Many nonprofit organizations, like for-profit businesses, are facing a shortage of workers, both paid and volunteer.
At the same time, volunteer work has become a way for students and the unemployed to gain or retain skills while looking for work. As a risk manager for a nonprofit, how do you recruit good volunteers, keep them and protect them while they’re volunteering?
According to Sandra Thomson, a consultant for nonprofit organizations who works with Canadian insurance broker Shaw Sabey & Associates Ltd., based in Vancouver, British Columbia, people volunteer their time, efforts and talents because they received an emotional or functional benefit from doing so.
A successful risk management program matches volunteers to their role within your organization and has the proper insurance and risk prevention programs in place to protect both the volunteers and the organization.
Recruiting, managing and retaining the right volunteers can mean the difference between success and failure for some nonprofit organizations, Thomson explains. Long-term volunteers hold organizational knowledge, require less training and are better advocates for the organization that those that only stay for a short time.
Volunteer positions have risks associated with them that might not be immediately apparent, for example:
1. Create job descriptions
A job description outlines the details of the job at hand and offers a look at what the volunteer can expect to do for the organization. The best job descriptions, Thomson says, contain specific information, such as time requirements and job duties, and the next steps for getting involved.
The job description also should be as detailed as one for a paid position, outlining specific skills that may be needed, for example, an emergency medical technician certification to be a volunteer with an ambulance service or volunteer fire department
2. Recruit effectively
As with recruiting for paid positions, Thomson recommends using a variety of channels to find volunteers who will be the right fit for your organization. She suggests using company presentations as a way to network with local businesses — like many insurance companies — that have a culture of giving back to the community.
You can also post flyers at community locations like libraries, churches, high school or college campuses or coffee shops — wherever your potential volunteers gather.
Don’t overlook the value of your existing volunteers or staff. They can be a great resource for finding other volunteers who fit with your organization’s mission as well as explaining what skills the volunteer positions require.
3. Screen the applicant
As you would with a paid position, be sure to meet the applicants for the volunteer position in person to determine whether they have the proper skills, experience and temperament to fulfill your organization’s needs, Thomson advises. If you’re an animal shelter, you want to be sure that the volunteer isn’t afraid of dogs or cats, for example. All volunteer assignments should be assessed for level of risk, and the more risk with the position, the more in-depth the screening.
If your organization works with children, such as the local YMCA or Boys’ and Girls’ Clubs, for instance, you may need to have volunteers pass a background check. If your organization helps foreign speakers learn English, you may want to screen for the ability to communicate well and be patient with students.
4. Orient and train
Providing orientation and training to volunteers, the same way you do for paid employees, ensures that the volunteer gets a solid understanding of your culture, goals, history, policies and location. It’s also important to explain any discipline policy and what could cause a supervisor to discipline a volunteer.
After you’ve oriented the volunteers to the basics, you can begin to train them on the specifics of the jobs they’ll be doing. Training should include clear statements about what the volunteers can and can’t do. For example, hospital volunteers may be tempted to help patients who are a fall risk out of bed when they should call a nurse or nursing assistant to help.
Like paid employees, volunteers need a supervisor, Thomson and McCann note. This person should always be the same contact, and someone the volunteer can go to for answers. The supervisor should also be checking in with the volunteers regularly to ensure that the individuals are performing their roles up to the organization’s standards.
Supervisors should also be prepared to correct, discipline or fire volunteers — as they would paid employees — if the volunteer isn’t doing the job in the manner required by the organization.
Volunteers, unlike paid employees, aren’t working for your organization for financial reward. In addition to the personal gratification most volunteers feel when they give of their time, they need appreciation from the organization as well.
You can show your appreciate with something as simple as a thank-you note or as elaborate as flowers. Some organizations hold a volunteer appreciate event once a year as well
7. Maintain appropriate insurance coverage
McCann and Thomson point out that an additional consideration for successful volunteer management and retention is having coverage in place to protect your volunteer staff should an accident or lawsuit occur. Insurance should be in place before writing a job description, Thomson says, even if the position is as a volunteer theater usher, which may present a risk of falls in some older facilities.
In addition to general liability insurance, nonprofit organizations should consider directors and officers liability, which is designed to avoid personal risk in the event of a lawsuit.
“In the U.S., state laws govern whether and how an employer’s workers’ compensation insurance policy addresses job-related illnesses or injuries sustained by voluntary workers,” says Steve Heinen, a risk and insurance advisor at Atlanta-based Pritchard & Jerden Inc. He advises nonprofits to work with their insurance advisors to check statutes that apply to workers’ compensation in each state where they operate to determine whether voluntary workers are or can be protected under their existing policies.
He adds that if such coverage isn’t available under their workers’ compensation policy, nonprofits can opt to purchase a separate voluntary accident insurance policy, which provides a limited amount of medical coverage for volunteers sustaining work-related injuries or illnesses.
Nov 15, 2016 | By Rosalie L. Donlon, PropertyCasualty360.com