Policy Manual for UMaine Extension Staff Who Work With Volunteers

1.  INTRODUCTION

a.  Purpose of a Volunteer Policy Manual

The purpose of this policy manual is to provide a consistent framework and direction for staff working with volunteers within the University of Maine Cooperative Extension.  The policy manual is designed to reduce volunteer risk and protect the interests of UMaine Cooperative Extension, its volunteers and the communities it serves.  Volunteer policies help to determine boundaries, clarify responsibilities, provide structure and ensure continuity within the organization.

b.  Volunteer Philosophy

The University of Maine Cooperative Extension engages volunteers through educational experiences that extend the reach of our programs to strengthen local communities.  We believe volunteers deserve to be treated with respect, matched with a relevant assignment, provided with high-quality training and recognized in meaningful ways.  In return, volunteers will learn new skills, celebrate their own personal development and be inspired to share their time, talent and wisdom within the area they have been trained.

c.  Definition of a Volunteer

A University of Maine Cooperative Extension “volunteer” is anyone who without “taxable compensation” performs a task at the direction of a staff member and on behalf of Extension.  Unless specifically stated, volunteers shall not be considered as “employees” of Extension and are not covered by workers’ compensation insurance.

Extension “volunteers” must be:

  1. enrolled or registered,
  2. provided with orientation and/or training, and
  3. engaged in projects or assigned duties that are approved by an Extension staff member.

d.  What Can Volunteers Expect?

Volunteering for UMaine Cooperative Extension is a privilege and not a right.  However, volunteers can expect the following when engaged as a volunteer in one of our programs:

  • orientation and training
  • clear, appropriate assignments
  • clear communication, supervision, and support from Extension staff
  • recognition of contribution
  • time put to best use
  • opportunity to participate based on the parameters of the volunteer role description

e.  Volunteer Responsibilities

As a UMaine Cooperative Extension volunteer, volunteers agree to:

  1. Understand their role as a volunteer and be honest about their goals, skills, limitations, and motivations.
  2. Sign the UMaine Extension Volunteer Standards of Behavior and conduct themselves in a responsible manner. The UMaine Extension Volunteer Standards of Behavior Form ( Word | PDF ) can be found in the Staff Toolkit on Plugged In.
  3. Fulfill their commitment and conduct all activities in compliance with UMaine Cooperative Extension guidelines and in a safe and healthy environment.
  4. Participate in volunteer orientation, required volunteer training, and other ongoing volunteer training as appropriate.
  5. Cooperate with UMaine Cooperative Extension staff.
  6. Keep staff fully informed of specific activities, such as field trips, fundraising events, and other special activities.

2.  VALUES AND BELIEFS

Questions pertaining specifically to civil rights, accommodations and/or sexual harassment should be directed to Fran Sulinski, Assistant Director UMaine Cooperative Extension, 207.581.3186 fran.sulinski@maine.edu

a.  Civil Rights

All Extension volunteers will be made aware of UMaine Cooperative Extension statement on civil rights and their responsibilities to meet civil rights goals.

The University of Maine Cooperative Extension is committed to ensuring the civil rights of its volunteers, clients, and employees. Every individual must be treated fairly and equitably, with dignity and respect. This policy applies to all volunteers, clients and employees — regardless of race, color, national origin, sex, sexual orientation — including transgender status or gender expression — religion, age, disability, genetic information, political beliefs, veterans status, citizenship, and marital or family status. For more information, please visit the Annual Civil Rights Training page or the Civil Rights Tool Kit page.

b.  Non-Discrimination

The text of the University of Maine non-discrimination statement is as follows and should be used when inviting participation:

In complying with the letter and spirit of applicable laws and pursuing its own goals of diversity, the University System shall not discriminate on the grounds of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, including transgender status or gender expression, national origin, citizenship status, age, disability, genetic information or veteran’s status in employment, education, and all other areas of the University System. The University provides reasonable accommodations to qualified individuals with disabilities upon request.

Questions and complaints about discrimination in any area of the University should be directed to the Executive Director of Equal Opportunity, The University of Maine, Room 101, 5754 North Stevens Hall, Orono, ME 04469-5754, telephone 207.581.1226 (voice and TDD).

