People who volunteer often do so because they receive an emotional or practical benefit. While volunteers play a critical role in the operation of many nonprofit organizations, they do pose unique risks. As the shortage of reliable volunteers grows, nonprofits need to consider the risks their unpaid staff pose as part of their overall risk management strategy. The following are several risks that are specific to volunteers:
- Accusations of abuse. While volunteers often give their time to help others, they put themselves in distinctive positions of risk. Claims of physical and sexual abuse go viral on a regular basis, and nonprofits need protection in place for such incidents.
- Director’s oversight. Nonprofit members can sue boards of directors for alleged illegal or discriminatory behavior.
- Personal injury. Volunteers may cause accidental injuries. For example, volunteer Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT) may drop or injure a patient accidentally while rendering medical services. As a result, they may find themselves facing a lawsuit.
How to Manage Volunteer Risks
Thankfully, nonprofits are not without solutions for handling these threats. The following are several tips to mitigate volunteer risks.
- Develop job descriptions. Volunteers may find themselves in hot water if they overreach in regards to their duties. Volunteer job descriptions should be as clear and detailed as paid positions. They should include specific necessary skills and certifications for the job.
- Screen candidates. Even though volunteers are unpaid, nonprofits should still meet with their candidates to ensure they have the required abilities and temperament for the position. For example, if a nonprofit works with children, candidates need to pass a background check.
- Provide training. Without proper training, volunteers will not know anything about the company’s culture, objectives, procedures, and more. This is a good time to outline in no uncertain terms what the volunteer should and should not do while serving in an official capacity.
- Show appreciation. Paid employees need to feel appreciated; the same is truer for volunteers. They do not receive financial compensation for their time, so a kind word can go a long way. This can be as simple as a thank you note or as involved as annual volunteer appreciation events. Volunteers who feel appreciated will dedicate themselves to performing the job well and are less prone to making costly mistakes.
One final method that all nonprofits should employ is investing in insurance. Insurance can provide financial aid to help cover court and legal expenses in the event of a lawsuit. SteelBridge can help nonprofits determine their unique risks and make suggestions for the type of coverage to mitigate them. Contact us today to learn more.