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How to Minimize Common Risks When Working with Volunteers

How to Minimize Common Risks When Working with Volunteers

As with any business, running a nonprofit organization comes with its own set of risks. When your nonprofit organization is driven by volunteer work and attendance, you have to consider an additional set of risks and opportunities. 

It’s vital to implement nonprofit volunteer insurance and other measures ensuring volunteer’s work will be done as safely, for them and for the organization, as possible. Don’t let the organization stand in its own way to protect against risks.

Stay Organized and Communicative

Communicate with volunteers regularly and often. Checking in periodically and creating a strong communication system from the start allows you to track volunteers’ progress and performance, giving volunteers the chance to speak about challenges or issues.

Volunteers’ time must be used effectively. An unorganized service event can lead to wasted time and unsatisfied volunteers. Make sure everyone’s time is used productively by having clear instructions ready for volunteers and letting them know who to report to if questions arise.

Just because volunteers are unpaid, that doesn’t mean they are unaccountable. Require them to follow organization rules, just as though they were paid employees. Discipline or terminate if rules are not followed.

Help Them Feel Connected and Appreciated

Volunteers often stop serving when they are bored or uninterested in their service role. Offer multiple ways for volunteers to be involved. Create specialized service roles and allow volunteers to select which positions interest them. This will help you to key into each volunteer’s interests and skillsets, keeping them engaged. 

Volunteers also want to feel connected to the organization they serve and want to know their time and commitment are valued. If volunteers feel their efforts aren’t appreciated, it is likely to have negative consequences. Strengthen ties between your program and volunteers by making efforts to recognize their service. Even a simple compliment on a job well done can be sufficient.

Screen and Prepare Volunteers – Thoroughly!

Conduct background checks on volunteers who would be in contact with vulnerable populations such as children and the elderly, and who would have access to the organization’s financial information. Volunteers should demonstrate they’re physically able to perform the tasks you expect to assign them. This reduces the risk of injury and that a volunteer with a preexisting injury might claim that the injury actually occurred while they were volunteering for your organization. 

Consider incorporating these items into a packet to give to all volunteers, so everyone understands expectations and requirements.

  • Registration form – including areas of interest, special skills, allergies or other medical conditions that might affect volunteer assignments, and other related information.
  • Description of available volunteer assignments.
  • Chain of command – Who does the volunteer report to? 
  • Safety rules and other rules.
  • Time sheets or other scheduling/attendance system.
  • List of tax-deductible expenses and/or reimbursement forms.
  • Photo/video release forms, for your newsletter, website, etc.

Working with volunteers has its own set of risks, but it can be incredibly rewarding for both the volunteers and your organization. Do you work closely with volunteers? Our VIS Vault contains a wealth of resources for nonprofit and volunteer-driven organizations on risk management, insurance, and many other important topics. For just $25 a year, you can have access to these resources. Join today!

About VIS

Volunteers Insurance Service Association, Inc. (VIS) was established in 1972 for the purpose of providing insurance and risk management services for volunteer-based organizations. In addition to still providing these insurance services today on a nationwide scale, we have expanded to provide noninsurance resources for members to manage their risks and improve their operations. By transferring the volunteer risk exposure to our program, we can help you protect your organization. Contact us today at (800) 222-8920 for more information on our programs and services.