Any person with a disability who needs accommodations for this program should contact [name] to discuss their needs at least [number] days in advance.

This non-discrimination statement must appear on any printed material that actively seeks members, participants or beneficiaries of UMaine Cooperative Extension services, programs or activities, such as brochures announcing meetings, club membership forms, flyers and newsletters that include information about what is available to the public from UMaine Extension. This would include the recruitment of volunteers.  In addition, the display of the And Justice For All poster should be visible at volunteer training. For more information visit the Public Notification Requirements page.

A volunteer is required to sign the Assurance of Non-Discrimination Form annually if, as part of their role, they may be able to accept, reject, accommodate or not accommodate a client as part of their work. Examples of a volunteer in this type of role would include:

  • 4-H Club Leaders
  • County 4-H Leaders’ Association Presidents
  • 4-H Animal Science Activities Coordinators
  • Extension Homemaker President
  • Master Food Preservers
  • County Extension Association Board Members
  • Senior Companion Volunteer Station Coordinators
  • Individual Senior Companions
  • Senior Companion Program Advisory Committee Members
  • Master Gardeners

c.  Sexual Harassment

Volunteers with UMaine Cooperative Extension and University staff are expected to follow the University of Maine System policies on sexual harassment.  The policy can be found at UMS Policy Manual — Sexual Harassment.

3.  RISK MANAGEMENT

a. What is Risk Management?

Risk management is about problem-solving. It is about the steps an organization takes to minimize the negative effect of an unforeseen event or loss. In an effort to prevent accidents or negative incidents, it means continually considering the following questions:

  • What can go wrong?
  • How bad could the damage be?
  • What will we do?
  • How will we do it?

The Risk Management Checklist for Program, Activity or Event Planning (Word) can be used to help you and volunteers think about various aspects of risk management when planning a program or event.

b.  Liability

Volunteers who are currently registered with their county office or Extension staff person may be covered by the University liability insurance, in the event the volunteer injures a third party.  In order to qualify for coverage under the liability insurance, the volunteer must have been acting in good faith and working within the scope of his/her volunteer assignments.  A volunteer will not be covered under the University’s liability insurance if they are performing duties for persons or entities other than the University, even if the University organized or promoted the services.

Certificates of liability coverage are available for specific events through the office of the University of Maine Facilities Management.  If needed, Extension staff must make the appropriate arrangements for Certificates of Liability coverage for specific events. Staff should complete a Liability Insurance Certificate Request, available on the University of Maine System’s Certificates of Insurance/Proof of Insurance Coverage page and email or fax it to the person indicated on the form.

In addition to a Certificate of Liability, you will want to assess the level of risk associated with an activity or event. If the risk is what you might consider being higher than normal, you may wish to have participants sign an Assumption of Risk Form.

For more detailed information regarding liability insurance, go to Section 2.3 Liability Insurance of the Policy Manual.

c. Vehicle Liability Protection

Enrolled volunteers in good standing are provided liability protection when driving University vehicles for official travel. However, the University does not provide liability insurance coverage or physical damage insurance coverage (collision and comprehensive) for non-University vehicles. If a volunteer uses a personal vehicle for University-related business, that person’s own vehicle insurance will be responsible for any insurance claims. The University recommends that personally owned vehicles used for University business carry at least $300,000 liability insurance coverage.  The University will not reimburse a volunteer or their insurer for any deductible or liability claim paid by their auto insurance or for any damage to a personally owned vehicle.

Policies

  • Volunteers transporting others in their personal vehicles must carry automobile insurance.  Recommended minimum liability coverage is $300,000.  The person causing an accident is responsible.
  • Volunteers transporting youth in University vehicles must be 21 years of age and approved through the University Motor Pool.
  • Volunteers transporting youth in private vehicles must be 21 years of age.
  • Volunteers who drive in the course of their volunteer duties for the Senior Companion program must file a copy of their proof of insurance and driver’s license with the Senior Companion Program State Office as required by federal guidelines.
  • Volunteers who use their personal vehicles while performing their assigned duties shall be in compliance with all federal and state laws pertaining to use of such vehicles, including but not limited to, possession of a valid operators license, vehicle registration and inspection, and availability and use of safety devices.
  • Everyone must wear a seatbelt at all times while in a moving motor vehicle in the state of Maine.
  • The use of full-size 15 passenger style vans is prohibited.

