Nonprofit Volunteer Accident Insurance Explained

Nonprofit_Volunteer_Accident_Insurance.jpgAlmost all nonprofit organizations have volunteers to help support their programs and services.  However, not all organizations include Volunteer Accident coverage as part of their overall nonprofit insurance program.  But what is it and how does it coordinate with other coverages?

We all understand the need for volunteers and value the labor they provide.  We know that volunteers need to be well cared for and kept safe if we want them to continue to donate their time.  But accidents do happen and when they happen it’s important that you can respond quickly and immediately to help your injured volunteer.

Volunteers are not usually covered by the nonprofits workers compensation policy.  There are several reasons for this:

  • Most insurance companies do not like to write workers comp coverage for volunteers as their roles and duties can be undefined and variable

  • It ‘s hard to determine a reportable wage value for volunteers

  • Volunteers are not subject to the same laws as employees

  • Most nonprofit organizations do not have volunteer handbooks that outline acceptable behavior and safety


So, instead of workers compensation coverage, how to you support and protect your volunteers in the event of an accident where they are injured?

General Liability

If a volunteer is injured due to something your organization did or did not do then the volunteer can make a claim or file a lawsuit against you.  In this scenario, you would have to be negligent or legally liable in some way and then your General Liability coverage may pay the claim.  For example:

  • A volunteer is hit by a forklift in the warehouse of a food bank.

  • A volunteer is bitten by a dog while helping at an animal shelter.

  • A heavy object falls on a volunteer while he is helping set up a fundraising event.

But what if it is a pure accident?  Then there would be no coverage under the organization’s general liability policy.  For example:

  • A volunteer cuts himself with a knife while helping to prepare meals at a soup kitchen

  • A volunteer slips and falls in your parking lot reporting for duty on a rainy day and breaks her arm


Medical Insurance

Under the Affordable Health Care Act (ACA) everyone is legally required to have health insurance. The law applies to all of your volunteers. Due to the nature of volunteer work and the fact that is it “voluntary,” nonprofit organizations have little control over these people.  Therefore, it is reasonable to expect that all volunteers are in compliance with the law and have health insurance.

It is recommended that you have all volunteers sign a waiver before they engage in any work on behalf of your organization.  The waiver should include the following:

  • Understanding that the work is voluntary and the volunteer is not covered by Workers Comp.

  • Agreement that the volunteer is legally required to have health insurance

  • Understanding that the volunteer will report any unsafe working conditions.


Volunteer Accident Insurance

Even though you are not expected or required to provide any coverage to volunteers in the event of an injury and even though they are required to have health insurance, it is still ethically important to take good care of volunteers.  As I mentioned, they are vital to the mission of your organization, and, therefore, they need to be treated accordingly.

Nonprofit Volunteer Accident Insurance provides coverage for the costs that volunteers ensure if they are involved in an accident during their activities for you. The policies pay on a reimbursement basis and are generally more than whatever medical insurance the volunteer has.  But it can be purchased on a primary basis as well.

The coverage is usually inexpensive unless you have a large volunteer staff and/or they are participating in riskier activities (e.g. sports related programming).  The vast majority of nonprofits only pay between $100 and $400 per year.

Volunteer Accident coverage as several parts:

  • Accidental Medical – as the name implies this part of the coverage pays for medical costs associated with an injury.  On an excess basis, it covers things like deductibles, medical devices, and other out of pocket expenses.  On a primary basis, it replaces health insurance up to the limit of coverage.

  • Disability – if a volunteer becomes disable working on your behalf there are limited benefits to provide income replacement.

  • Dismemberment – if a volunteer loses a limb or digit during their services then they can receive a lump sum payout.  The payout is determined by what is lost.

  • Death – if a volunteer dies while volunteering his or her heirs will receive a lump sum payment.

Managing volunteers can be a bit tricky.  While your duty to them is different than your duty to your employees you still need to have the proper procedures in place to set boundaries and to take care of them.  This can lead both to great volunteer security and satisfaction which leads to greater volunteer retention.   Which in turn helps to stabilize your organization and helps you work toward your mission.

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