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Insurance Issues when Volunteering with Non-Profits

DHB Insurance | July 2010

Volunteering with non-profits can be a very rewarding experience, but it can also expose you to a great deal of liability. Non-profits can often depend on volunteers that lack the experience and training of what would be expected of someone who was in a paid position. Also, insurance coverage carried by non-profits can vary greatly. Some coverages can be cost-prohibitive for smaller non-profits or they may purchase lower limits in an effort to give more of their monetary resources to their mission.

There are many questions that arise when you sign up to volunteer. Are volunteers listed as insureds on their policy? Am I covered if I accidentally hurt someone while volunteering? What if I organize an event and one of the other volunteers I am directing hurts someone?


There was once a time when it would be difficult to find a lawyer in Raleigh willing to go after a Non-Profit Organization working to improve our community. Those days are gone.

What should you do?

Since volunteers will almost never be sure exactly what coverages the organization has, our advice is for you to protect yourself with personal liability insurance.


Your homeowners and auto insurance policies will provide you with protection against bodily injury or property damage done while volunteering. Combine these with an umbrella policy and you will be protected in most cases of bodily injury or property damage.

Board of Directors

Serving on the board opens you up to more scrutiny. You can not only be held accountable for your actions working with the organization, but also the decisions you make as a member of the board.

Your Home, Auto & Umbrella policies will protect you when the damaged arise from bodily injury and property damage. However, not all losses fall under these categories. You can also be sued for failing to make a prudent decision or bad management practices.

To have coverage for the decisions you make or fail to make, the Non-Profit organization should purchase Directors & Officers Insurance coverage. This will provide coverage to the board members to help fill in gaps where the organization's liability insurance and the board member's personal liability insurance do not apply.

Another concern that the personal liability does not address is coverage for accusations of sexual abuse and molestation. To cover this, the organization would need to purchase Sexual Abuse and Molestation Insurance. This can be valuable if your non-profit organization does a good deal of work directly with children. This would provide defense coverage in the event that you or someone under your supervision is accused of abuse or molestation.

These insurance policies can be fairly expensive and not all non-profits will have them. Many organizations greatly lessen their need for this protection through the use of solid risk management practices. Use your best judgment when deciding to serve on the board of any organization. Do they have adequate risk management procedures? Would you be making decisions that will have a large financial impact on people?

Durfey-Hoover-Bowden Insurance Agency strongly believes in improving our community through service with our local non-profits. We encourage you to participate, but make sure you have ample liability protection before you start.

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