In the event of an automobile accident, these are the steps staff and volunteers must follow:

  • report the accident to the appropriate county Extension contact person and ask him/her to contact the office of the Operations Administrator or the Program Administrator;
  • file a Driver’s Report of a Traffic Accident, available from the police, with the Secretary of State’s office, 29 State House Station, Augusta ME 04333 within 48 hours; and
  • send a copy of the accident report to the office of the Operations Administrator, UMCE, 5741 Libby Hall, Orono, ME 04469-5741.

d.  Crisis Situation/Responding to an Accident

Volunteers should be made aware of the following steps that should be taken to reduce liability if an accident occurs:

  • Remain calm and use common sense.
  • Take immediate action to prevent further damage or injury. If someone is seriously injured, call 911 or signal for emergency assistance. Do not move seriously injured persons unless they are in immediate danger. If someone is injured, but not seriously, seek assistance as needed.
  • Vehicles in accidents that are obstructing traffic and can be moved should be moved to eliminate the obstruction.
  • If it is a vehicle accident, report the accident immediately to the police so they can investigate.
  • Record all important information immediately, such as names, addresses, and phone numbers of those involved in the accident and any witnesses; date and time of the accident; place and weather conditions; license plate and driver license information. Take pictures if a camera is available. Do not leave the scene of the accident until they have all the information needed.
  • Contact their Extension staff contact or county Extension office to fill out an accident report.  To obtain a copy of the accident report, click on the following link: Accident Reporting
  • Be courteous and factual. Do not argue, accept or assign blame. Share with the other party only necessary facts. Do not sign anything or discuss details of the accident with anyone other than Extension staff contact, police, or University investigators.

For specific risk management policies, click on the following links:

4.  RULES

a.  Confidentiality

Volunteers are responsible for maintaining the confidentiality of all privileged information to which they are exposed while serving as a volunteer, whether this information involves a staff member, volunteer, or client.

b.  Termination of Volunteers

The University of Maine Cooperative Extension has the right to terminate a volunteer from a program.  The Extension Director is the only person authorized to exercise the right to terminate an Extension volunteer.  The process leading to termination is:

  1. Written documentation (which can include email) of the situation or circumstance that may warrant the consideration to terminate a volunteer is made by an Extension staff member with copies sent to the volunteer and the appropriate Program Administrator.
  2. The Program Administrator provides an opportunity for the volunteer to respond to the issues documented in step number one.
  3. The Program Administrator will forward documentation, the response of the volunteer and any other relevant information to the Director of Extension
  4. The Director of Extension will make a determination and notify the volunteer of the decision in writing.
  5. If there is considered to be a risk to the safety of program participants or volunteers, the Director can act immediately to terminate a volunteer from the program.

c.  Fundraising

  • All fundraisers should be discussed with Extension staff and approved of in advance.
  • Staff members should be aware of the “do not contact” list.  Please contact your Program Administrator if you have any questions about this.
  • Fundraisers that include gambling for money or 50/50’s, jackpots, etc. for money are not permitted.

d.  Financial Management Training

Financial Management Training should be provided to any volunteer who may be overseeing club or association funds related to:

  • Best practices for management of club or association funds.
  • What constitutes mismanagement of funds.
  • Requirement for two individuals (from two different families) reviewing all accounts.
  • The treasurer of the county Executive Committee should review all county program treasurers’ books and bank accounts annually (examples include 4-H clubs, 4-H Leaders’ Association, Master Gardener Advisory Committee, etc).
  • Any misuse of funds has the potential to result in legal action.

For more information on bookkeeping tips, you may find these publications helpful:

e.  Signing Contracts

UMaine Extension volunteers are not authorized to sign any contracts or agreements on behalf of the University.  Any contracts or agreements need to be initiated through the University of Maine’s authorized process under the leadership of a Program Administrator.

f.  Financial Reimbursement

Staff members should not put volunteers in a position to be reimbursed and a volunteer should never make a purchase without prior approval.  If an emergency occurs in which a volunteer is required to make a purchase, any purchases made must be in accordance with university purchasing policies with the understanding and advice of a staff member.  In such a case, a volunteer would be expected to provide the original, itemized receipt as well as a W-9 (PDF).  Staff should be familiar with purchasing procedures and policies as stated in Administrative Practice Letters.

