Members of non-profit organizations typically place themselves in the position of thinking about ways that they can aid the organization and their respective communities.
As volunteers we take on certain projects, handle details, arrange or facilitate this or that, and we do what ever it takes to help our organization to accomplish its goals. We are volunteers, we support the cause and we believe in what we are doing.
Contrary to popular belief, volunteer groups are not immune to risk, especially in today’s world. And, by in large, volunteers have personal assets that may be at risk in the event something they are helping with goes wrong. As a volunteer, it is not our intention to expose our personal wealth to risk, especially when we’re volunteering our time, energy and resources to a cause in which we believe. We naturally (but sometimes naively), expect “the organization” to protect us if something goes seriously wrong and people get injured.
The reality is that when we volunteer to help a cause, no matter how formalized the organization, we are at risk of taking on at lease some of the liability that’s associated with the project in which we are directly involved. We may even be at risk for things we’re not directly involved with, that relate back to the non-profit organization. An example could be something as innocent as being involved in an auto accident while running an errand for the organization.
As an organization, our non-profit’s goal is to support the good work that our volunteers do, but to also do our best to limit the risks that our supporters take on. Above all else, we want our volunteers to remain safe at all times and to not create circumstances that might endanger themselves or others.
As you already know, I am both an insurance broker and a risk manager. For a number of years I have made myself accessible to non-profit organizations across the country and I typically do this on a pro bono basis. Some of you may know me through the work I’ve done, while others may have known my father’s former company, Ingham Coates & Payne, a Pasadena based insurance operation that was founded in the 1940’s. Working for my dad, Mr. Ingham and Mr. Payne, exposed me to intense training in an array of risk management disciplines, experiences I consider myself very fortunate to have had. I am very grateful to the many mentors who have each left me with a slightly different perspective on the industry and the consultative services that provide.
In 2002 my company became a member of United Agencies, Inc. United Agencies is a large insurance firm that does business all across the Country. More than 85% of our clients are major businesses, small businesses or non-profit organizations.
Relative to helping you manage and avoid risk of injury and loss in today’s world, here are two key suggestions that I try to convey to every Board Member with whom I consult;
□ As a Board Member, your duty is to always place the organization’s financial interests before your own.
□ As a Board Member, you have a fiduciary duty to the organization, its members, donors and the community at large.