Volunteers are the lifeblood of many nonprofits around the country – keeping organizations humming without adding much expense. Approximately 26% of Americans volunteer for a nonprofit, business or religious group each year. Bureau of Labor Statistics

But are they protected – and is your nonprofit protected – against claims levied by volunteers?

Reading through some claims scenarios culled from over 20 years of data at The Nonprofits Insurance Alliance Group, it goes without saying that this should be a top concern for all nonprofits that rely on volunteers.

  • A volunteer sexually abused multiple children over a four-year period. The nonprofit had not provided adequate supervision and was held responsible for $4,000,000 in claims.
  • A volunteer claimed that the nonprofit had discriminated against him because of his sexual orientation. The claim settled for $750,000, most of which was for plaintiff attorney fees.
  • A volunteer slipped and fell on the nonprofit’s floor and fractured her hip. She sued the landlord who turned out to be an additional insured on the nonprofit’s insurance policy. The claim settled for $550,000, which included a Medicare lien.

These are not scenarios that any leader expects to happen during their tenure – especially ones working in the basic needs of human services. Having the appropriate insurance in place to cover a nonprofit’s various exposures (auto, liability, professional, sexual misconduct) is obvious. What’s not so obvious for many nonprofits is to make sure their volunteers are included in their policies as additional insureds as well. The vast majority of volunteers are working for an organization with philanthropic motives and deserve to be protected should the unexpected happen.

Large nonprofit organizations should consider Volunteer/Participant Accident Insurance. This will typically provide excess insurance over group insurance (if there is any) on a no-fault basis. In some states, volunteers could also be covered under workers’ compensation policies, providing insurance coverage for injuries to the volunteer incurred while volunteering.

Make sure the actions your volunteers are involved in are safe for them as well. Effective risk management will minimize the negative effects when losses occur, shows your conscientiousness, and can, in some instances make your nonprofit a better risk, lowering premiums. Adequate protection for your organization and volunteers shows that you care and makes your nonprofit more attractive to volunteers who give so much of themselves.