Risk Management Overview
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- Section 1.7 MU Extension Volunteer Qualifications and Application Process
Risk Management of Volunteer-Led Programs Overview
The MU Extension Risk Management of Volunteer-Led Programs Policies (included in Appendix A of the Missouri 4-H policies and Procedures manual) provides a consistent framework and direction for MU Extension employees working with volunteers within University of Missouri Extension programs (referred to as "programs").
Terms used Throughout
For brevity, this manual will use the term "employee" to refer to the MU Extension faculty or staff responsible for the oversight of a program engaging volunteers. Likewise, the term "volunteer" is used to refer to a recognized MU Extension volunteer (see 1.7 below). The term "general public" will be used to indicate youth and adults who are not enrolled or registered in a named MU Extension program, and youth will refer to youth up to age 18* who participate in the program (*4-H, "youth" may include those up to age 19, or 21 for individuals with special needs). The term "University" singularly encompasses the Curators of the University of Missouri, its Board of Curators, its officers, administrators, and employees. "Risk Management" used on its own will be abbreviated to "RM". Used consistently, this policy manual will reduce risks associated with volunteer-led programs and protect the interests of MU Extension, its employees, volunteers, and the communities it serves. Risk management policies help define boundaries, clarify responsibilities, provide structure, and ensure continuity to reduce or eliminate loss, damage, and liability.
1.2 Reporting Incidents
MU Extension Volunteer Risk Management Policy
MU Extension Volunteer Risk Management policy provides a consistent framework for MUE programs throughout the state. Policy is created to ensure that MU Extension programming is consistent, fair, and legal. Failure to follow policy could result in the loss of authorization to use the MU Extension program name and emblem or potential dismissal from the MU Extension program as deemed appropriate by the University of Missouri Cooperative Extension administration.
Role of the University Systems Risk Management Department
Contact the Risk Management office anytime you are holding an event or program and have concerns about the safety of the participants, or the risks that might arise. You can reach them via email ([email protected]) or by phone at (573) 882-8100.
Report any incident of damage to person or property using Form UM200 Incident Report. This form needs to be filled out, electronically signed, and submitted within 48 hours after the accident or incident. This form can also be faxed (573-882-7861) or emailed to [email protected].
For major incidents or things that might happen on a weekend, employees may also want to send an immediate email to [email protected] with a report to be followed on UM200. It is helpful if you also have the names and addresses of witnesses when appropriate. Be sure to copy the Regional and Program Directors on all related correspondence. (Additional forms found on the Risk and Insurance Management Forms page.)
Consulting Legal Counsel
The University Legal Counsel is also available for consultation. Please contact your state program director before contacting the General Counsel's Office.
General Counsel's Office 227 University Hall
Columbia, Mo 65211
1.3 Risk Defined
What is Risk?
A risk is any uncertainty about a future event that threatens your organization's ability to accomplish its mission. Risk is the many unexpected things that can injure or put at risk program participants, spectators, properties, and even the reputation of MU Extension.
1.4 Prioritizing Risks
A risk matrix (below) is a helpful tool when planning an extension event or program. During the planning stage, brainstorm a list of possible risks and consider the likelihood of occurrence and impact of each. For example, an inexperienced tightrope walker working without a net exemplifies an unacceptable risk – the likelihood of the worst outcome is extremely high. By contrast, an experienced tightrope walker working two feet off the ground above a king-size, pillow-top mattress presents a minimal risk.
1.5 Mitigating Risk
General Risk Management Strategies
Once you have identified the risks, develop a risk management strategy to address each risk. Alternatives to managing risks include:
- Retain the Risk
Accept the risk and prepare for the possibility of loss to occur. (e.g. An outdoor concession stand may lose sales due to inclement weather.)
- Reduce the Risk
Change the activity or conditions to decrease the likelihood that a loss will occur. Develop policies and procedures. Train employees and volunteers to manage and/or avoid risks.
- Share the Risk
Transfer liability to a partner (whole or part) through a contract. Ways to share risk include carrying accident/medical insurance, using informed consent forms, or paying vendors for services.
- Avoid the Risk
Do not conduct the activity. If the risks are too severe and the possibility of harm is too great, prohibit the activity.
- Retain the Risk
1.6 Volunteer Defined
Definition of a University of Missouri (MU) Extension Volunteer
Missouri Revised Statutes, Section 537.118 (3) "Volunteer"
An individual performing services for a nonprofit organization or a governmental entity who is not compensated for his services on a salary or prorated equivalent basis. The term shall not include others covered by section 537.118.
