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June 2008
Managing Risk and Liability with Volunteers in Mind
In This Issue
Featured Book: Better Safe
More Resources on Managing Risk
Book Excerpt - "The Aims of Risk Management"
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Risk and liability exists in all volunteer programs whether volunteers work with youth, provide services to the sick or injured, or give museum tours to the public. Setting policies to manage risk can seem daunting. However, the following resources can help you take steps to avoid surprise when it comes to providing a meaningful (and safe) experience for volunteers. In addition, learn to decide if appropriate training and supervision can replace canceling valuable services for fear of legal risk. 
Featured Book

Better Safe Better Safe...Risk Management in Volunteer Programs & Community Service

Author Linda Graff urges us to become conscious about risk management in our organizational lives.  This book will help you overcome your own resistance to the subject of risk management, and think through risk issues in a do-able, step-by-step way.

Book Review
"Linda Graff takes the fear out of the words... Her worksheets and notes will help agencies of every size develop a plan... With this guide you will learn how to appraise, acknowledge, address and avert risky situations."
- Eileen Cackowski, Executive Director of the Kentucky Commission on Community Volunteerism and Service

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($20 US, Electronic Version)
More Resources on Managing Risk

Beyond Police Checks
Definitive guide for screening volunteers and employees, explaining why and how to assure everyone's protection.
Volunteering Is Inherently Risky
In this article from the The NonProfit Times, Susan J. Ellis shares the approach that organizations should not use legal advice to discover what activities are too risky, but they should ask lawyers, accounts, and insurance agents to help find the legal and best way to permit an action to go forward.  
Does Liability for Negligent Hiring Apply to Volunteers?
An excerpt from the book Staff Screening Tool Kit includes a list of risk management strategies for legal screening of volunteers.
Your Guide to Youth Board Involvement and the Law
An analysis of the key legal issues arising when involving young people under the age of 18 on a board of directors, with strategies to maximize youth involvement whatever your state's laws.  
Book Excerpt

The Aims of Risk Management
By Linda Graff
Excerpted from Better Safe...Risk Management in Volunteer Programs & Community Service

There is nothing that anyone can do to absolutely guarantee nothing will go wrong [in a volunteer program], short of stopping services and closing the doors. Volunteer programs cannot operate without taking risks since the possibility of accident, injury, loss, or damage is always present. But this is the case in nearly everything we do, all of the time. It is important not to ignore risks, but it is equally important not to become immobilized by them. What is needed is a rational, systematic approach to risk management that reduces and controls risks as much as is reasonably possible.
A risk management system does not manage the risks for you. Rather, it guides the manager of volunteers into making more informed decisions that account for the existence of risk, and into actions that mitigate risks wherever possible. The two cornerstones of all effective risk management are:
  • organizational acknowledgment that risks exist
  • organizational commitment of sufficient resources
There are three central aims of the risk management process:

Prevention is the first priority of every risk manager. It is clearly preferable to keep things from going wrong in the first place than it is to deal with tragedies and the consequences of disasters after the fact. Implementing a risk management system reduces the likelihood of injuries and losses by integrating precautionary measures
into day-to-day operations.
Minimize Harm
Given that things still can and do go wrong, even with the best prevention mechanisms in place, the second aim of risk management is to minimize the magnitude of harm that accrues in the event that a risk materializes.
Liability Reduction
Not only does the implementation of a risk management system reduce liability by reducing the likelihood of injury or loss in the first place, but a well-documented risk management system constitutes tangible proof of due diligence. The harm may still materialize, but not because the organization was inattentive or negligent. Hence, even if an injury or loss does take place, the very fact that the organization engaged in risk management can substantially reduce the likelihood of successful legal action against the organization.

The implementation of a risk management process can generate additional outcomes. Laird Hunter suggests that a risk management process also:
  • ensures a safe environment for employees, volunteers, and service recipients
  • reduces the anxiety and fear of liability
  • conserves the assets of the organization so that it can pursue its mission
  • ensures compliance with legal requirements
  • ensures that individuals harmed by the organization's activities receive adequate compensation

Permission is granted for organizations to reprint this excerpt. Reprints must provide full acknowledgment of the source, as cited here:

Excerpted from Better Safe...Risk Management in Volunteer Programs & Community Service 2003, Linda Graff and Associates Inc. Found in the Energize, Inc. Online Bookstore at
Energize, Inc.
5450 Wissahickon Ave.
Philadelphia, PA 19144

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