Your volunteers work hard for your nonprofit. But with many activities, there can be risk involved. We’ve compiled 5 tips for your Volunteer Liability Waiver that will ensure your organization is protected, and your volunteers are prepared for their next volunteer opportunity.
What is a volunteer liability waiver?
Volunteers must sign a liability waiver document in order to participate in activities with some risk involved (such as building homes or renovating community spaces). Typically, a waiver protects a service provider, like your nonprofit, from liability in the event of an accident involving any of your volunteers. In addition, the liability waiver should serve as a document of understanding between the nonprofit and its volunteers. It’s important that volunteers are aware of the level of risk involved and are willing to sign the waiver before partaking in the activity. Keep reading for best practices to ensure your nonprofit and its volunteers are safe:
1. Cover your bases
The main goal of your waiver is to ensure your organization is protected by law, so that you can continue to have a positive impact on your community. Your waiver should read as exculpatory. In other words, your waiver should be able to clear your organization of fault if an accident occurs. In addition, inform your volunteers that they are not covered under workers’ compensation, and therefore hold no rights under your workers’ compensation policy. While you will need to outline specific risks associated with a particular activity, you should also reference general hazards of volunteering. Be sure to include a waiver expiration date where applicable, if you don’t want it to be in effect forever.
2. Ensure volunteers understand the work
Regardless of the level of risk, your volunteers should understand the nature of the work you’re asking them to do; a volunteer liability waiver is an appropriate place to do so. Your waiver should educate participants, parents and guardians, and volunteers about the nature of the activity, its purpose, benefits, and possible risks. Include descriptions of the activity as specifically as possible, and identify particular risks or harm associated with the activity. Keep in mind that an activity may necessitate its own waiver if it is more dangerous than, or unique to, other volunteer opportunities you offer. For example, asking volunteers to drive a vehicle is an activity with unique risks and safety requirements. Detail the following types of information to prepare your volunteers for work specific to the activity:
- Physical requirements for the job (i.e., minimum weight one must be able to lift)
- Emotional/mental difficulties that could arise during the activity
- Locations and environments where work will occur
- Explanation of the individuals volunteers can expect to work with (i.e. young children)
3. Use clear, straightforward language
It can be tempting to use “lawyer speak” when drafting your waiver. However, it’s more important that participants understand what you’re asking them to sign. In fact, complicated waivers are less likely to hold up in court than their more transparent counterparts. The document should be understandable by a person without legal training. Therefore, you should avoid any unnecessary legal jargon. The same goes for fine print–avoid it! Small print at the bottom of documents comes across as sneaky and dishonest. All writing should be clearly visible so that volunteers know that they can trust your organization.
4. Make sure the documents are easily accessible
Waiver forms–and any other accompanying documents–should be accessible for your volunteers. Likewise, your nonprofit should establish a system to keep all necessary documents and information organized and available to the right individuals. Make sure you and other appropriate staff members can access volunteers’ emergency contact information.
Note: Connect’s waivers feature automatically asks volunteers to sign waivers when they register for certain activities. You can choose to assign these forms to any opportunities listed on your site. You can also require waivers for minors and limit opportunities to Connect users under 18 years old. Your platform organizes waiver forms automatically. Plus, the software uses e-sign technology so that users can sign required documents on their computers or smartphones and start volunteering!
Connect allows volunteers to access and sign waivers easily through their devices.
5. Don’t just rely on paperwork
Remember, the safety of your volunteers is paramount. You’re not off the hook just because volunteers signed a waiver. Make sure your organization is properly insured, your volunteers have the appropriate medical clearance to participate, and that you have put measures in place to help ensure the physical and emotional safety or your volunteers.
Liability waivers are an important component of keeping your volunteers and organizations safe, informed, and responsible. Make sure you cover your bases so that, with the help of your volunteers, your organization can continue to drive positive change in your communities.
Also published on Medium.