Volunteer risk management is a complex process, and we will only touch on the highlights here. It is important to preface these remarks on volunteer risk management by pointing out that all nonprofit organizations, regardless of their size, activities or role in the community, must have an overall risk management strategy in place to address every aspect of their organization’s operations. Every nonprofit should engage in consultation with an insurance professional who specializes in the unique needs of nonprofits, working together to ensure the proper risk management strategies are in place. Your organization should identify the risks unique to your organization and develop a risk management center. This is critical not just for the long-term survival of the organization but is also a social responsibility. An organization lacking a proper risk management plan risks endangering the very community they seek to serve.
Get in touch to find out what LAMB INSURANCE SERVICES can do to provide property, casualty, workers’ compensation and risk management solutions to organizations of any size and budget.
Unique Risks of Organizations with Reliance on Volunteer Service
Nonprofit organizations provide services that carry inherent risk. Adding the uncertainty of volunteers into the mix creates an even greater challenge for a nonprofit. However, that risk can be controlled and mitigated through proper planning.
Volunteer activity is one of the most common risks for a nonprofit organization, and often raises a number of questions, such as:
• If the actions of a volunteer cause harm to a third party, how will the financial consequences of that harm be addressed?
• What if a volunteer is injured?
• Will an injured volunteer’s medical bills be covered with my current insurance?
The impact of questions like these can be mitigated through proper volunteer-risk planning, including the identification of appropriate up-front vetting, volunteer training, screening, onboarding, and ongoing supervision.
A nonprofit must identify the key activities, services, or programs their volunteers will engage in and determine the risks that accompany each of those factors. Understanding the volunteer liability enables the identification of appropriate training and risk-control actions for those activities, thereby reducing an organization’s overall exposure. For example, accepting volunteers without aptitude or skills appropriate to their assignment, or failing to use attitude or temperament assessments when recruiting those volunteers poses numerous risks to the organization, including reputation risk.
How to Minimize Volunteer Liability
The risks associated with nonprofit organizations are truly unique, but there are a number of actions that can be taken to minimize that risk. While the starting point should always be the application of “common sense” to create a safe environment, a number of other guidelines regarding volunteer engagement should be followed:
• Do not create a situation where volunteers interact one-on-one with clients, especially if the client is a child, elderly or disabled.
• Have a thorough volunteer-vetting process that includes aspects such as personality assessments, thorough reference-checking and background-checks.
• Closely supervise your volunteers and provide explicit instruction.
• Create a handbook that details your organization’s volunteer program policies, procedures and behavioral expectations.
• Always have a formal orientation program for volunteer roles.
• Employ liability waivers.
• Provide safety equipment where appropriate.
• Setup interactive sessions with the volunteers, volunteer management, and the risk management committee. Consider volunteer input when setting policies; after all, they are your “boots on the ground.”
• Terminate the volunteer service of individuals whose continued performance creates an unacceptable risk to the organization (however, this course of action creates its own risk challenges).
The risk related to engaging in volunteer support for a nonprofit is extremely complex, and this blog barely scratches the surface. Detailed and comprehensive information is available and should be accessed and applied to your unique organization’s volunteer risk management plan. Most importantly, work with an insurance and risk management specialist who understands the needs of a nonprofit organization to ensure you’re properly protected. Get in touch with us to find out how we have helped hundreds of nonprofit organizations like yours, and what we can do to minimize risk for your organization.