Volunteers given token sum for their efforts

While I agree that a price should not be tagged on volunteerism, it does not mean that volunteers should not be awarded a monetary token for their efforts ("Volunteers' pay may send wrong message" by Ms Quek May Ling; Monday).

Speaking as someone with experience in managing and recruiting volunteers, paying volunteers a token sum in appreciation of their volunteerism is nothing to be alarmed about.

Some organisations give volunteers an allowance.

Others give community service hours or payment in kind, such as appreciation gifts or a thank-you meal.

Take, for instance, a volunteer who drives his car to transport meals to homes.

We recognise his effort and, if the financial capability of the organisation allows, may give him a fair sum for his out-of-pocket expenses, such as petrol cost and parking fees.

But we do not give him an allowance to defray the cost of his car usage or his daily professional fee value.

Likewise, Pioneer Generation Ambassadors could have a different allowance matrix based on job and duration.

Ms Quek could have misunderstood the intent and definition of a volunteer in this instance.

Anyone who has signed up to volunteer already knows that he will not be paid.

Whether he is given a token sum or not is secondary.

What is important is how the organisation engages volunteers meaningfully and recognises their efforts by, at least, covering some of their out-of-pocket expenses.

Delane Lim

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 15, 2015, with the headline 'Volunteers given token sum for their efforts'. Print Edition | Subscribe