5.  PROGRAM EFFECTIVENESS

a.  Volunteer Role Descriptions

Volunteers require a clear, complete, and current description of the duties and responsibilities of the position which they are expected to fill.  Prior to any volunteer assignment or recruitment effort, a volunteer role description should be developed for each volunteer program or project. Some volunteer programs that have different types of volunteer service may have multiple descriptions. Volunteer role descriptions should be reviewed and updated at least every two years, or whenever the work involved in the position changes substantially.  All volunteer role descriptions should include the following:

  • Role Title
  • Objectives of the position
  • Responsibilities associated with the position
  • Qualifications
  • Time Commitment
  • Supervisor
  • Resources Available
  • Program Benefits

Volunteer Role Description Template (Word)

b.  Supervision of Volunteers

All Extension volunteers will be assigned to an Extension staff liaison who shall be available for consultation, support, and direction. Supervision will address the needs of both the volunteer and the organization. Volunteer development and volunteer management resources for staff can be found on Plugged-In’s Volunteer Development Resources page.

c.  Recruitment

Extension volunteers will be recruited to reach beyond traditional demographics to demonstrate organizational readiness to welcome and engage a diverse cadre of volunteers.  UMaine Cooperative Extension shall not discriminate on the grounds of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, including transgender status or gender expression, national origin, citizenship status, age, disability, or veteran’s status in employment, education, and all other areas of the University System. Qualifications for volunteer roles will be based on ability and suitability to perform a task on behalf of the organization and in compliance with individual program guidelines.

d. Screening Practices

The University of Maine is committed to providing a safe environment for leading, learning, and community outreach. To reaffirm its commitment to provide a safe environment, all Extension staff and volunteers who work with vulnerable populations must undergo criminal background checks. The Extension volunteer appointment process includes a screening of every volunteer applicant to determine if the applicant has any substantiated charges of child abuse or neglect or criminal convictions relevant to his or her service as an Extension volunteer. Screening decisions are made at the university level.

Personnel who work in Maine school systems are required by the Maine Department of Education to have a background check. In lieu of a background check through the University of Maine Office of Human Resources, potential volunteers who currently work for a Maine school system can provide a copy of the certificate validating a background check has been performed in the last three years. A copy of the certificate will be kept on file at the local county Extension office.

*Background Check procedure for UMaine Cooperative Extension Volunteers (Word)

Beginning October 1, 2018, all enrolled volunteers who work with vulnerable populations must be rescreened every three years. If a volunteer does not pass a background check or refuses to follow through to be re-checked then the volunteer will no longer be able to serve as a Cooperative Extension volunteer. A letter from the Dean of Cooperative Extension will be sent to the volunteer informing them they are no longer an active volunteer. In the event that a Cooperative Extension volunteer who works with vulnerable populations decides not to enroll for a year or more, then they will be required to complete another background check to re-enroll. The cost of initial and rescreening background checks will be covered by UMaine Cooperative Extension.

d.1. Rejecting a Volunteer Application

Not every applicant will be able to meet the expectations we have for a volunteer. The application and screening process can help you determine this. Under no circumstance can you ever reject a volunteer application for reasons that would fall under our non-discrimination policy. However, if the person does not have the necessary skills or qualities that will enable the volunteer to carry out the volunteer role and/or uphold the behavioral expectations, then a person’s application can be rejected.

Reasons to reject an application might include a problem with the background check or reference check, an unwillingness to sign the University’s non-discrimination policy, or a person indicating during an interview that they are unable to carry out an aspect of the volunteer role description. If you feel the need to reject a volunteer applicant, we encourage you to contact Fran Sulinksi, Assistant Extension Director to discuss your reasons for making this decision.

