When Volunteers Drive Cars (for your nonprofit)

How many times have you done one of these:

  1. Tossed your nonprofit’s van keys to a volunteer and asked her to run to the store to pick up some supplies?
  2. Yelled across the parking lot at a volunteer and asked if he would mind running over to the pizza place to pick up some pies for the volunteer work crew?

They might drive their own vehicles

They might drive the organization’s vehicles.

Either way, volunteers are often asked to drive.

It’s a risk exposure for your nonprofit. We all know that auto accidents happen often. If you or I have used any of our personal or business insurance policies, we’ve probably used our auto policies.

Photo Credit: rayhanchy via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: rayhanchy via Compfight cc

Volunteer Muscle Helps – But Can Be Risky

Allowing or asking volunteers to drive can save money and free others to do more targeted tasks, but it also raises your potential for loss.

Some Risk Exposures Common to Nonprofit Driving:
  1. Transporting clients: For nonprofits that work with children and the elderly, there might be a need for a volunteer to transport them to a special event or a doctor’s appointment or to some other facility.
  2. Driving in unfamiliar neighborhoods: If I come to help a nonprofit in an area I’m not familiar with, then my driving will carry the added stress of checking a map or listening to a GPS or worse still checking the directions on my phone. And I might be doing all that while transporting clients or consumers.
  3. Driving an unfamiliar vehicle: When I was a senior in high school, I worked for an auto detailing shop. I had to deliver everything from Corvettes to big old pick up trucks to vans to those Snap-On Tool Trucks.  I”m not sure what my boss was thinking. The point is, though, that any vehicle that is unfamiliar heightens the risk.
  4. Driving under time constraints: Often, driving for a nonprofit might include running errands specific to a particular event or to help pick up food or other items that need to be delivered in a timely fashion.

You can probably add a few of your own. Basically, driving your own car or the nonprofit’s car can carry some additional risk that our normal driving does not carry.

For that reason, it’s important to implement appropriate risk management protocols along with having the right insurance coverage.

Risk Management Suggestions

What follows is NOT an exhaustive list. You need to carefully consider your organization’s exposures, the driving requirements, and implement additional procedures.

  • Require proof of personal insurance coverage for any volunteer who is driving more than just to or from the location of the work (preferable by most insurance companies that the volunteer carry at least $100,000/$300,000 liability limits).
  • Order Motor Vehicle Reports for any volunteer who will be driving a vehicle owned by the organization.
  • Order Motor Vehicle Reports for any volunteer who will be carrying your clients or consumers.
  • Order Motor Vehicle Reports for any volunteer who will be doing regular route driving, whether in his or her own vehicle or your nonprofit’s vehicle.
  • Require basic in-car safety (and review regularly): no texting, no talking on cell phone, have an additional volunteer to monitor passengers if transporting people, etc.

You could drill down further and further, depending on the nature of your nonprofit’s work and the driving required.

Insurance Solutions for Volunteers who Drive and your Nonprofit

In addition to basic risk management, it’s helpful to carry appropriate insurance coverages to address volunteer driving. Sometimes this might mean adding coverage. Sometimes it’s a matter of understanding the policies you currently carry and how they apply to a volunteer exposure.

  1. Business Auto Policy – for vehicles owned by the organization: Under the ‘Who is an Insured’ paragraph, the policy simply states ‘Anyone else while using with your permission a covered “auto”‘ (CA 00 01 03 10, p.2). A volunteer would be driving the organization’s vehicle by the organization’s permission. Therefore, she would be covered.
  2. Hired & Nonowned Auto Liability: This policy feature can either be included in the business auto policy or added as an endorsement to the general liability policy. Either way, the policy provides liability coverage for the organization if a volunteer, employee, or other ‘insured’ is driving a vehicle NOT OWNED by the organization. The example here: I drive my car to the store to pick up snacks for an after school program. My car is not owned by the organization, but it’s being used for the nonprofit’s operations. If I cause a wreck, my insurance would defend me and the nonprofit first. Then the hired and nonowned liability policy would provide coverage for the nonprofit. You’re not alone if that little description is confusing to you. Some of these concepts take some concentration.
  3. Volunteer Excess Auto Liability: As far as I know, there is only one insurance market that provides this coverage (who we represent). It can be purchased by the nonprofit on behalf of the volunteer. It supplements the volunteer’s personal auto policy by providing $500,000 in liability limits on top of the volunteer’s auto insurance limits.
  4. The Volunteer’s Personal Auto Policy: Unless the personal auto carrier has gone out of its way to exclude volunteer work, your volunteer’s personal auto policy is primary in the event the volunteer causes a wreck. If I drive to the store to pick up snacks and cause an accident, my policy would defend me and even the organization until my policy limits are exhausted. After that, the nonowned auto liability (point 2 above)  for the organization would kick in or the volunteer excess liability (point 3 above) would kick in for the individual volunteer.

These are examples of the policies available. I would recommend pushing to have at least $1,000,000 in liability limits or more (through an excess or umbrella policy). A big accident can derail an organization pretty quickly.

Volunteers Are Vital

And sometimes you have to throw them the keys or send them on an errand for you.  This type of help from your volunteer labor force can be invaluable. It’s just smart to have a thorough conversation with your Board and your insurance professional and any other risk management resources to make sure you are setting yourself up for the best chances of success.

  1. Do you allow volunteers to drive on behalf of your organization?
  2. Have you considered how your insurance addresses that exposure?
  3. Do you have any unique risk management procedures to address volunteers’ driving?

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