Volunteers are permitted provided they have authorization by the University, which means there must be written documentation (Volunteer Terms of Service) to support this authorization, signed by the Sponsoring Manager and Volunteer, as well as the Parent/Guardian, if the volunteer is a minor. It is important to make certain that you have and maintain this documentation that indicates someone is a volunteer on behalf of your department. Likewise, you have a duty to educate volunteers about any foreseen hazards they may encounter during their service on behalf of your department.
Documentation giving permission is important for future reference in the event that something occurs, such as a claim or lawsuit brought against the volunteer and/or the University because of the volunteer's negligence in causing an injury to someone or causing damage to someone's property. For the Commonwealth to provide legal defense and insurance protection for our volunteers, there needs to be a clear documentation trail indicating their status as a volunteer agent of the University.
HELPFUL HINTS for Volunteer Terms of Service completion
- If the student's permanent home address is other than their local address, both their local and permanent home addresses should be listed. The same applies to phone numbers.
- Length of Service – the amount of time and dates the volunteer is authorized to act on behalf of the University in a volunteer capacity. If this time frame changes for any reason, this form should be updated accordingly.
- A complete and accurate description of the volunteer's activities is important. There should be no confusion about what the volunteer will be authorized to do on behalf of the University. It is important to understand that the volunteer, while engaged in an authorized capacity for the University, is acting as an agent of this institution. This makes us responsible for their activities while they are serving as a volunteer. Furthermore, the volunteer's safety is important to us. Therefore, it is wise to document any restrictions or limitations that pertain to the volunteer's activities, alleviating any confusion later as to what the volunteer was authorized to do. This can be particularly important when the volunteer is performing services in a visible public service function (i.e. interacting with the general public) or in a high-risk area of the University (i.e. research labs).
- There is a strong desire on the part of executive administration to protect volunteers from getting injured or sick while serving in their volunteer capacity on behalf of the University. It is very important, therefore, that volunteers are instructed in the appropriate safety guidelines applicable to your department, particularly as it relates to the volunteer's activities. It should be documented as to what safety guidelines are discussed with the volunteer. You should keep in mind that what seems commonplace to you, because you work in a particular setting every day, is probably quite foreign to the volunteer. They may not be familiar with your building or other aspects of the department's operation.
- It may be appropriate to indicate we will be doing a criminal background check on the volunteer if the individual will have interaction with students, especially minors, or will have access to sensitive University data or University funds.
- It is also important to have emergency contact information for a volunteer in case something happens to that person.