5 great tips for your volunteer liability waivers

Volunteers on a construction project

Your volunteers generously give their time and take on a wide variety of activities that are critical to your mission. Some of these activities may involve risk of injury. As examples, nonprofits use volunteers to do construction-related work, operate forklifts, pack heavy boxes, drive and drop food off or provide home based care to senior citizens. Depending upon the nature of the work that your volunteers undertake, it’s important that you protect your organization and give volunteers a clear understanding of the kinds of tasks that they are likely to do.  Volunteer liability waivers are a great way to do this.

What is a volunteer waiver of liability?

Volunteers must sign a liability waiver document before participating in some of your activities which involve any kind of risk. As abundant precaution, you may want to get all volunteers to sign a liability waiver. This may be a requirement from your insurance provider too. So check on that.

Typically, a waiver protects your nonprofit, in the event of an accident involving any of your volunteers. It should also serve as a document of understanding between your nonprofit and your volunteers. It’s important that volunteers are aware of the risks involved and are willing to sign the waiver before taking part in the activity.

We’ve got some tips and best practices for volunteers and waivers. So read on.

1. Keep it simple, but cover your bases

The actual language in the waiver document may vary depending upon your organization’s mission. But make sure that you cover the basics. Make sure that your waiver ensures that your organization is protected by law, so that you can continue to have a positive impact on your community. Your waiver should be able to clear your organization of fault if an accident should occur. Make sure that you tell your volunteers that they are not covered by your workers compensation. Make sure that you talk about specific risks associated with your activities, while also ensuring that you include general hazards involved with volunteering. Depending on your organization’s requirements and insurance requirements, decide if you want an annual waiver, a waiver that does not expire or a waiver for each time that the volunteer works with you.

2. Make sure that your volunteers understand the work involved

Regardless of the kind of risks involved, ensure that your volunteers understand the kind of work that you expect them to do. Your volunteer liability waiver is the appropriate place to do this. Your liability waiver should educate volunteers and parents and guardians (in the case of minor volunteers) about the nature of the activity, it’s purpose, benefits and possible risks. Include clear, specific  descriptions of the activity and identify possible risks associated with the activity. Decide if you want to have a general liability for all volunteers and a separate one for volunteers doing more dangerous activities such as construction, heavy lifting, driving, etc. Include information that will prepare volunteers for the specific type of activity:

  • Locations and environments where the activities could occur
  • Explanation of the individuals volunteers can expect to work with (senior citizens, young children, persons with disabilities, etc)
  • Specific requirements for the activity (minimum weight s/he must be able to lift, specific type of driver’s license, etc)
  • If you need background checks on the volunteers, then make sure that you include it.

3. Clear, straight-forward language

Don’t get into “lawyer-speak” when drafting your waiver. It’s critical that volunteers understand what you’re asking them to sign. The waiver should be understandable by a person without legal training. So avoid unnecessary jargon and keep the language simple. Avoid small-print. Make sure that all of your document is clear, visible and understandable, so that volunteers understand that they can trust your organization.

4. Easily accessible waivers

Signed waiver on the mobile
Signed waiver on the mobile

Waiver forms should be easily accessible to your volunteers and to your organization. The best way to do this is to keep it all electronic and store it within your volunteer management system. This makes it easier to serve up the relevant waivers to your volunteers and also to retrieve signed waivers when required.

If you have volunteers signing up for tasks on your website, ensure that they see and sign your waiver forms. If possible, email your waiver forms to your volunteers, so that they can read and sign them at their convenience. If you use software to check-in volunteers, make sure that you can get volunteers to read and sign the waivers (if they haven’t already done so), before they check-in to the activity.

5. It’s not just about paper-work

The safety of your volunteers is of the greatest importance. it’s not enough to make sure that your volunteers have signed a waiver. Ensure that your organization is properly insured and has the right safety equipment in place for your volunteers, Make sure that your volunteers know how to use the safety equipment. If you need specific medical clearances for your volunteers, make sure that you have that in place before the volunteer participates in the activity. Talk to your insurance provider and see if it’s possible to get some form of volunteer insurance.

In conclusion

Volunteers want to do good and are appreciative when an organization looks out for them. They want good policies in place and to have proper training and management. Retaining volunteers requires not just gratitude, but also an organized approach that is protective of both your volunteers and your organization.

