Some volunteer transportation programs can run with zero funds, but they are few - some level of financial support definitely helps your program go further!
Expenses that MAY need to be covered are:
Unless there is a volunteer willing to use their personal phone number or a non-profit that has someone to answer the phone, you will need a phone with a direct line for riders and others to reach you. The best option is to get a cell phone with a dedicated number. This can be passed around by volunteers or given to a staff person.
Another option is to keep the phone in airplane mode so that calls go directly to voicemail, and someone can check that a couple of times a day. This way, no one has to be “on duty” 24/7. Google Voice will give you both a voice recording and a written transcript so that someone has those details before returning the call. This is free through Google if you sign up as a personal user.
Driver Mileage or Recognition
As mentioned previously, many people drive as volunteers to give back to their community and/or connect with their neighbors and are not looking for any monetary benefit. If you don’t have or want funds to reimburse for mileage, you will certainly find those in your service area that wish to drive without any kind of payment.
Volunteer recognition can come in many forms, some of which may require funds and others that don’t. You may be able to find local businesses or crafters to donate goods for an annual recognition event such as a luncheon or picnic. You may wish to purchase a gas card as an annual “thank you” for your drivers.
If you are thinking about reimbursing your drivers for their mileage, you can choose the amount based on miles driven or a certain amount of money per trip to cover some gas. The amount per mile can be entirely up to the Committee or can be based on the IRS standard by year.
Many volunteer transportation projects work with just volunteer staff. Others hire a coordinator to recruit, vet and train volunteers, schedule rides, keep records and report data.
When your program is small, you can use a simple spreadsheet to keep track of your ride matches - and we've included a sample that can help get you started.
As your program grows, you will find that using a web-based tool will really be helpful in both ride matches and data collection. The prices will vary depending on the tool you use. Check out AssistedRides and ITMCountry as examples.
Conducting background checks on drivers is a good idea to assure that you are keeping your riders safe. Background checks can include DMV records, criminal records, and researching the Maine sex offender registry. Often, if your program is associated with the city/town, your local police department might be willing to do these checks for you. Sometimes, if you have a larger public transportation program in your area, they are already doing background checks for their drivers and may be willing to include your volunteers for free or at cost.
To do your own background checks, you can do so directly for a charge of $31 for each criminal record at the Maine Criminal History Request Service; the Maine Driver Record Check charges between $7-$12 (depending on how many years you want to cover) for each driving record.
If you are checking a lot of criminal records (10 or more per year), you might want to consider asubscription through Infome which will take the price for a criminal check down to $21 each. There is an annual cost for this service ($95), as well as a per report price.
There is not a legal requirement for volunteer drivers to be insured beyond what is required for all Mainers to drive. There are insurance plans, though, that cover volunteer liability beyond that. Official Age-Friendly Communities with volunteer drivers have free access to insurance for their drivers. Contact Patricia Oh with the Maine Office on Aging for more information. Volunteer driving insurance, whether accessed via Age-Friendly or on your own, can be found via https://www.cimaworld.com/.
More and more people are using the internet to research services. It is recommended that you either set up your own website or ask a related entity (municipality, another non-profit, transit company, etc.) to include information about your program on their website.
If you decide to pursue funding, check out this list of potential funding sources and a sample budget for a volunteer transportation program to get started.