University of Missouri Rules and Regulations HR-513 "Volunteer"
In accordance with the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the University of Missouri considers a volunteer to be an individual who performs hours of service for the University for civic, charitable, or humanitarian reasons, without promise, expectation, or receipt of compensation for services rendered.
1.7 Volunteer Qualifications
To be considered a recognized MU Extension volunteer, one must have completed.
- Enrollment/application to volunteer in an MU Extension program area for the current program year,
- Documented agreement with the MU Extension Volunteer Code of Conduct for the current program year,
- Orientation to MU Extension and any program-specific orientation or training,
- Background screening* per policy for child abuse/neglect and criminal background convictions, if working with minors on an ongoing basis outside the classroom setting, and
- Engaged in programs or assigned duties that are approved and supervised by MU Extension employees.
For 4-H Volunteers: These steps and instructions to start the enrollment process can be found on the Missouri 4-H Volunteer Application Process page. Additionally, 4-H volunteers agree to and sign the MU Extension Volunteer Code of Conduct through enrolling in 4-H through the 4HOnline system.
All MU Extension employees undergo a background check as a condition of employment. Likewise, volunteers give consent for a background check prior to accepting volunteer duties specific to the MU Extension program area. Results of the screening are reviewed by the employee responsible for the program prior to the applicant is allowed to begin volunteer service. The background check process is intended to help the university evaluate whether an individual is eligible for the position or other activities. The University desires to promote fair and consistent methods to obtain, analyze, apply, and retain background check information.
The following considerations/requirements must be met by the applicant and/or MU Extension personnel:
The volunteer applicant must give consent for a background check prior to one being completed. This consent is given by the volunteer's signature on paper forms or electronic signature given through the program's online enrollment system. Using a search process without the applicant's consent as a means to determine whether to accept or reject the application is prohibited.
Volunteer Rights Under Federal Credit Reporting Act
From the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau:
The federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) promotes the accuracy, fairness, and privacy of information in the files of consumer reporting agencies. There are many types of consumer reporting agencies, including credit bureaus and specialty agencies (such as agencies that sell information about check writing histories, medical records, and rental history records).
According to FCRA guidelines, information that is older than seven years including civil judgments, arrest records, and collection records cannot be used in considering whether to accept or reject a credit application. However, current MU Extension guidance recommends rejecting any applicant with a history of violence (physical or emotional) regardless of when the incident occurred.
The FCRA requires that the applicant be notified that a background check will occur. MU Extension 4-H volunteer applicants, by completing the background screening consent form, have certified that they are aware of the pending screening. No other action is required of the MU Extension 4-H personnel.
Responsibilities of MU Extension 4-H Personnel
Volunteers undertaking a background screening are entitled to:
- A copy of the results provided by the screening service employed by the University.
- A specified time to respond to the information revealed in the background check. Individuals must respond and/or dispute such information within the time frame set forth by the MU Extension program leadership.
If the individual does not (or if the response is not satisfactory) and MU Extension upholds its decision, the employee provides the individual a letter rendering the final decision. The employee should coordinate the notification process with the MU Extension Director of Risk & Volunteer Management, Eric Jackson.
Frequency of Screenings
- All new volunteer applicants must undergo a preliminary background check in the program year of intended service regardless of when their volunteer service is to begin.
- Returning volunteers will be rescreened on an annual basis or at a frequency determined by the MU Extension Program Director. Volunteers must be informed of the rescreen process and timeline.
- Break-in Service: If there is a break of volunteer service of more than one year, the individual is considered as a "new" volunteer applicant and will be rescreened at the time they express an interest to return to active volunteer service.
(More information regarding the 4-H volunteer application and approval process is located in the 4-H Policy and Procedure Manual, Section VI. 4-H faculty and staff, contact Stephanie Femrite if you have difficulty accessing the 4-H Policy and Procedure online manual.)
Decision-Making Based on Screening Results
The county specialist responsible for the program will be notified by the Missouri 4-H Center of results from screenings needing input from a county MU Extension employee before approving the volunteer. For instance, charges and convictions may appear on a background screening. While some screening results lead to prompt denial of a volunteer applicant (i.e. violence towards another), minor infractions (i.e. certain traffic violations) and dated convictions (usually 10 or more years ago) require input and direction from the county specialist with oversight of the county program. The Volunteer Constructive Coaching Guide for MU Professionals (PDF) provides decision-making guidance to the employee.