5 great reasons for tracking volunteer time

Last week, I was talking to the Executive Director of a small nonprofit. She said they had only 4 full-time employees, but over an 18 day period just before Christmas, they have over 2,500 volunteers who make their annual program possible.

The value of a volunteer’s time donated to a nonprofit is enormous. But tracking those hours is a challenge for most nonprofits – how many hours volunteers contributed and the impact of those hours (what was accomplished? what difference was made?). With volunteer time outweighing that of paid employees for most nonprofits, volunteer hours are exceptionally valuable.

So let’s take a quick look at 5 great reasons why tracking your volunteers’ time and including it in your budget and financials makes sense.

1. Money, money, money.

Funding for nonprofits
Funding for nonprofits

One of the biggest issues for most nonprofits is funding. It’s key to keeping your nonprofit afloat. Tracking volunteer hours can help your organization prove more qualified for a grant.

When reporting your organization’s impact to a grant provider, including volunteer hours, makes a huge difference. Independent Sector recently released the value of volunteer time of $ 25.43 per hour. If your nonprofit records just 8 hours of volunteer time per day, that works out to over $ 52,800 a year, calculated for just for 5 days a week.

The power of your nonprofit stems from the fact that so many individuals come together to work for your mission – something that is bigger than any single individual. When tracking and sharing your volunteers’ time and impact, grantors clearly see that you have a team of people that believe in your mission and that you are making a positive contribution to your community.

2. Keep ’em coming.

Retain volunteers
Retain volunteers

Volunteers appreciate recognition. Remember that we always count what we value. So tracking volunteer time, clearly shows your volunteers that you value the time that they are putting into your nonprofit. Sometimes, volunteers don’t see the connection between their donated time and your mission. This is the primary reason why volunteers don’t build long-term relationships with nonprofits. By crediting the volunteers’ time and recognizing them when they hit certain milestones, you automatically build a system of transparency and trust. And this can be key for volunteer retention.

3. Build an A-1 reputation.

Build a great reputation
Build a great reputation

Use your volunteer hours to attract new volunteers and donors. Use your tracked hours to build a great volunteer narrative. Let’s say, 300 volunteers put in, on an average 10 hours each over the year. That gives you a total value of 300*10*25.43 or $ 76,290 of volunteer work. Use that number not just to thank your volunteers, but put that in front of your donors and your grantors. When they see the impact of your volunteers’ time, they are more likely to want to be a part of your nonprofit. And the fact that you actually have concrete data, makes your organization seem more legitimate to prospective donors and grantors.

4. Get your ducks in a row.

Analyze your data
Analyze your data

Once you start tracking your volunteer time and where it is being spent, you can start improving your volunteer programs and ultimately strengthen your organization. Make sure that you ask your volunteers to track what they are working on, in addition to tracking the actual time spent. Once you collect this data, you can put it to good use to adjust your programs.

Let’s say, you notice that the total number of volunteer hours has increased, but you are actually getting fewer school backpacks packed. You look at your volunteer data in detail, and you see that 60% of your volunteer time is going towards marketing and administrative tasks and only 40% towards packing the backpacks.

Now if your short-term goal is to grow your nonprofit through marketing efforts, then this may be fine. On the other hand, if you want to get more backpacks out to school kids, then you can easily adjust your volunteer programs to need more volunteers on the backpack packing job. There’s countless ways you can improve and strengthen your programs once you have the volunteer data to back it up.

Tracking volunteer time will help you align your organization goals and your volunteers’ efforts.

5. No taxes, yeaaaah!

As a nonprofit, you don’t have to pay taxes. That’s great, but you still can’t escape

Nonprofit taxes
Nonprofit taxes

the paper-work. Use the Form 990 to your advantage. Since this form must be made public and the data is available on sites like Guidestar, donors and grantors use it to evaluate organization (s) that they want to engage with. Displaying accurate volunteer hours, is not just the right thing to do, it can also help with your funding efforts.

Never assume that your volunteer hours won’t look impressive, the fact that people in your community believe in you, to put in their own time is a huge testament to your nonprofit. Being transparent with your volunteer time gives your a great image with the public, with funders and with the government.

With Salesforce’s Nonprofit Success Pack and Volunteers for Salesforce, managing donors and volunteers is now easy. And with V4S Mobile, you can now track volunteer hours very easily on mobile devices. Reach out to us at info@dftly.com, for more information on volunteer tracking. We’ll be happy to help.