3 Things Nonprofits Need to Know about Terminating Volunteers


Volunteer Termination

Let’s face it, the vast majority of nonprofits can’t exist without the help of volunteer labor. As incredible as it is that so many people want to give their time and energy to contribute to their communities and social causes, these people still need to be managed, and the risk associated with volunteers still needs to be managed. Just like all other areas of risk management combined with your nonprofit insurance program, it is essential for the overall mitigation of loss.

So, have you ever terminated an employee or thought about it? Think about the circumstances around why you did or didn’t. Now, let’s start at the beginning.

Be Smart About the Volunteer “Hiring” process

  • For volunteers who volunteers who volunteer under 10 days a year have them sign a volunteer waiver at the very least. The waiver should outline the relationship between your organization and the volunteer and what the basic performance and behavioral expectations are.
  • For regular volunteers, treat them similar to a regular employee. In other words, in addition to a simple waiver, have a volunteer handbook. The handbook should be similar to what you provide to your employees. It should outline in detail the rules of conduct. Also, provide a detailed job description to regular employees so that it is clear what you expect of them.

Know How Volunteers Need to be Treated

  • Just like employees, volunteers can sue your organization for discrimination, unlawful termination, harassment, etc. Make sure that all volunteers are treated with the same respect and diligence that you would treat an employee or a third party.
  • Be aware that any individual volunteer may not need extra training on a variety of things or they may need to be put in an alternate position to be effective in their work for you.
  • Don’t assume that volunteers are “good” people simply because they volunteer. They need to follow all of the established rules just like your employees. If there is a problem with a volunteer, then implement disciplinary action per your volunteer handbook.

Terminate With Care

  • Don’t be shy about terminating a volunteer that doesn’t perform well or doesn’t fit in with your organization. Remember that there is significant liability with continuing to engage with anyone that doesn’t support your mission.
  • If needed, consult with an employment attorney about the proper termination steps. You most likely have access to free employment advice through your nonprofit directors & officers liability insurance.
  • Consider an exit interview with all the volunteers who leave your organization. This will help disgruntled volunteers vent their complaints. It will also help you learn what needs to be done better in the future.

If you would like more information about managing your volunteers please feel free to reach out to one of our nonprofit insurance specialists for more information.

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