Your volunteers allow your nonprofit to accomplish a variety of important projects, from working on your program initiatives to helping out with fundraising campaigns. Of course, before your volunteers can get to work, they’ll need to complete your volunteer registration process, which might include a waiver.
While waivers might not be the most exciting part of volunteering, they are an important one. This is why many nonprofits turn to online waivers to ensure their program’s waivers are functional, engaging, helpful, and easy-to-use. Every organization will have waivers that are unique to them, but there are some common features that can be used to create better waivers.
To help your nonprofit get started designing (or revamping) your volunteer program’s liability waiver, make sure you have the following components of an effective waiver in mind:
- Transferring your paper volunteer waivers to a digital waiver
- Customizability of your volunteer waiver
- Elements to keep volunteers safe
- Advanced identity verification
- Early and easy accessibility
- Check-in and data downloads
Of course, before making your waiver official, you should seek assistance from your lawyer or insurance company to ensure all legal details and requirements are in order. However, the tips in this guide can still help shape your waiver creation process and provide important background knowledge on how your waivers can elevate your volunteer program. Let’s dive in!
1. Transferring Your Paper Volunteer Waivers to a Digital Waiver
If you’re looking to improve your current waiver management system, one of the easiest and most impactful things you can do is switch to digital waivers. Of course, if your nonprofit has a history of using paper waivers, you might wonder if online waivers will be as valid as traditional ones.
Fortunately, the answer is yes! According to the E-Sign Act of 2000, digital waivers are as legitimate as paper waivers. Specifically, the act states that “a signature, contract, or other record relating to such a transaction may not be denied legal effect, validity, or enforceability solely because it is in electronic form.”
This act goes on to list some other regulations organizations must follow to ensure their digital waivers remain valid, such as:
- Presenting the waiver in an unalterable digital form
- Ensuring accessibility for the consumer
- Requiring consent from the consumer to sign electronically
By making this switch, your nonprofit’s staff will be able to say goodbye to rooting through file cabinets filled with thousands of waivers and instead be able to distribute, retrieve, review, and manage waivers easily online.
2. Customizability of Your Volunteer Waiver
When you consider the customizability of your online waiver, there are two different options to consider. The first is the customizability of the waiver’s branding; the second is customizability of questions.
Your organization’s branding, from colors to fonts to logos, helps establish validity and trust with your supporters.
When someone views a document, the first thing their brain registers is the visual aspect of that document, which for your waivers will include brand elements. Your nonprofit should strive to ensure the visuals included on your waivers accurately reflect those used by your organization. By effectively branding your online waiver document, volunteers will be able to immediately link the document to your nonprofit.
Custom questions are key for collecting all of the necessary information you need from your volunteers for accountability purposes. The last thing you want is to have volunteers complete your waivers, and all your nonprofit comes away with is a single signature when, in reality, your nonprofit needs more information to maintain an accountable relationship with your volunteers.
Answering questions and verifying consent with questions, signatures, and initials throughout the body of the waiver not only means your waiver is comprehensive and complete, but also that it provides a more involved experience for your participants. This means they’ll be more likely to read it thoroughly and better understand what they are agreeing to.
Additionally, your nonprofit can seek out waivers specifically designed for the types of activities your volunteers will be participating in. For example, as Smartwaiver’s guide to sports liability waivers points out, physical activities such as sports, races, and exercise programs often come with a unique set of risks and considerations. A waiver solution designed with these principles in mind will help speed up the waiver creation process for your nonprofit.
3. Elements to Keep Volunteers Safe
When you have a fully functional and engaging waiver for your volunteers, it can fulfill more roles than just covering liability. For instance, waivers can also be a key safety tool to help protect your volunteers during any activity that has a degree of risk, which should also be outlined in the volunteer job description.
Waivers can help your team stay on top of safety concerns with flagged questions. Flagged questions are custom questions that will flag the participant when a specific answer is chosen.
When you set up flagged questions, your organization will be able to quickly and easily see who has chosen a specific answer for that question because their name is marked with a red flag in your console. For instance, if you were to ask your volunteers about previous or existing injuries, you could flag the answer “yes” and get a list of volunteers who may be at a greater risk.
This can help you proactively look out for your volunteers’ safety, while also making your program more open and accessible. As Getting Attention’s guide to volunteer recruitment discusses, programs that are transparent and inclusive tend to attract more volunteers. Plus, showing concern for your volunteers’ safety can help build a relationship with them as your nonprofit takes their specific needs into account to create a positive volunteer experience for them.
