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Ilkley and District Good Neighbours (IDGN) is a charity that supports older people living independently in the areas of Ilkley and Wharfedale, West Yorkshire.

During lockdown, IDGN developed a Shop & Drop service in which volunteers shopped on behalf of a service user. With the service user not present during the shopping, the charity had to quickly devise a solution to reimburse the volunteer paying for the shop.

It was important that IDGN retained oversight of the payments between the client and volunteer. Initially, receipts were submitted to IDGN who reimbursed the volunteer and invoiced the service user. This became an overwhelming task and complex to reconcile all the various transactions as demand for help with shopping increased throughout the pandemic. In October 2020, IDGN turned to vHelp Shopping to make the process more efficient.

Recipe status

This recipe has been in use since October 2020.

We are not sharing this recipe as the perfect solution to a problem, but we believe Ilkley and District Good Neighbours’s learnings could be very useful to other organisations.

Users and needs served

  • As a service user, I need to reimburse volunteers when I can’t access cash or even get to the post box to send a cheque
  • As a volunteer paying for a service user’s shopping with my own money, I need to be reimbursed promptly
  • As a senior member of staff, I need to have oversight of all financial transactions between service users and volunteers
  • As a staff member administrating the Shop & Drop service, I need to be able to manage the reimbursement of volunteers as efficiently as possible

Software and tools used

vHelp Shopping

vHelp Shopping is a digital payment solution that allows direct, cashless payments between two parties.

IDGN uses vHelp to reimburse volunteers who shop on behalf of elderly and vulnerable clients. Clients register their card with vHelp as a one-off activity. Volunteers pay for the goods at the checkout and then claim payment via the vHelp app, directly from the service user. Volunteer claims are approved by the IDGN ShopAssist Coordinator prior to reimbursement. vHelp debits the payment from the client’s bank account.


Pricing is based on the value of the shopping purchased. Details about this can be found on their pricing page here.


Reimbursement payments to volunteers, once approved, are paid within 24 hours and often in as little as four hours.

After registering once with vHelp, the service user doesn’t need to do anything more for the volunteer to be reimbursed for every shop.

IDGN has found that the vHelp team are very communicative and quick to reply to any issues raised.

The app is simple to use, therefore volunteers don’t tend to have a problem with downloading and setting themselves up on the app with little to no training.

Recipe steps

1. Research the app

Research whether the app will reduce administrative time for your current processes.

Make sure you understand the system that vHelp uses to uphold data protection regulations so you can reassure users and volunteers that their financial information is being held securely.

2. Test the app

Trial the process of reimbursing volunteers with a small pool of users. You can start with one volunteer and one user to spot any difficulties and iron out any potential problems.

You can communicate your findings with vHelp to see whether they can implement solutions to these problems.

3. Open up the process

Get in touch with users who have encountered difficulties reimbursing volunteers manually.

Introduce this new solution to them as they are most likely to be on board with trying something digital.

This can also be applicable to family members who pay for the shopping on their relative’s behalf. Since they are already using digital methods, this process won’t seem too alien and they will be more likely to see the benefits of the new system than more tech-sceptic users.

Get volunteers to speak with the service users they are shopping for about the new process. They have a better relationship with the service user and can therefore come to an agreement as to whether this would be a better method of reimbursement.

4. Set up your volunteers and users

The user does not need to regularly interact with the app. They only need to register their card as a one-off activity.

If they are registering their card online, they will need to click a box to consent to a privacy policy. However, if they are registering their card through a phone call with a charity coordinator, your charity should send a hard copy of the privacy policy through the post and have it signed and sent back.

The volunteer and the charity coordinator have the app downloaded onto a smartphone. You can send volunteers a simple guide on how to get set up with the app.

5. Ensure the process is smooth

The volunteer can take a picture of the receipt and upload it to the app as proof of expenses. However, they should give the hard copy of the receipt to the service user so they can square the receipt with bank statements to make sure everything is working correctly.

Have a dedicated coordinator to approve all the reimbursement requests, otherwise the process can end up being slow. This coordinator can also look out for any errors, duplicates, or issues such as blocked payments that they should then contact vHelp about.

Establish good working communication with vHelp as there are certain issues that only they are able to resolve.


Ensure volunteers know they cannot use the app outside the remits of the charity’s project.

The app needs to be overseen by a charity organisation and cannot be used for individual/personal uses.


Some clients are reluctant to register a payment card with an online service like vHelp. They are not confident or comfortable with using the internet so prefer to stick with cheque payments.

Points of contact

For further information about this recipe, you can contact:



Many thanks to Ilkley and District Good Neighbours for contributing this recipe.


This recipe is licensed under a Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International Licence.

That means you are free to copy, redistribute, and build on the text of this recipe, but only for non-commercial purposes (if you want to use it for commercial purposes, get in touch with us at [email protected]). You must give credit to both Catalyst and Ilkley and District Good Neighbours and link back to this page. If you build on this recipe then you must share your version under this same licence.

Recipe published on May 6th, 2021. Last updated August 6th, 2021