Know the Facts: Volunteer Drivers and the “Ride-Sharing” Liability Controversy

Guest post by William R. Henry, Jr.

Know the Facts: Volunteer Drivers and the “Ride-Sharing” Liability ControversyIf your organization engages volunteers to transport people, and the volunteers use their own vehicles, you may be concerned about liability. Now those worries have been amped up by the controversy over “transportation network companies” (TNC’s) such as Uber and Sidecar, which use Web portals to act as brokers between those who need rides and those who are willing to provide them in their private vehicles.

The controversy is that the liability exposure of TNC’s falls between the scope of commercial auto policies and that of personal auto policies, and it will take some time before insurance companies and government regulators can sort it out. Meanwhile, nonprofit-sponsored programs are at risk of an unfair comparison, because TNC’s sometimes are described as “ride-sharing” – a term that volunteer-based programs have used for many years.

There is a major difference in the two models – volunteers driving their own vehicles for nonprofit organizations might be reimbursed for their expenses by the organization or by passengers, but they are not driving to make a profit. In contrast, vehicle owners drive for TNC’s to make money.

Based on all evidence I have been able to find, insurance companies understand this difference. Although individuals who drive for TNC’s might jeopardize their personal auto insurance, there is no reason at this point to believe that an insurer would deny a claim, cancel coverage, or increase premiums of a customer just because that individual is a volunteer driver, and is reimbursed for reasonable expenses.

Most insurance companies writing personal auto coverage have an exclusion for liability “arising out of …a vehicle being used as a public or livery conveyance.” In other words, don’t use your vehicle as a taxi. In response to the rise of TNC’s, the Insurance Services Office (ISO), which provides standard policy forms, recently issued a policy “endorsement” (modification) excluding coverage for TNC-type arrangements.

My organization has approached several underwriters with the question of whether a customer’s coverage might be jeopardized if that person serves as a volunteer, transporting clients for a nonprofit organization, and is reimbursed for expenses.
Although underwriters always remind us that coverage determinations depend on specific facts of a claim, one underwriter from a major insurer did venture to say that a claim would be covered unless the compensation the volunteer had been receiving “exceeded normal reimbursement of expenses, including wear and tear on the auto.”

Jim Levendusky, manager of Insurance Solutions Underwriting for Verisk Analytics, the parent company of ISO, told me he is not aware of any insurance companies that are contemplating adverse action against customers who drive as volunteers.

The California Public Utilities Commission, in a 2013 ruling on regulations and insurance requirements for transportation network companies, also recognized the difference between TNC’s and volunteer-based programs. The rules exempt nonprofit organizations from the requirements.

Even in the absence of evidence, insurance agents and brokers sometimes warn their customers that they are jeopardizing their personal auto coverage by serving as volunteer drivers. A few states have enacted laws to prevent insurance companies from taking the kind of adverse action that no company yet has taken. The “facts on the ground,” as reporters like to say now, do not justify those warnings and legislative actions.

If your organization engages volunteer drivers, make sure your staff and volunteers know these facts!

William R. Henry, Jr. is executive director of Volunteers Insurance Service Association, which provides insurance and risk management services to volunteer-based nonprofit organizations nationwide, under the brand CIMA Volunteers Insurance (

Why and How VolunteerMatch Works with Sponsors

Keep your remote employees in the volunteering loop.Yes, VolunteerMatch works with sponsors. It’s a good thing that helps us do even more good in the world. Over the past couple of years we have tested out ways to help companies, brands and other nonprofit organizations get their special messages in front of our massive membership of dedicated do-gooders. In exchange, these sponsoring groups help support VolunteerMatch.

You might have seen this sponsored content on the side of while you update your nonprofit’s listings, sign up for a webinar, or search for a volunteer opportunity. You also could see a sponsored message in an email or newsletter, and in one of your Opportunity Alert emails we send to you.

Aren’t We Selling Out?

We really don’t think so. As any nonprofit knows, it takes money to do good – and VolunteerMatch is no exception. You might already know about how we help companies run successful employee volunteer programs. This work not only further fulfills our mission of connecting good people and good causes by exposing your organization’s opportunities to large populations of corporate volunteers, it also helps support the free services we provide for nonprofits and volunteers.

Sponsorship is one more way to do that – it gets important messages about social good and giving back in front of nonprofits and volunteers, and helps support the VolunteerMatch organization and network so we can continue to provide free services and better support.

Our Promise to You

It’s important to us that the sponsored content and ideas we present to you are well aligned with the mission and values of VolunteerMatch; we want them to be important to you, just like you are important to us. If you ever feel the messages we present to you from our sponsors are not in line with the VolunteerMatch spirit, let us know!

In the end, we’re all here to make a difference, and the sponsors we work with help us do that. If you have questions, please leave them in the comments!

