A guest post by Daryl McCall of SmartWaiver
Put yourself in this situation: Your nonprofit has organized a 5K fundraiser where participants are running, chatting, and turning out in force to support your cause. Everything is going great, until a runner sprains their ankle after tripping over a bumpy length of the track. Luckily everyone is all right, but you’ve hit another snag. You neglected to provide event waivers, leaving you in a gray area over liability and what next steps you should take.
This scenario is something countless nonprofit teams have suffered first-hand, especially less experienced professionals who are just starting their nonprofits. In all of the excitement and confusion of preparing for an event, it can seem all too easy to forget about your liability waivers.
However, this is an essential part of events, volunteering, and other activities that your nonprofit hosts! Beyond just covering your legal bases, an effective event waiver can positively affect your organization’s reputation, your events’ success, and attendees’ experiences.
In this short guide, we’ll walk through the fundamentals of why and how your nonprofit should use liability waivers. We’ll cover:
- Benefits of Waivers for Your Nonprofit
- Elements of an Effective Waiver
- Waiver Software: Features to Look For
Benefits of Waivers for Your Nonprofit
The consequences of not having a liability waiver can range from legal trouble to losing the trust of your supporters by not informing them of the risks of a particular activity. While some people might think of waivers as a tedious formality, in reality, they’re a critical measure to protect your supporters and your organization from harm.
Additionally, well-constructed waivers can have the added benefit of:
- Reinforcing your organization’s professionalism
- Educating volunteers and attendees about programs they choose to participate in
- Financially shielding your nonprofit from foreseeable risks
- Securing photography releases so that your organization can use supporters’ images in your marketing materials
- Collecting important supporter data that can be used to improve future events and programs
If you imagine your waiver to simply be a slip of paper listing a few of the mishaps your supporters may face and a line for their signature, then you’re a bit off base. An effectively-crafted waiver is a powerful registration and engagement tool that elevates your nonprofit’s ability to engage and retain supporters.
Elements of an Effective Waiver
So, what exactly makes for an “effective” activity waiver? The waiver completion process should be as smooth and seamless as possible for your supporters, while also representing and efficiently collecting important information for your nonprofit.
To strike that balance and create a great waiver for volunteers, event attendees, and other supporters, consider these waiver best practices:
- Consult a legal professional. This is the best way to ensure that your waiver covers all the foreseeable risks associated with a specific activity, secures signers’ permission, and meets all necessary legal standards. Before rolling out your liability waivers, be sure that it’s received the green light from an experienced legal consult.
- Brand your waiver to your organization. From your website to your ongoing newsletter blasts, the material your nonprofit distributes should all be branded to your organization. Your waiver is no exception. Use the waiver’s letterhead, font, background color, and other stylistic elements to neatly fit the waiver into your nonprofit branding strategy.
- Collect all the necessary participant data. Whether your waiver is a flimsy printed sheet or a robust online system, you should be mindful to collect these important details: names, dates of birth, addresses, personal and emergency contact information, accessibility limitations, allergies, and any additional health information.
- Invest in online waiver software. Waiver software is quickly becoming an essential trend in the nonprofit sector, and it’s easy to see why. With the right waiver software, your supporters can easily sign and submit waivers at their convenience. Online waiver software also automatically organizes data and offers advanced customization tools to make your waivers as effective as possible.
Let’s dive a bit deeper into what waiver software can do for your organization.
Waiver Software: Features to Look For
According to the Crowd101 guide to why nonprofits should invest in waiver software, these systems are a critical tool to streamline data management, increase transparency between supporters and your nonprofit, ease logistical issues, and offer easy contactless signing.
These are the broad-strokes fundamentals of what strong waiver software can do for your organization. However, what particular tools and capabilities make for a good waiver solution? We recommend keeping an eye out for these key features:
- Auto-photo capture and other advanced verification methods. Auto-photo capture, fingerprint capture, and video recording are all effective verification tools to ensure that you have a record tying the right supporters to the right waiver.
- The ability to create flagged questions. By automatically flagging answers to important questions like “Have you been injured volunteering before?” your nonprofit can more easily prepare for heightened risks or participants with special accommodations.
- Video embedding capabilities. Being able to embed video content, such as a safety video explaining program risks and how to avoid them, can engage users and prevent accidents before they occur. Additionally, it will go a step further to show off the professionalism of your nonprofit organization.
- Field customization. Tailor your waiver to your nonprofit’s unique needs by customizing each field to capture important supporter data. Some online waiver software providers, like Smartwaiver, even offer unlimited customization capabilities and the ability to configure the waiver’s visual design to match your brand.
As you hit the market for a waiver solution well-suited to your nonprofit’s goals, be on the lookout for a flexible, convenient system that you can thoroughly customize between different activities. This ensures that you can set up a seamless and engaging online waiver process for any occasion.