How to train your non-profit volunteers for success

As a nonprofit, volunteers are the face of your organization. You rely on them to support your work in the community. Because they play such a vital role in your mission, it’s important that they represent your organization appropriately.

You should establish a written procedure or handbook for selecting and training volunteers. This will help you set expectations from the beginning.

In addition, follow these steps for all new volunteers:

Job description. Define the responsibilities of the volunteer, including the main activities they will perform. If the role requires physical labor, public speaking, or other unique requests, state them here.

Background check. If the volunteer will work one-on-one with children, elderly, or other dependents, complete a background check. If they will handle money, consider running a criminal background check as well.

Safety training. Because volunteers are not covered by your workers’ compensation insurance policy, they should undergo training before starting, including how to safely use any tools or machinery.

Volunteer waiver. Volunteers will need to sign a waiver stating they understand the job expectations and risks, as well as the fact that they’re liable for their own injuries. The waiver also serves as an added layer of protection for your nonprofit by discouraging volunteers from filing claims.

Renovations to your home could mean renovations to your insurance policy

You spend time and money fixing up your house to make it a haven for your family — remodeling the kitchen, finishing the basement, getting everything exactly how you want it.

So it’s important to make sure that investment is protected. If you suffered a loss, you typically would receive replacement cost value from your insurance company: enough to rebuild your home with similar materials. But if you don’t update your insurance policy with any major renovations or upgrades you’ve made, those additions may not be covered.

Here are some renovations that could affect your insurance policy.

Upgrading the materials
Custom cabinets, hardwood floors, whirlpool tub — if you switch from standard builder’s grade materials to higher-end materials, this could change your replacement cost value.

Adding livable space
Whether it’s a sunroom, an expanded master suite, or a finished basement, extra square footage needs to be covered.

Making key updates
Some house renovations could result in possible credits, meaning a lower insurance premium. For example, if you put on a new roof, you could be eligible for a discount from your insurance company.

Talk to your agent
Contact your insurance agent to make sure you have enough protection on your policy to include any recent remodeling. Tell them the extent and cost of the renovations, and any added square footage. Your agent will use this information to determine the new replacement cost value and make sure you’re covered.

For a major renovation, it’s best to consult your agent before you start the project so you know how it will affect your policy. If you’re unsure whether the updates will change your insurance coverage, ask your agent.

Using your car for business: what’s covered?

So many people use their cars for work that they probably don’t think about insurance consequences. Make sure you know what’s covered the next time you take your auto on the road for business.

Physical damage
As long as you purchased physical damage insurance for your vehicle, you have the same coverage if you get in an accident when using your car for work.

You receive the same liability protection when using your auto for business as you would for personal use. But there are a few nuances you should know about:

  1. Your personal auto must be a car. It cannot be a commercial auto, like a dump truck, 18-wheeler, or pick-up truck. These types of vehicles should be on a commercial auto policy instead. There may be an exception for your van or truck; talk to your agent about how you use your auto.
  2. If the business you work for sells, repairs, services, stores, or parks vehicles, including road tests and delivery, your personal insurance policy will not cover liability protection for your own car.
  3. Your employer might offer some liability insurance for you in your personal car if you’re using it for work. If that’s the case, your insurance and theirs will both cover a liability claim – proportionately – if you’re in an accident. For example, if you have a $25,000 limit and your employer offers $75,000, you employer’s insurance will cover 75% of the claim.

Medical payments
As with liability protection, you’re likely covered. The only exception is that your personal auto must not be a commercial vehicle.

Generally speaking, most insurance companies cover you in these situations. But, as always, you should read your policy carefully or call your agent to know exactly what’s covered.

Take the pledge to stop distracted driving

Distraction comes in many forms.

In the car, it could mean taking your eyes off the road to change the radio station, taking your hands off the wheel to eat a snack, or losing your focus because you’re talking to a passenger.

From eating, drinking, and personal grooming to using a GPS and talking or texting on a cell phone, there’s no limit to the possible distractions while driving. And each one puts the driver, passengers, and others on the road at risk.

Hand held or hands free: A cell phone is distracting

Perhaps the most serious of these distractions is cell phone use. At any given time during the day, more than 800,000 vehicles are being driven by someone using a hand-held cell phone, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. That time on the phone — whether talking or texting — is dangerous:

    •  Sending or receiving a text takes a driver’s eyes from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds —
       equivalent to driving the length of an entire football field, blind.
    •  Sending a text makes a driver 23 times more likely to crash.
    •  Using a cell phone while driving delays a driver’s reactions as much as having a blood alcohol
       concentration at the legal limit of .08 percent.

    •  Using a hand-held device while driving makes a driver four times more likely to get in a serious crash.
    •  Talking on a hands-free cell phone still takes focus away from the road, causing a driver to miss
       important visual cues.

Improve your safety on the road

To limit the temptation to use your phone, turn it off and place it out of reach when you get in the car. If you use the radio or a GPS, set it before you start driving so you won’t need to adjust it later. Avoid eating or drinking while driving.

If you’re a passenger and notice the driver engaging in risky behaviors, speak up. Ask them to focus on driving, for their safety and your own.

Take the pledge to stop distracted driving, and encourage others to do the same.

Statistics from and

5 ways to prepare your business for tornado season

Peak tornado season runs from mid-spring through early summer and, if a tornado strikes near your business, you need to react quickly. That’s why it’s crucial to develop a severe weather plan and safe areas for your employees. Follow these steps to get your company and employees ready for storm season:

1. Determine how much space you’ll require.
You should have enough safe areas to fit all employees and any guests who may be in the building at the time of a tornado. Use the following guidelines from FEMA for how much space you need:

  •  Occupants (standing and seated): 5 square feet per person

  •  Wheelchair users: 10 square feet per person

2. Walk through your building to identify the safest areas
. The basement typically is best. If your building doesn’t have a basement, select an area on the lowest level. Ideally, this space should be a small interior room or corridor. Avoid areas with windows and rooms with high ceilings or outside walls — these are more likely to be damaged during a storm.

3. Assess the exterior of the building
. Look for trees, poles, and other items that could fall or hit the building. Don’t choose safe areas near these hazards.

4. Hold tornado drills often
. Employees in all parts of the building should know where to go and practice the paths to get there.

5. Monitor the weather
. A tornado watch means conditions are right for a tornado and there is a high probability of one in the surrounding area. A tornado warning means a tornado has been sighted in your county, or one is moving toward your area. It also could signify that weather radar indicates a high probability of a tornado.

Someone in your building should have access to a weather radio to listen for severe weather alerts. They also should monitor local radar information if a watch or warning has been issued and provide alerts and/or directions to employees.

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Collaborative strength: Agents, associates make 2012 a dynamite year

People are at the heart of all we do.

It starts with our employees. They’re the best at what they do, and they love doing it. They’re insurance experts, from finding the best coverage to solving complex claims. But at the end of the day, our employees excel at treating our customers the way they’d want to be treated.

We partner with only the top independent agents. We get to know each other well and consider those agents part of our SECURA family. They share our values for helping people — our policyholders.

It’s because of these people that we achieved another year of solid growth. Read more about our people and performance in SECURA’s 2012 Annual Report.