Understanding Volunteer Agreements

Companies have all kinds of resources to get projects done—from vendors to employees. On some occasions, however, they may want to use a volunteer to work on a project. Nonprofits regularly use volunteers as one of their main sources of worker pools.

For-profit companies may also want to use a volunteer. For example, if you are going to use an intern or extern, or someone wants to shadow an employee for a short time, they might all be doing work on a volunteer basis. A company may also want to go out in the community to give back and use employees and family members to work on those types of projects.

When you use a volunteer, you may overlook some of the protections that you would have if you would have hired a new employee. A volunteer agreement addresses many of those concerns.

What is a Volunteer Agreement?

A volunteer agreement sets out some basic parameters of the relationship between the volunteer and the business. It addresses concerns that may include:

  • Sharing confidential information. If your volunteer is going to have access to things like client lists, internal processes, and other sensitive information, you may want to specifically set out that they are not permitted to share information or data with others. In some businesses, the law requires you to keep data protected, such as in the healthcare sector, so you have to include provisions regarding confidentiality to be compliant with state and federal laws.
  • Company property. You need to protect company property in the volunteer agreement. Although you may assume that a volunteer can only hurt company property, they can actually create significant benefit for a company, too. If, for example, your intern invents something while spending a summer with your company, you want to be sure that the intellectual property belongs to the company, not to your volunteer.
  • Volunteer status. In some situations, volunteers can be considered employees, even when they are unpaid. Your volunteer agreement will be able to set out specifically that it is everyone’s understanding that the worker is a volunteer and does not have access to certain rights or benefits that employees would have, like workers’ compensation benefits.
  • Non-solicitation. If your volunteer is going to have relationships with your employees, contractors, customers, or others, you may want to prevent a volunteer from “stealing away” customers or employees. Having a non-solicitation agreement means that the volunteer will not try to sell his or her services or products while volunteering for your business.

Every business is different, and every volunteer situation is different. What is necessary for one company may not be a concern for another. If your business is considering adding volunteers for any reason, talk to Integrated General Counsel about potential risk areas specific to your company. We can help you create a tailored volunteer agreement that addresses all of these concerns. 

Integrated General Counsel