In addition to flagged questions, your nonprofit can embed safety videos into your waivers for your volunteers to watch before signing. Safety or instructional videos will ensure your volunteers have a good background understanding of how to be safe on the job before they dive in.
This is especially important for events which may have different equipment or precautionary measures than usual. For example, if your nonprofit is not used to hosting races or sporting events, you may want to embed a video to alert long-time volunteers about new potential risks.
4. Advanced Identity Verification
Why do we sign papers by hand? Or write our signature by hand on a kiosk? Because everyone’s signatures are unique. Therefore, signatures are an effective tool you can use to verify identity.
As technology continues to evolve, other identification methods have emerged in addition to traditional signatures. Some of these include:
- Photo capture
For the majority of nonprofit volunteer programs, auto photo capture will likely be the most accessible and useful identity verification tool. Enabling auto photo capture allows organizations to snap a photo of your volunteers as they are in the midst of signing the waiver, creating proof that links their signature to them.
This is an additional step in identity verification that helps protect your nonprofit. For example, let’s say your nonprofit is running a bikeathon and an eager supporter named Katherine volunteers (and even creates a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign). Unfortunately, during the event, she ends up in a collision with a biker and hits her head.
As a result of her head injury, Katherine doesn’t remember whether or not she signed the nonprofit’s liability waiver. However, the auto photo capture feature of the nonprofit’s waiver technology took a picture of her signing, providing proof that she did, in fact, sign that waiver.
While every nonprofit hopes to avoid situations like this one altogether, it’s nice to know your nonprofit is protected in the off-chance something similar does occur. It takes the pressure off of your nonprofit and allows you to focus on the more important things (like ensuring Katherine gets the help she needs).
5. Early and Easy Accessibility
Online waivers provide the option for your nonprofit to collect waivers ahead of time and allow your volunteers to jump straight into work when they arrive at your office, event, or other venues.
In order to do this, your volunteers must have an easy way to access the waiver outside of your organization’s headquarters. The most likely place that they’ll look for it is on your website. There are three main distribution methods to connect your waiver to your volunteers before they come to work:
- Upload a PDF to your site. This is a traditional method of adding a waiver to your website. It requires your supporters to print, sign, and bring in their completed waiver before volunteering. While this method does have its uses, you will have less functionality and customizability and your volunteers may forget to bring in the paperwork.
- Email a waiver link to volunteers. With an online waiver software, you can email your volunteers a link directly to your waiver. This method works well for organizations with volunteer email lists, allowing them to send out waivers to everyone quickly. The only problem with this method is that you may not know who is attending until your volunteers arrive at the venue.
- Create a waiver widget for your site. Waiver widgets are accessible to anyone who visits your website. The widget appears as a tab at the bottom of the screen so a volunteer can click, read, and sign your waiver without ever leaving the website.
Of course, your nonprofit doesn’t need to choose just one of these methods. In fact, most organizations can benefit from making use of all three.
The best way to appeal to more volunteers and help more people feel as comfortable as possible is to distribute your liability waivers in multiple ways. We also recommend having a kiosk available at the volunteer location for those who don’t or can’t sign ahead of time.
6. Check-in and Data Downloads
As mentioned, your waivers can be used to collect a variety of important information. Along with helping to protect your organization from liability, your waivers can also help with your check-in process. When you encourage supporters to sign a waiver before showing up for their volunteer work shift, you can use the list of names generated from the waivers as a check-in resource.
Those who have already signed their waivers can be marked “present” when they arrive on site to volunteer. Meanwhile, those who haven’t yet signed can be asked to do so when they check in.
After the event is over, your nonprofit will have all sorts of data about each of your supporters and volunteers. You’ll likely conduct prospect research about various supporters to identify potential fundraising opportunities and benchmark your organization’s results compared to national statistics and data.
Integrating waiver software with a CRM streamlines this data into a more digestible format, allowing you to pair information collected from your waiver to volunteer and supporter profiles. Plus, keeping all of your data in one unified CRM system will be highly preferable to sifting through stacks of paper for your staff.
Your organization’s volunteer program is amazing. You have wonderful people who are highly driven and ready to help you succeed. But taking your program to the next level means solidifying details necessary for success, such as your waivers.
Little enhancements, like the ones detailed in this guide, implemented throughout your volunteer program will create a stronger overall volunteer experience. If you’re interested in purchasing an online waiver solution, do your research to find the right one for your organization’s particular needs.