our working group assembled a short list of articles one of our members found related to these concerns, which I can send to you (or anyone else on the forum who would like it); a few that might relate to your question are:

- Matthews, Kayla. 6 Ways to Pay Your Volunteers (Even When You Can’t Pay Them). Nonprofit Pro. Harris, May and Linda Rosenthal. Appreciating Volunteers: How Much is Too Much? For Purpose Law Group.
- Head, George L., Ph.D. Tempting But Confusing and Dangerous: Paying Volunteers Just a Little Something. Nonprofit Risk Management Center.

Sorry for the long answer - I hope it's useful!

Polly Roach
MAVA - VGF Program Manager
There is a line that we have to walk so that benefits aren't viewed as compensation but with so many of our campuses recognizing their volunteers in different ways we are looking at something more consistent across our organization. If your organization offers special benefits to your volunteers, what are they? (free product, discounted or free memberships, access to amenities, etc.) Thanks!
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