MU Extension Volunteer Code of Conduct
Similar to university employees, volunteers must follow standards of personal conduct, as outlined in the MU Extension Volunteer Code of Conduct, which must be reviewed and signed annually in order to be a recognized volunteer. The MU Extension Volunteer Code of Conduct protects both the volunteer and MU Extension. Following this code ensures that volunteers have the support of MU Extension and the University of Missouri. Signing the MU Extension Volunteer Code of Conduct is a mandatory step to earning the distinction of becoming a MU Extension volunteer.
Additionally, the MU Extension Volunteer Code of Conduct serves as a reference for any corrective action taken by employees with volunteers. The code of conduct enables employees to ensure that volunteers follow specific guidelines, and sets forth steps for corrective action that may be taken for volunteers whose conduct violates this code.
Volunteering is a privilege, not a right, and failure to uphold any of the code of conduct standards above may result in coaching by the MU Extension program employee (county, regional, or state). This may include reassignment, role restriction, and, if appropriate, removal from all MU Extension volunteer roles.
Visit https://muextensionway.missouri.edu/volunteer-management for volunteer management resources. For 4-H specific resources, go to https://extension2.missouri.edu/programs/missouri-4-h.
FAQ Regarding the MU Extension Volunteer Code of Conduct Agreement
Who needs to sign this agreement, and who does not?
This policy applies to any volunteer who accepts the following responsibilities:
- Teaching extension-related content.
- Serving individually or as a member of a standing advisory group for program policy.
- Serving as a member of a committee or advisory group that participates in the allocation or management of resources related to program conduct or delivery.
- Soliciting or managing donations of goods or funds in support of specific or general extension program efforts.
Does the MU Extension Volunteer Code of Conduct apply to County Extension Councils?
No. Elected or appointed members of Missouri county Extension Councils are not covered by this policy within the bounds of their role on the county extension Council. As members of an official Missouri governmental body, other rules and policies apply.
Do short-term (episodic) volunteers need to sign the Code of Conduct?
Volunteers serving short-duration or in a brief ad hoc advisory role may not need to sign the agreement. Exception: Short-term adults serving as chaperones (see 3. Youth Safety, Tab 3.3 Topic B.1 ), providing transportation, and tag-along adults in a non-volunteer capacity MUST sign the MU Extension Volunteer Code of Conduct AND give consent for a background screening. Otherwise, the short-term volunteer is to be supervised by a recognized MU Extension volunteer and/or MU Extension employee.
What are MU Extension employee responsibilities regarding this policy?
Employees ensure that volunteer applicants sign, date, and return a paper copy of the agreement before engaging in the extension program. Alternatively, volunteers may sign and submit a virtual copy through the MU Extension Volunteer Code of Conduct site. (Additionally, the volunteer applicant must give consent to a background screening.)
Where do the signed agreements need to be kept on file?
Currently, virtual copies exist in the 4-H volunteer database (4HOnline) for 4-H, and in a Qualtric's database for Master Gardeners and Master Naturalists . Employees will have access to this database and are able to monitor compliance by working with the MU Extension Volunteer Coordinator. As these are signed virtually every year by the volunteer applicant, keeping a physical or additional copy on file of this agreement is not necessary. However, it is the employee's responsibility to ensure all volunteers engaged in the program have signed the agreement.
What if a volunteer applicant remits a signed paper copy of the agreement?
If volunteer applicants do remit a paper form, these are to be kept in a physical file or scanned and kept for the duration of the program year. Remember, the volunteer applicant must sign the form again at the start of the next program year.
Do volunteers need to sign a copy of the policy more than once?
Yes. The agreement is signed annually regardless of when the volunteer begins service, either through the online volunteer registration database or via a paper form. If a volunteer begins in the middle of the program year, they will sign the agreement again at the beginning of the next program year.
What if a volunteer is engaged in more than one program area (e.g., 4-H and Master Gardener)? Do they sign an additional form?
An additional signed form is not necessary. However, local program administrators may request a copy of the original form or request the volunteer sign a second copy for record-keeping purposes. This decision is best handled at the local level between employees who administer the extension programs. For example, if one person serves as a local Master Gardener volunteer in one county and also works with the Community Arts program on a regional level, it may make practical sense to ask the volunteer to sign an agreement form that can be filed and kept with the records of each respective program.
What happens if a volunteer seems to be in violation of any of the items in the conduct policy?
Employees should consult the Volunteer Constructive Coaching Guide for MU Professionals (PDF) for guidance.
Which MU Extension employee signs as "supervisor" for each volunteer form after the volunteer signs it?