When notifying the applicant that their application has been rejected, use the Volunteer Rejection Letter template letter (Word). Please do not provide specific reasons to the applicant. If you have questions about this process please contact Fran Sulinski.

e.  Orientation

All Extension volunteers will receive a program-specific orientation through their county office or Extension staff liaison. In addition, Extension volunteers will be encouraged to participate in the Volunteer Orientation Course, a 22-minute online webinar consisting of four modules.

f.  Training

Extension is committed to best practice, ensuring that volunteers are properly trained to carry out their work.  Individual training requirements based on program area will be identified in role descriptions and through initial contact and/or interview with staff.

g.  Recognition

Paid staff, especially those who work directly with volunteers, are encouraged to offer appreciation and recognition to volunteers on a regular, on-going basis. Opportunities for informal recognition should be taken.  Any form of recognition should be appropriate and meaningful to the volunteer.

h.  Information Management and Records Retention

A key component of risk management is the maintenance of records. Their absence or existence (and their quality and consistency) can make all the difference in a legal dispute. All volunteer records relating to all steps of volunteer management should be kept for a minimum of six years after the volunteer is no longer active. All files related to volunteers should be kept in a secure location such as a locked room or file cabinet.  Staff is responsible for keeping the following information on file for enrolled volunteers: application, reference checks, background check result (if applicable), record of orientation and or training, documentation of any complaints by or against the volunteer, record of achievement and/or recognition and copy of drivers license and insurance (for Senior Companion Program).

i.  Staff Reporting of Volunteer Time and Impacts

Volunteers are essential in the delivery of educational programming and research-based information to carrying out the mission of Extension. They inform, complement and enhance the work of Cooperative Extension Staff.  Why is it important to track volunteer time?

  • Tracking is a recognition that volunteer time is important.
  • Potential funders and donors want to know what resources your program already receives and from whom.
  • Volunteer time can help you meet requirements for matching funds in grant proposals.
  • Documenting volunteer time can help protect volunteers and the University from allegations of misconduct or liability.

Staff members are asked to report Extension volunteer efforts and success stories in the Maine Planning and Reporting System (MPRS).  Reporting impacts effectively demonstrate how program volunteers:

  • deliver benefits and results to meet high priority issues and needs in Maine communities.
  • can be seen as valuable community resources that justify investment from public and private sectors.

j.  Marketing a University of Maine Cooperative Extension Program

Although volunteers can be valuable resources to help spread the word about Extension programs, they should work in partnership with a staff member to ensure proper use of Extension program logos and to follow Extension branding guidelines.  All staff members should coordinate any marketing efforts through UMaine Extension Marketing Manager.

k.  Use of Social Media

Only current UMaine Extension employees may set up and maintain official University of Maine Cooperative Extension Web page(s) and online groups created with Web 2.0 tools. Volunteers, club members, retirees, alumnus, students — either individually or as part of a committee — are welcome to participate in online groups created and maintained by UMaine Extension staff. They are also welcome to suggest content for web page(s)/online groups that are maintained by staff. However, to help protect UMaine Extension and its employees from potential lawsuits, UMaine Extension will not provide support to nonemployees who want to create or maintain Web 2.0 Web sites and online groups for Extension.  For more information regarding Social Media guidelines, go to UMaine Extension Social Media Guidelines

6.  LINKS TO PROGRAM SPECIFIC POLICY MANUALS

a. Master Gardener

b. 4-H Volunteers Policies, Procedures, and Guidelines


Authorship of this Resource

The intent of this resource is to be a living document, one that is periodically updated to meet the changing needs of the organization and our volunteers, and which can help you in your volunteer management efforts.

Members of the UMaine Extension Volunteer Advisory Committee who contributed to the authorship of this document include: Ann Swain (Senior Companion Program), Kathy Savoie (Master Food Preservers), Sharon Gilbert (University of Maine 4-H Camp and Learning Center at Tanglewood), Mitch Mason (4-H Youth Development), Barbara Murphy (Master Gardener Volunteers), Jen Lobley (Volunteer Development) and Lisa Phelps (UMaine Extension Program Administrator). In addition, the document was peer-reviewed by Fran Sulinksi, UMaine Extension Assistant Director, Ed Nobles, University of Maine Risk Management, Lisa Morin, Coordinator, UMaine Bodwell Center for Service and Volunteerism, and Todd Tarifa, Volunteer Specialist, LSU Ag Center.