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Volunteer Guidelines to Keep Churches and Schools Safe

Volunteers give their time to help organizations further their missions. They can be of great help to a church or school, and many organizations depend heavily on them. Some small churches have no employees at all—they depend on volunteers to do practically everything.

Because there’s a lot to be done, and not many people to do the work, churches or schools occasionally let new volunteers work for them prematurely, which can lead to trouble. Here are two examples:

  1. Liability claim scams. A stranger might come to the door and volunteer to rake leaves, for example. Ten minutes later, the rector looks out and sees the person lying on the ground outside. The person says he fell and sues for a liability claim.
  2. Property theft. A variation on the above example could happen when a stranger volunteers to come in and clean or do minor repairs. They steal valuables, and you never see them again.

Recommendations for initiating volunteers: Take it slow

Churches should have guidelines in place for what volunteers can do after a certain length of time. It’s a good idea to put these guidelines in writing and share them with volunteers.

Start slowly with new volunteers. Someone can volunteer right away, but it should be a group project, such as preparing a meal with many other people present.

After volunteers have proven their dedication and trustworthiness, they can take on greater responsibility, such as working with money or children. Often, these more sensitive positions require additional training, such as background checks.

Churches and schools should keep records of volunteers: who was at an event, doing what jobs, on what date.

Stay within FLSA guidelines

Organizations also have to be careful not to expect volunteerism from paid employees. Often, employees freely volunteer their time at special events. For example, a church secretary might agree to work in a booth at a festival. Because she is performing a job outside of her normal work duties, and because she offered to perform the services without expectation of compensation, this is an acceptable scenario.

However, if the organization told the church secretary that she would need to volunteer her services by answering phones and email during hours outside her regular work week, that would go against the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

Churches and schools need volunteers. Following these guidelines reduces risk and allows the volunteers to contribute their time and skills in an appropriate way. 

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