Want to Join In?

We know why sponsorship is great for VolunteerMatch and for nonprofits and volunteers who care about doing good, and it can also be beneficial for your initiatives – walkathons, unique volunteering projects, etc. We are engagement experts and our members want to take action. The VolunteerMatch network is growing by leaps and bounds thanks to all of you: we had 12 million visits to the website in 2013, and 2014 is shaping up to be even better. Hundreds of thousands of people get our emails each month.

With millions of members, we are a trusted resource and destination for anyone who cares about getting involved in their community. Where better to put messages about your projects and efforts?

We’ve got a bunch of different, flexible opportunities for you to share your organization’s message with the perfect audience, inspire more people to get out and make a difference, and support VolunteerMatch’s work.

Interested in sponsorship options at VolunteerMatch? Get in touch!

Was VolunteerMatch Affected by the Heartbleed Issue?

Was VolunteerMatch affected by the Heartbleed issue?On Monday April 7, we (along with many other Web services) received notification of a widespread internet security issue – called Heartbleed, impacting the popular OpenSSL technology – and we moved quickly to respond.

We began testing the fix on Monday morning and applied the changes to our production environment Tuesday afternoon. We have verified that the exploitable bug has been fixed.

The servers impacted by Heartbleed do not store user information, and since we were able to close the gap quickly, it is unlikely that this had a security impact on our users.

To be extra vigilant, this is a good time to choose a strong new password for your account and remember to change it often! We’ve made it a priority to take all the steps necessary to keep your data secure.

To update your account information, including your password, you can follow these steps:

  1. Log in and access your organization’s dashboard at
  2. Click ‘Manage Personal Account’ on the left side of page.
  3. Choose ‘Edit Personal Profile.’
  4. Make any desired changes and click ‘Continue.’

If you also change your email address, please make sure to check your inbox for a request to verify your new email address.

Don’t worry, we’re taking care of you and your information, but you can help out by changing your password often!

Welcome to the Family

Welcome to the VolunteerMatch network! Here's what happens after your nonprofit organization joins to recruit and engage volunteers.Congratulations! You just registered as a nonprofit on You’re now part of a rapidly growing network of close to 100,000 organizations that have realized the value of engaging volunteers through our network.

What now?


Good question – here’s what happens next, once the honeymoon is over and the good stuff really begins…

We Vet You

Believe me, this is a good thing. Our crackerjack team of nonprofit community support folks checks each new organization that joins VolunteerMatch to make sure they are truly doing the good work they say they are. With tools like GuideStar to help, this rarely takes more than a day, and ensures that the nonprofits and listings in our system are real and wonderful. It’s a major way we fulfill our commitment to accountability, transparency and quality.

We Support You

Not sure how to post a new listing? Confused by a message you got from us? Wondering where the volunteers are? Just want to chat? So do we. Support for the nonprofits in our network is a major priority for us. Whenever you have a question or a problem, don’t hesitate to reach out and we’ll get back to you very quickly.

We Teach You

It’s not just about the tools, though. Successful volunteer engagement is a complicated career skill, and we know that in order to truly make a difference we need to help nonprofits learn how to do this better. Our Learning Center is your hub for learning how to be awesome at volunteer engagement. We’ve got free webinars, downloadable resources, books and websites. Definitely something to explore during your professional development/coffee time.

We Connect You

Finally, joining VolunteerMatch means being connected to a huge community of nonprofits, volunteers and companies focused on giving time and doing good. Follow our blog, join the conversations on Facebook and LinkedIn, keep up with news via Twitter, and get inspired on Instagram.

We’re so happy to have you as a member of VolunteerMatch! Good luck engaging volunteers, and keep up the great work!

The Obvious Reason Volunteering is at a 10-Year Low

Editor’s Note: There’s been a lot of hoopla lately about a recent report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showing the volunteer rate in the U.S. to be lower than it’s been in a decade. With our 16-year relationship with the nonprofit, corporate and volunteering sectors, VolunteerMatch is in a unique position to clearly view what’s really going on. To help everyone understand this phenomenon better, VolunteerMatch president Greg Baldwin published this post on LinkedIn.

The Obvious Reason Volunteering is at a 10-Year Low

It is National Volunteer Week, a time to celebrate the irrepressible spirit of goodwill, generosity and hustle that is as much a part of American culture as the 4th of July, Mount Rushmore and our aversion to the metric system.

It is a time to be reminded that America is the place where we celebrate our freedom to come together to get things done, to fight injustice and to invest in our future. It is also a good time to point out that in 2013 volunteering hit a 10-year low, and try to explain how it is that so few people seem to understand why.

Click here to read the rest of Greg’s article and discover the obvious explanation for this recent volunteering trend…