The Nuts & Bolts of Insurance for Nonprofits

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1 The Nuts & Bolts of Insurance for Nonprofits It s more than what you need. It s what you deserve.

2 Purchasing insurance for a nonprofit organization can be a confusing and complicated task. This guide was prepared to answer basic questions regarding types of insurance available and why each type might be needed. Additonally, we ve addressed some of the questions we are frequently asked. When creating an insurance program it is important to have a in depth conversation with your insurance professional to discuss the risks your individual organization faces and how to best protect against those risks. Basic Coverages Commercial General Liability It may seem obvious but the place to start with your insurance is with the General Liability coverage. Your General Liability protects your organization if you damage someone s property or accidentally hurt someone. Your policy will cover the cost to repair damages as well as pay medical expenses and legal fees. The key here is that in order for the insurance company to pay out on a liabiilty claim your organization will have had to be negligent in some way. Commercial Auto Coverage Auto coverage is the coverage that people are most familiar with. If your organization owns vehicles then you need Commercial Auto coverage which is essentially the same as what we all buy for our own cars. It may cover for liability only or could also include physical damage coverage. The liability portion covers damage to other vehicles or property and injury to others for accidents for which you are at-fault. The physical damage pays for the repair of vehicles owned by your organization. Uninsured motorist coverage may be purchased with the business auto policy and it provides coverage for accidents involving uninsured or underinsured motorists. Nonowned Auto Liability Coverage If your employees or volunteers use their own vehicles on business associated with your organization, this coverage is very important. If someone is driving on behalf of your nonprofit and they cause an accident the other people involved may come after your organization for damages to their property or for the cost of medical treatment. Note that the auto coverage that already exists on the employee s or volunteer s vehicle will always pay first. And then, if they don t have enough coverage the organizations Nonowned Auto Liability will kick in. So, it s additional coverage above and beyond what s already in place on the vehicle. 1

3 Social Service Professional Liability This coverage is often provided as an endorsement to the commercial general liability. It typically provides coverage for negligence and errors and omissions as a result of professional and peer counseling activities. However, it can cover many other professional exposures as well. Note that this coverage is typically not sufficient for organizations with medical malpractice exposures. Improper Sexual Conduct Liability Purchasers of this type of coverage should be particularly careful to understand what they are getting and not getting. Frequently, insurers claim to offer this free "silent" coverage with the commercial general liability, because they do not specifically exclude improper sexual conduct. Buyer beware. Unless this coverage is purchased as a separate policy specifically providing coverage for improper sexual conduct, you likely will not have any coverage for your employees or volunteers. With the "silent" coverage, employees or volunteers who may be unfairly accused will receive no coverage at all under this insurance. Directors and Officers Liability The key distinction with directors and officers liability is that it is intended to cover wrongful acts that are "intentional" as opposed to "negligent." This is because directors and officers insurance is designed to cover actions and decisions of the board of directors. These actions may be in error and wrong, but they are, nonetheless, "intentional" acts. Most other types of insurance do not cover "intentional" acts. Among the items a good directors and officers policy should include is broad coverage for all types of employment related actions, including wrongful termination, harassment, discrimination, failure to hire, etc. It should also pay defense costs as they are incurred, not on a reimbursement basis. Umbrella Liability True to its name, umbrella coverage provides liability limits over and above what s already in place. For example, an umbrella policy may increase the limits of coverage on a commercial general liability policy, a business auto policy, and/or a directors and officers policy. Commercial Property This coverage provides protection against loss or damage to the physical assets of the organization such as buildings, office equipment, furniture, etc. When considering this coverage it is important to have a thorough inventory of all physical assets, and then make sure the property is accurately valued at replacement cost levels and finally make sure that adequate coverage limits are purchased. 2

4 Fidelity (Employee Dishonesty) Fidelity coverage is intended to provide a source for recovery of funds embezzled by employees. This coverage may sometimes be purchased with the property coverage or may be purchased separately as a fidelity bond. Student/Volunteer/Participant Accident Accident insurance provides a limited amount of coverage for injury to a student/volunteer/participant (depending on the specific coverage) on a nofault basis. It is not workers compensation coverage! Under commercial general liability, it is typically necessary to establish fault before a payment is made. However, accident insurance typically pays, regardless of fault, and may engage prior to an individual's health insurance or in excess of it, depending on the particular policy. Workers Compensation Workers Compensation provides coverage for employees in the event of injury, illness or death. This coverage is required by law for any organization which has employees. The benefits provided include medical care, disability income, death benefit, and job retraining. 3

