Volunteers are often essential to a nonprofit’s operations, and because they can be involved in almost every part of an organization’s work, volunteers can pose risks if not managed properly. Unauthorized activities by volunteers can have serious consequences, so it’s a good idea for nonprofits to consider these tips on managing their volunteers.
Before bringing new volunteers on board, it is important for nonprofits to have a screening process in place. This starts with requiring all volunteers to submit an application and participate in an interview to determine if the volunteer would be a good fit for the organization. If the volunteer position is one where sensitive information is involved, consider conducting a background check and asking for references just as you would with a potential new hire.
Training your volunteers begins with a good onboarding process to help orient new team members to the nonprofit’s mission, history, values, and goals as well as the necessary policies and procedures the nonprofit has in place to conduct its work. The level of training required for each volunteer will depend on his or her role in the organization.
One of the most important factors to consider is the scope of a volunteer’s real authority with respect to the organization. In other words, is the volunteer acting as an agent of the nonprofit? An agency relationship can put the organization on the hook for the words and actions a volunteer takes. Some of the ways that a volunteer can compromise your nonprofit or church include:
- Making statements or taking actions that threatens the organization’s tax status (for example, by making partisan political statements on behalf of a 501(c)(3) organization).
- Taking actions that are contrary to the organization’s governance documents.
- Making offensive, misleading, or dishonest statements to constituents (donors, service recipients) or outside parties (vendors).
- Committing crimes while volunteering.
All volunteers — but especially those with access to sensitive information — need sufficient supervision, mentoring, and communication to help avoid liability risk and create a more positive volunteer experience.
Many nonprofits and churches rely on volunteers to help their operations run smoothly. Those volunteers need to be recognized for their effort so they feel appreciated and remain engaged with the organization.
The Church Law Center of California assists churches with organization, governance, and risk management. We can help your church craft policies so it is in a better position to address problems as they arise. To find out how we can help your church, call us today at (949)-245-3177 or reach out to us through our contact page.