Non-profit organizations (NPOs) often depend on volunteers to support their mission and operations. Volunteers can bring valuable skills, time, and enthusiasm to the NPO, and help reduce costs and increase impact. However, volunteers can also pose some risks to the NPO, especially when they own or control the NPO’s assets. In this blog post, we will discuss what are the risks of volunteers owning NPO assets, and how NPOs can prevent or mitigate them.
What Are the Risks of Volunteers Owning NPO Assets?
NPO assets are the resources that the NPO uses to carry out its activities and achieve its goals. They can include tangible assets, such as property, equipment, or inventory, and intangible assets, such as domain names, software, or data. NPO assets can be owned or leased by the NPO, or by third parties, such as volunteers, donors, or service providers.
Volunteers owning NPO assets can create some risks for the NPO, such as:
- Loss of access: If a volunteer owns or controls an NPO asset, such as a domain name, a hosting account, or a software license, the NPO may lose access to the asset if the volunteer leaves, becomes unavailable, or decides to revoke the access. This can disrupt the NPO’s operations, communications, and reputation, and cause inconvenience or damage to the NPO’s stakeholders.
- Liability: If a volunteer owns or controls an NPO asset, such as a property, a vehicle, or a computer, the NPO may be liable for any damage or injury caused by the asset, or by the volunteer’s use of the asset. The NPO may also be liable for any taxes, fees, or fines associated with the asset, or for any breach of contract, law, or regulation involving the asset.
- Conflict of interest: If a volunteer owns or controls an NPO asset, such as a software, a database, or a donor list, the volunteer may have a conflict of interest with the NPO, and may use the asset for personal or commercial gain, or for competing or conflicting purposes. The volunteer may also disclose, misuse, or misappropriate the NPO’s confidential or proprietary information, or infringe on the NPO’s intellectual property rights.
How Can NPOs Prevent or Mitigate the Risks of Volunteers Owning NPO Assets?
NPOs can prevent or mitigate the risks of volunteers owning NPO assets by taking some measures, such as:
- Establishing policies and procedures: NPOs should have clear and written policies and procedures for managing their assets, and for engaging and supervising their volunteers. The policies and procedures should define the roles and responsibilities of the NPO and the volunteers, the ownership and control of the assets, the terms and conditions of the use of the assets, and the consequences of non-compliance or misconduct.
- Conducting due diligence and screening: NPOs should conduct due diligence and screening of their volunteers, and verify their identity, background, qualifications, and references. NPOs should also check the ownership and status of the assets that the volunteers own or control, and ensure that they are legitimate, secure, and compliant.
- Obtaining written agreements and consents: NPOs should obtain written agreements and consents from their volunteers, and from any third parties involved, for the use of the assets that the volunteers own or control. The agreements and consents should specify the scope, duration, and purpose of the use of the assets, the rights and obligations of the parties, and the transfer or termination of the use of the assets.
- Monitoring and auditing: NPOs should monitor and audit the use of the assets that the volunteers own or control, and ensure that they are used in accordance with the NPO’s policies, procedures, agreements, and consents. NPOs should also keep records and documentation of the use of the assets, and report any issues or incidents to the relevant authorities.
Volunteers owning NPO assets can create some risks for the NPO, such as loss of access, liability, and conflict of interest. NPOs can prevent or mitigate these risks by establishing policies and procedures, conducting due diligence and screening, obtaining written agreements and consents, and monitoring and auditing the use of the assets. By doing so, NPOs can protect their assets, and leverage their volunteers, to achieve their mission and vision.