5 Frequently Asked Questions Will the homeowners coverage of individual board members protect them in the event of a law suit against the board? It is possible that some coverage for board service may be found under an individual s homeowner s policy, but the extent of that coverage depends on the specific wording of the policy. A homeowners policy may provide coverage for accidents, but these types of policies typically provide no protection for the activities involved in the governance of the agency nor does it provide any protection for the nonprofit itself. If we re covered under the Volunteer Protection Act, why do we need to purchase D&O insurance? Nearly every state in the country has in place a statue that affords some protection to volunteers serving nonprofit organizations. Laws differ from state to state. Among the common elements are the following limitations on whatever immunity the laws provide. The exclusion of protection for any willful acts on the part of a volunteer The exclusion of protection for any claims involving the use of an automobile The exclusion of protection for any claims alleging violation of civil rights laws The exclusion of protection for any volunteer serving a nonprofit that does not have liability insurance. All of these exclusions and exceptions are critically important. Together they represent a significant percentage of the claims filed against nonprofits and nonprofit board members. Also keep in mind that the laws do not stop anyone from filing a claim against your volunteers. Even if a court eventually rules that the volunteer is immune, defense costs could be substantial. 4

6 What is a Hold Harmless Agreement? A hold harmless is an agreement between two parties that obligates one party to protect another against certain risks of legal liability. In a typical hold harmless agreement, one party agrees to pay and defend claims brought against the other party as a result of the first party s activities. Usually a landlord will include hold harmless language in a lease to protect him or her from being sued as a result of an event occurring on his or her property. So, before signing a lease containing a hold harmless agreement, always ask yourself whether you are in a position to prevent or control losses covered under the agreement. Leases of this type also usually require you to name landlord as an additional insured. Funders, such as governmental agencies may also require a hold harmless agreement so that they will not be held responsible simply because they fund an event or a program. On the other side of the issue are the agreements you should require from vendors and subcontractors that participate in events. Vendors may sell food and beverages, security, clean-up crews and other services. You want to be sure that you have a hold harmless agreement that protects your nonprofit in the event of an incident involving the vendor. But the surest way to protect yourself in these instances is to get your organization named as an additional insured on the vendor s policy. There are coverage considerations involved in a hold harmless because one party agrees to assume legal obligations of another in a lawsuit for damages to third parties arising from specified operations. It is important that the operations be specified or the agreement may be ambiguous and cause coverage questions in the event of a claim. The requirement that a hold harmless be signed by the nonprofit is becoming increasingly common. What is a Certificate of Insurance? A certificate of insurance provides evidence that insurance coverage is in effect the day the certificate was printed. These are different from an additional insured in that it does not add anything to your policy it is just evidence of insurance. Though you will see certificates of insurance issued with additional language that says the certificate holder is an additional insured on XXX policy. When you need a certificate of insurance you should request it of your broker and it should not cost you anything. Also you should request one when contracting with anyone. You don t want to work with a vendor that is not insured. If the vendor has insurance, a potential claimant is less likely to recover from you. 5

7 What is an Additional Insured? The additional insured endorsements actually adds another entity to your insurance policy. So for example the landlord of a building where you are holding an event may require that he/she be added to your policy. This would be accomplished through an additional insured endorsement. If you contract with a public entity to provide service, that contract will almost always require that the public entity be named as an additional insured. When you contract with a vendor to provide service for your organization you should be added to their policy as an additional insured. For example, you hire a caterer for an event and the food makes everyone sick. If you were added as an additional insured to the caterer s policy then you would be covered. Cost should be nominal. Most are no cost at all. How should I go about selecting an Insurance Broker? Knowledgeable about commercial lines insurance (insurance for corporations and organizations) and the insurance companies that offer it. Experienced with regard to the special risks facing nonprofits and the insurance products best suited to finance those risks. Willing to take the time to learn about your agency s operations and to provide thoughtful advice and counsel about the agency s exposures and insurance needs. Assertive in advocating your interests. Well connected with the various insurance markets and able to offer you competitive choices with respect to pricing and coverage terms. Responsive to your changing needs he or she should return your phone calls, assist with claims filing, notify insurers of any change, issue certificates of insurance, and assist with the design of risk management strategies. Consider asking the following questions as you go about the process of selecting a broker for your nonprofit. We hope that you have found this guide helpful and that it will assist you in obtaining the overall protection you need for your nonprofit. If you would like to access additional information or tools please visit our website at Or give us a call any time at and one of our specialist will be happy to answer your questions (no pressure and no obligation we promise!). 6

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