CalNonprofits Insurance Services

Covering Volunteers

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Volunteers are very important to many nonprofits, in many cases they are the lifeblood of the organization. You should always include volunteer safety in your risk management program. The questions you need to ask are:

  1. What could go wrong?
  2. Can we prevent these things from happening?
  3. How do we protect our organization while also protecting our volunteers?

You can transfer some of the risks associated with volunteers to insurance policies but a good risk management program is still needed to fill in the gaps and prevent surprises. Below are just a few scenarios involving volunteers and insurance:

Injury to the volunteer – Should your volunteer be injured while working with your organization, there are three insurance policies that might respond – General Liability, Workers’ Compensation, and Volunteer Accident Insurance. If the nonprofit could be considered negligent, the General Liability policy would defend the nonprofit. The General Liability policy usually has Medical Payments coverage that can cover the costs of medical care regardless of negligence. However, it is usually best to try and cover the volunteer through other policies that don’t cause conflict or adversely impact your loss history.

Some workers’ compensation carriers will allow the organization to purchase coverage for volunteers – this policy would be primary to any other coverage including the General Liability policy. Claims under the Workers’ Compensation policy could impact the organization’s experience modifier, loss history, and the pricing of future policies. Additionally, you must account for all hours that volunteers spend in service to your organization and pay a premium based on a salary equivalency for those hours.

A more common solution is the purchase of a Volunteer Accident Policy. This type of policy will pay medical claims regardless of fault, and is usually an inexpensive way to provide coverage for volunteer injuries. A volunteer could still claim the organization is negligent and make a claim under the General Liability policy.

Injuries/damage to clients or other third parties – Most General Liability policies written for nonprofits will include volunteers as insureds, so the policy will respond the same as if a regular employee caused damage or injury. Professional services may also be covered by the policy – it is important to check with us to make sure volunteers are covered for providing or failing to provide services to your clients.

Automobile accidents in vehicles owned by the nonprofit – As long as you give your volunteers permission to drive the organization’s vehicle; they are covered as a driver. Volunteer drivers should be screened and trained with the same diligence applied to employee drivers.

Automobile Accidents in the volunteer’s own vehicle – The volunteer’s own insurance would pay before any coverage the nonprofit may carry. The organization should carry Nonowned Auto Coverage if ANYONE is driving their own vehicle on behalf of the organization. You should make sure your policy includes an endorsement that includes “Volunteers as Insureds”.

Volunteers are crucial to the success of many nonprofits; it’s in everyone’s best interest that they are properly protected. Your CalNonprofits Account Manager can help you understand your policies and provide guidance for developing your risk management program.

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