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Volunteers are the lifeblood of nonprofits and social service organizations who look to serve the public. But even though volunteers are not usually paid or considered employees, they can still represent liabilities for the organizations that they represent. The actions of a volunteers can create devastating liability, especially when it comes to personal injury claims. The law usually has some relief for negligent acts of volunteers, however these laws can vary widely from state to state and are usually misunderstood.
Nonprofits should not make the mistake of assuming that they are exempt from liability because it’s a charity or it serves the public in some way. What needs to be done is implementing an effective training program from the start so volunteers can understand their role and how they can affect, both positively and negatively, those they help.
How to Stay Covered
Before nonprofits haul in an education and training program to better educate their volunteers, they need to make sure to stay covered financially and legally in the event of a claim. If a social nonprofit helps homeless or disadvantaged members of society, there are always risks related to daily tasks by volunteers. Having social services insurance will provide peace of mind if something arises.
And claims aren’t always external as volunteers can look to claim workers compensation against a nonprofit. Nonprofit workers compensation California risks need to be protected against just as much as being protected against claims related to volunteer negligence.
Having Consistency in Practice
Training is the bedrock for creating an environment of quality and care in a nonprofit and is something all organizations should strive to reach. Volunteers should be trained in the same way across the board before they are broken in to groups of their respective specialty areas. Having consistency baked in to their training will help to ensure that there is a high level of order and organization in a volunteer training program. The same tips, tools and expectations should be shared for interacting with those you are serving to ensure that all workers know how to respond to the variety of people they help.
Cut Down on Liabilities
An effective training program for volunteers should not only help to shed light on the risks they face with working with other people and serving the public but also the effects these risks have on the nonprofit itself.
Depending on the area they help in, volunteers should understand that a nonprofit can still be held liable for things like negligence and injuries that affect those in need. For example, if a volunteer at a hospital is mopping the floor and a patient slips and falls, this could have major legal ramifications against the facility.
Or if a nonprofit volunteer is going door-to-door to get the word out about a cause, the owner of the home may feel they are being harassed and bring claims against the volunteer and organization. Having an understanding within volunteer training as to the boundaries and legal implications of risks can help to keep things transparent and understood.
Being able to be instructed as much as being able to instruct are equally important. Getting feedback from volunteers on training programs will help to adjust expectations and provide the right guidance in implementing an effective program moving forward.
Be sure to get input from volunteers who are currently on board. Ask what they wish they had known before they started doing the work and let volunteers help you design orientation and training for new volunteers. After orientation and training, have new volunteers provide feedback through surveys about how they enjoyed or did not enjoy the program. The goal of training is to produce volunteers who are satisfied with what they are doing and to help educate them so they do not pose a risk to those they are helping.
About Tangram Insurance Services
Located across the Golden Gate Bridge, just outside of San Francisco, Tangram is a full-service Managing General Underwriter and Program Manager offering specialty programs. We focus on industry-relevant coverage, competitive pricing, and practical business and risk management solutions for your clients. Since we are not all things to all people, we make sure to create outstanding custom-built solutions that matter to those businesses, and the brokers who serve those industries. Contact us at (888) 744-9810.