The MU Extension employee who is directly responsible for the program signs as the supervisor. This applies only to paper forms. For volunteers who sign a virtual. For other cases, supervisor sign-off will be at the CES level.
What should happen if a volunteer refuses to sign, or will only sign with qualifications?
They cannot become a recognized MU Extension volunteer, nor can they engage in the program as a volunteer. Signing with "exceptions" or "qualifications" on the part of the volunteer is unacceptable. If they are unwilling to sign or simply "don't get around to it," they may not serve as an MU Extension volunteer.
A final thought: Typically, resistance on the part of the volunteer applicant is a result of insufficient orientation as to why the policy is in effect in the first place. A positive attitude from employees regarding the importance of this policy is fundamental as well. Be sure to include open discussion and orientation for volunteer applicants that include an overarching perspective of how the program for which they volunteer is a part of a broader extension program, and part of the educational mission of the University of Missouri.
Revoking Volunteer Status
In extreme instances, a volunteer may willfully be non-compliant or may neglect safety protocols putting themselves or others in harm. In these cases, the employee responsible for the county program may revoke volunteer privileges from an individual immediately. The individual is dismissed from the program and cannot represent themselves as a MU Extension volunteer. The dismissed volunteer may or may not be granted a right to appeal the decision depending on the circumstances. For guidance on dismissing, suspending, and denying a volunteer applicant, consult the Volunteer Constructive Coaching Guide for MU Professionals (PDF), and consult the MU Extension Volunteer Specialist.
Volunteer Appeals Process
Most volunteers will be granted an appeal if their volunteer status is revoked by MU Extension. In extreme instances, the volunteer appeals process is not an option. For detailed information on the appeals process, steps, and resources for MU Extension employees, consult the Volunteer Constructive Coaching Guide for MU Professionals (PDF). which includes a matrix of circumstances when an appeals process is granted or denied. Consult with the Program Director to confirm the steps of the program's appeals process.
1.8 Volunteer Reimbursement
As stated in the definitions of an MU Extension volunteer (1.4), there is no compensation to a volunteer for services rendered on behalf of MU Extension. However, pre-approved expenditures incurred by a volunteer for an MU Extension program area are reimbursable by the county extension office through county program or regional funds. The reimbursement paid needs to be recorded in the appropriate ledger.
1.9 Volunteer Application Denial Procedure
A volunteer applicant may be denied without explanation. Reasons to deny a volunteer application include, but are not limited to, no open volunteer role to fill, no qualifications to fulfill the volunteer role, not agreeing to the MU Extension Volunteer Code of Conduct, not being compatible with employees and/or other volunteers, prior dismissal from the program, or results from a background screening that negates further consideration. In each case, the volunteer applicant should receive a written notice that their volunteer service is not needed at the current time (See the Constructive Coaching of MU Extension Volunteers employee guide in the RM Resources section of this site), and consult the MU Extension Director of Risk and Volunteer Management (Eric Jackson).
1.10 Volunteer Suspension/Termination Procedure
Volunteering for MU Extension is a privilege, not a right. Certain actions by volunteers may warrant immediate removal without the benefit of preliminary coaching. This might include arrest or conviction for child abuse or neglect, violent crimes, or other serious offenses. In some cases, a volunteer may be suspended from duty until an investigation is completed. Decisions on immediate removal or suspension should be made at the county level after discussion with the regional director and state volunteer systems or risk management coordinator. The procedure for removing a state-level volunteer is essentially the same as a county-level volunteer with the exception that the state specialist overseeing the program initiates the procedures. The volunteer will receive written notice (See the Constructive Coaching of MU Extension Volunteers employee guide, appendix E for the appropriate letter template). Consult the MU Extension Volunteer Specialist.
- Former Employees as Volunteers
While the University of Missouri values the service and talents of former MU Extension employees, it is important to allow the incoming Extension employee the opportunity to establish themselves as program leader for the county. The following policies provide for:
- Separated on "Good Terms"
Former employees and county Extension office administrators/secretaries who separated on good terms are not to volunteer in the county(ies) served for five (5) years after the incoming Extension employee establish themselves as the program leader. Should the incoming employee separate from MU Extension before five (5) years, once the next incoming Extension employee is hired, the five (5) year wait period starts over.
- Did Not Separate on Good Terms
Former employees and county Extension office administrators/secretaries who did not separate on good terms are not to volunteer for MU Extension in any program area of any county in Missouri. (Exceptions are at the discretion of MU Extension administration and Regional Directors.)
- Former Employees as Volunteers