What nonprofit expenses can or should be passed on to staff?

Photo by Mike Schmid

I used to work at a nonprofit organization where all staff were expected to volunteer at a big, annual event. This event needed hundreds of volunteers, which is why staff were required to volunteer. Now, the problem wasn’t that the staff were expected to “volunteer” their time, the issue was that in order for staff to volunteer at this event, they had to pay for parking at the event and for a ticket to get into the event (they had to have a ticket to get in to volunteer), neither of which were reimbursed by the nonprofit. So, what nonprofit expenses can or should be passed on to staff?

Well, pretty much none.

Nonprofit workers are typically paid much less that their for-profit counterparts (who get everything reimbursed), so they often cannot afford to shoulder additional expenses on behalf of their workplace. Now, that’s not to say a staff member can’t volunteer to pay for their own parking or ticket. In fact, many do. But, passing expenses off onto workers is detrimental to both the staff and the organization.

Staff may end up feeling slighted that they have to use their already small salaries to pay for expenses like parking and tickets so they can volunteer their personal time at an event. Also, the nonprofit may end up depending on staff to shoulder these and other expenses so often they forget that these expenses exist. And then a time will come when they hire new staff that won’t pay for these expenses. If staff are required to do something as part of their job, then they should not have to use their personal time or money to do it.


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