Nonprofit Services -

Risk Management

Volunteer Risk Management is being aware of liability issues. When dealing with volunteers, managers need to look out for the liability of the volunteer, liability of the agency to the volunteer, and the liability of the agency because of the actions of the volunteer. Therefore, the manager have to make sure the patrons and volunteer is safe from harm. This Website points to sources that are on this topic and how to protect your organization.

A wonderful place to start is the Nonprofit Risk Center's tutorial on Risk Management

Nonprofit Basics and Advice from the Nonprofit Risk Center:

The four steps to reducing risk when dealing with volunteers are:
1. Identify risks for each volunteer position
2. Screen volunteers based on the positions risk
3. Train staff and volunteers
4. Review and update programs

1. Identify the Risks: Have Volunteer Position Descriptions and Policies already in Place

The first step is to evaluate your own programs and procedures, and to identify the possible risks.

Ask key questions:
What can go wrong? What surprises could we encounter in each of our programs? What steps can we take to avoid such problems (more training, staff, etc.)? What will we do if something goes wrong? And how will we pay for it?

Use the following flow chart to help identify risks:

State of Oregon: Risk Management Division: Risk Assessment Tools: (Flow Chart) Page)

Even before you recruit volunteers you need to identify risks and write policies and procedures to guide the volunteer and reduce the likelihood of problems. Volunteer position descriptions are a great way to let the organization express the kind of qualities they are looking for, as well as giving the volunteer a chance to evaluate the job and organization.

Articles about developing position description / volunteer policies:

"Benefits of Policies" By Linda L. Graff

"How to Write an Effective Position Description" By Laura Gassner Otting

Sample Policy Forms:

CASA: Sample Volunteer Management Policies

National & Community Service (NSRC): Use search to find sample forms

Volunteer BC: Examples of Volunteer policies for key issues (i.e. harassment)

Volunteer Position Template:

2. Screen / Interview your volunteers
Interviewing and Screening volunteers not only protects your organization it is also a way to increase the efficiency of placement.

Articles about Volunteer Screening:

Article on "Volunteer Screening" by the Points of Light Foundation:

Nonprofit Risk Center: "Checking Criminal Histories"

Tip Sheet: See, Steps to Volunteer Screening online (Missouri)

3. Orientation/Training of Volunteers/Supervision
Make sure the staff and new volunteers understand the duties, rules, and policies to avoid any miscommunications. Additionally, train your staff in Risk preparedness.

Energize: Volunteer Training

Successful Strategies for Recruiting, Training, and Utilizing Volunteers

4. Review
Always, review to ensure the programs and training are working. Continually update training to include new or reoccurring problems that are found within the organization.

Exit Interviews:

Final Note: Know your policies & the law:

Liability Basics for Nonprofit Organizations:,com_bookmarks/Itemid,44/catid,31/navstart,0/task,detail/mode,0/id,560/search,liability%20basics/

A Legal Handbook for Nonprofit Corporation Volunteers

National Laws:

The Volunteer Protection Act (Public Law 105-19)

Understanding the Volunteer Protection Act 1997 (Risk Management Resource Center)


State Laws:

Missouri Volunteer Immunity Law (MO Revised Statutes Section 537.118)

Sources for more information

Library Collection:

Family-Friendly Volunteering: A Guide for Agencies.
McCurley, Stephen. Washington, DC: The Points of Light Foundation, 1999.
NP361.37 McCurley

A Golden opportunity : managing the risks of service to seniors.
Cheshire, CT: Housing Authority Insurance Group; Washington, DC: Nonprofit Risk Management Center, 2003.
NP658.048 Golden

Managing Risk in Nonprofit Organizations: A Comprehensive Guide
Herman, Melanie L. New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2004.
NP658.155 Managing

No surprises: harmonizing risk and reward in volunteer management.
Herman, Melanie L. Washington, D.C.: Nonprofit Risk Management Center, 2009.
NP361.37068 Herman

Ready in defense: a liability, litigation and legal guide for nonprofits.
Herman, Melanie L. Washington, DC: Nonprofit Risk Management Center: PERI, c2003.
NP346.73064 Herman

Screening Volunteers to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse: A Community Guide for Youth Organizations
National Collaboration for Youth (NYC), 1997.
NP362.76 Screening

The season of hope : a risk management guide for youth-serving nonprofits.
Patterson, John C. Washington, DC: Nonprofit Risk Management Center,c2002.

What We Learned (the hard way) About Supervising Volunteers: An Action Guide for Making your Job Easier.
Lee, Jarene Frances. New York: Wiley, 1997.
NP361.3706 Lee

Online Articles: