Volunteers are the lifeblood of the typical non-profit organization. Before you recruit anybody for yours, you should consider any legal problems that might come up if you do. These simple steps can help you pick the right volunteers, put them in the best positions and keep your organization out of hot water.
Set Up Paperwork for New Volunteers
Every time you bring on a volunteer, have them sign a waiver, and show them your code of conduct. The waiver releases you from liability if anything happens to the volunteer on the job. If you plan to give the volunteer access to confidential information, they should also sign a non-disclosure agreement.
Your volunteer code of conduct is your set of guidelines on how your volunteers should behave, so it varies depending on the organization. Some non-profits let volunteers wear anything, while others need them to follow a basic dress code. Keep in mind that you may get volunteers with varied backgrounds, ages and experience levels. Although some requirements might seem like common sense to people who’ve worked in the field for years, they may come as a surprise to a newbie.
Make sure your code of conduct mentions prohibited behaviours, such as discrimination, offensive conduct or illegal activities. Having these requirements in writing may keep your non-profit safe from liability issues if a volunteer does something that violates the code.
Screen Your Applicants
Volunteers may not be employees, but they still represent your non-profit. Screening applicants helps ensure you recruit the right people. For a typical screening, you may want the volunteer to fill out an application and provide a background check to ensure they don’t have a criminal record.
Adjust your screening process based on the volunteer’s responsibilities. If you plan to bring on many volunteers who’ve agreed to do basic tasks under supervision, you may want to keep the application simple and forgo the background check to save money. For volunteers who want to work with vulnerable people, such as children or the elderly, you should conduct a background check and even get references.
Document Any Issues
Although you’re at less risk of taking on toxic volunteers when you screen them, you can always end up with one who doesn’t follow the rules. To avoid a bad situation getting worse, address any issues with the volunteer right away, and keep a record of all violations. Also, make sure you record each time you discuss the volunteer’s violation so your back is covered should any legal issues come up.
If you need to fire a volunteer, always prepare in case they claim the firing was unjust or discriminatory. Keeping a record of the violation lets you show any court you had a valid reason for the firing.
When you run a non-profit, you should always prepare for the worst-case scenario. Legal problems aren’t common when bringing on volunteers, but taking steps to reduce the risk may mean the difference between a headache and a nightmare in the long run.