volunteers at food bank

As a non-profit organization, most of your workforce is probably comprised of volunteers. These individuals are devoting their time and energy to helping the community through your organization. Though these individuals are offering their services without expecting compensation, they still require supervision to ensure that their jobs are done correctly.

Furthermore, it is essential that your organization properly screens its volunteers to minimize the risk of harm to the community members you are attempting to serve and to the other volunteers themselves.


Regardless of how your organization recruits volunteers (word of mouth, via your company website or enrolment programs), it is imperative that you establish a stringent screening process. This effective risk management tool will lend a hand in preventing any unnecessary harm. Furthermore, screening volunteers will allow your organization to select the best person for the position.

The ultimate goal at the end of the screening process is to answer the following questions:


  1. Does the individual pose a risk of harm to the community members that the organization serves?
  2. Does the individual pose a risk of harm to staff members, supervisors and the Board of Directors at the organization?
  3. Does the position pose a risk to the individual applying?
  4. Does the individual understand the responsibilities involved in the position and the expectations of the organization?


Types of Risks:

There are four types of risks that an individual can pose to the organization, the staff and the community. The screening process established by the organization should identify those risks and eliminate individuals who pose them.

  1. Physical Harm: Physical or sexual assault, child abuse, injuries inflicted from the misuse of vehicles and using poor judgment resulting in injury
  2. Emotional Harm: Sexual harassment, racial slurs, religious discrimination, gendered remarks, name calling and insults about disabilities
  3. Theft or Damage to Property: Stealing money from community members and staff, embezzling funds, vehicle crashes and reckless behaviour leading to the destruction of property
  4. Violations of Privacy: Discussing confidential information without permission

The use of drugs and/or alcohol may also cause volunteers to inflict harm. The screening process should also address substance abuse issues.


Checklist for Supervising Volunteers:

To ensure that your organization is fully prepared for managing volunteers, determine if your non-profit has the following in place:

  • A description of all volunteer positions describing the tasks and duties expected.
  • Maintain and distribute a volunteer safety handbook for use during training.
  • Establish a grievance policy in the event that volunteers are dissatisfied while working for the organization.
  • Ensure that all volunteers sign a waiver acknowledging the organization’s policies.
  • Establish disciplinary standards for volunteers.
  • Train all staff members and supervisors who come in contact with volunteers on how to interact with them.



Find Out More:

Keeping the above tips in mind can go a long way in preventing claims and losses.

Download a copy of our “Common Exposures for Non-Profit Organizations” guide to keep as a reference and find out how to better protect your organization: