Did you know that many 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations have no paid employees? Volunteers provide a critical link between nonprofits and their communities by bringing needed skills, connections, insights and resources to the organization. In some cases, they also serve as valuable public advocates and ambassadors for the nonprofit. Some organizations only have a few volunteers, while others manage hundreds of volunteers – but the fact remains that volunteers are critical to the relationship between nonprofits and their communities.
It’s important that your volunteers know what they can expect in the way of guidance and supervision, as a lack of clear directions and/or difficulty in contacting a supervisor can cause frustration and lead to mistakes. While there are many ways in which to manage a volunteer workforce, consider checking your strategies against the list below to assure your nonprofit is following the best safety practices possible:
When using youth volunteers (anyone under the age of 18), you will want to think about their duties and responsibilities and whether those activities are suitable. There are several things to consider when engaging youth volunteers:
In addition to ensuring that volunteers are safe, don’t forget to show your appreciation on a regular basis! The importance of a simple verbal “thank you” cannot be overstated.
Remember that a volunteer is an individual who performs hours of service for you without promise or expectation of compensation. Any compensation provided to a volunteer, such as a stipend, may inadvertently convert your volunteer into an employee. It can also jeopardize the legal protection for the volunteer under the Volunteer Protection Act.
While the law provides some relief for the negligent acts of volunteers, these laws vary widely from state to state and are often misunderstood. And, don’t make the mistake of assuming that your nonprofit will be exempt from liability because its purposes are charitable, or because the person responsible for the harm is a volunteer.
Managing volunteers is similar to managing paid staff. As with your staff, volunteers expect to be provided with rewarding experiences, treated with respect, trained as needed, properly supervised, and provided with feedback. Millions of volunteers across the country support our communities through all kinds of valuable service. And, they provide this service with an admirable record of safety. Since inadequate or improper training and oversight is frequently the cause of an incident and/or injury involving a volunteer, we hope these suggestions will help make that record of safety even better! Wouldn’t we all prefer to avoid incidents and injury to people and property and spend money on direct services rather than on expensive claims against the organization and volunteer?
Courtesy: Nonprofits Insurance Alliance Group
Jon Jepsen, CIC