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The Importance of a Liability Waiver for Nonprofits

By Alexa Connelly
September 11, 2018

Managing a nonprofit comes with many responsibilities including creating a safe environment for your volunteers. Even nonprofits that have strong safety procedures in place still risk volunteer injury. The first step to protecting your nonprofit’s reputation and financial stability is purchasing the right insurance. After you secure the right insurance for your nonprofit, you should also consider using liability waivers as an additional layer of protection.

What is a Liability Waiver?
A liability waiver transfers the risk associated with volunteering to the individual. By signing a waiver, volunteers agree to hold the nonprofit harmless or not to file a lawsuit in the event they are injured while working for the nonprofit.  By having a signed liability waiver on file, the nonprofit and volunteer have a written guide for what is expected when an accident or injury does occur.

Every state and court has a different stance on the validity of a liability waiver so it is essential that you take time to meet with legal counsel and discuss before utilizing one. A lawyer will be able to assist you with creating a liability waiver that matches your nonprofit’s mission and unique risks. Many insurance carriers require that you use waivers to lessen the risk for potential lawsuits.

What Should a Liability Waiver Contain?
A simple Google search for liability waivers will give you a plethora of sample waivers to work with. Before you choose a premade form, there are a few necessary items you want to include.

Liability Release
The liability release explains that by signing the waiver, volunteers agree to release the nonprofit from being held responsible for accidents or incidents that occur.

Specific is Better
Make sure the liability waiver includes specifics about the risks volunteers take on when helping your nonprofit organization. If they are spending time outdoors, reference negative impacts from the weather including over exposure to sun, heat, or moisture. Other areas to consider include back injury from lifting, length of time on their feet, wrist or hand pain from typing, auto accidents, etc.

Close the Loophole
One of the downfalls to having a waiver is they sometimes leave room for interpretation which can result in a lawsuit. Use phrases that close certain loopholes like starting the risks with “Including, but not limited to…”

Skip the Legalese
A liability waiver should be easy for the volunteer to interpret and understand. If a waiver includes too many acronyms or legal jargon, volunteers can argue they weren’t fully aware of what they were agreeing to.

Reference all Paperwork
Most nonprofits use contracts, training, and handbooks to educate volunteers on their expectations. This paperwork should be referenced in the waiver acknowledging the volunteer received, read, understands, and agrees to abide by the procedures outlined.

 

Picture Release
In addition to the release of liability, if a nonprofit plans to take pictures or videos, volunteers must agree to you using these publicly. Include a separate area and signature that explains the possibility for media usage and asks for their consent to use.

Whether you decide to create your own liability waiver or use a template, it is best to contact a lawyer that understands nonprofits and the risks associated with your unique organization.

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