The purpose of this manual is to provide guidance for University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension staff working with volunteers and to provide transparency to volunteers working on behalf of UNH Extension. The policy manual is designed to reduce volunteer risk and protect UNH Extension volunteers, staff and the communities we serve. Volunteer policies help determine boundaries, clarify responsibilities, provide structure and ensure continuity within our organization.
b. Volunteer Philosophy
Volunteers are a key part of the delivery system of UNH Extension educational and youth development programs. UNHCE is committed to working with volunteers for the many values they bring to the organization, such as:
Volunteers are essential and integral partners in carrying out Extension’s mission.
Volunteers extend and multiply the educational capacity of paid staff. They inform, complement and enhance the work of UNH Cooperative Extension Staff.
Volunteers provide a critical link to the individuals and communities we serve. Their efforts contribute highly to the overall success of UNH Extension.
Staff/volunteer partnerships are based on mutual support, respect and the commitment to learning and growth.
c. Definition of a Volunteer
A UNH Extension “volunteer" is anyone who performs services on behalf of UNH Cooperative Extension who does not receive compensation other than reimbursement for expenses actually incurred for such services. In some cases (such as working with youth or other activities with high volunteer responsibility) volunteers are required to possess proper certification or validation of competence in the rules, procedures, practices, and programs of the activity. Unless specifically stated, volunteers shall not be considered “employees” of Extension and are not covered by workers’ compensation insurance.
d. Definition of Volunteer Roles
UNH Extension engages volunteers in many education, outreach and research roles. As such, Extension volunteer engagement varies in terms of time commitment and longevity. Volunteers should be given the opportunity to increase or decrease their level of involvement over time. Roles and policies for Extension volunteers vary according to the following definitions:
1. “Enrolled” – Enrolled volunteers agree to a substantial commitment to UNH Extension. They receive training, submit an application, undergo background screening, and commit to at least one volunteer role with a signed volunteer service agreement.
2. “Unenrolled” – Unenrolled volunteers are those with a less formal or extensive volunteer relationship with Extension. Circumstances where Extension staff may work with unenrolled volunteers may include:
I. Short term projects
II. Working as part of an MOU
III. Youth volunteers working directly under staff or enrolled volunteers
e. Volunteer Service Descriptions
Enrolled volunteers will receive a description of the duties and responsibilities of the position they are expected to fill. Prior to any volunteer assignment or recruitment effort, a volunteer position 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 service descriptions should be reviewed and updated whenever the work involved in the position changes substantially. All volunteer service descriptions should include the following:
Objectives of the position
Responsibilities associated with the position
f. What Can Volunteers Expect?
Volunteers can expect the following when engaged as a volunteer in our programs:
Orientation and training
Clear, appropriate assignments and guidance
Clear communication, supervision and support from Extension staff
Recognition for volunteer contribution
Time valued and put to best use
Opportunities to provide input on program activities to Extension staff
Opportunities for meaningful contribution to Extension’s mission in accordance with volunteer description
2. Values and Beliefs
a. Civil Rights & Non-Discrimination Policy
All Extension volunteers must be made aware of UNH Extension’s statement on civil rights and their responsibility to meet civil rights goals in their work as a volunteer with Extension. Volunteers must agree to use the non-discrimination statement on any printed material that actively seeks members, participants or beneficiaries of UNH 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 UNH 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.
Full UNH Extension non-discrimination statement for all programs encouraging enrollment:
The University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension is an equal opportunity educator and employer. UNH, U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, and New Hampshire counties cooperating. Our programs and policies are consistent with pertinent Federal and State laws and regulations prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, gender identity(including gender expression), sexual orientation, disability, age, marital status, familial/parental status, income derived from a public assistance program, political beliefs, reprisal or retaliation for prior civil rights activity.
Short-form non-discrimination statement for informational materials: The University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension is an equal opportunity educator and employer. UNH, U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, and New Hampshire counties cooperating. [Insert other cooperating partners]
b. LGBTQ Policy
UNHCE is committed to programming that is welcoming and supportive of youth, staff and volunteers of all sexual orientations and gender identities. Gender and sexual identity diversity adds to the quality of Extension programs and the organization will not tolerate bullying or harassment. Extension volunteers will be expected to extend this commitment in their work on behalf of UNH Extension.
Volunteers will only be asked questions regarding gender identity or sexual orientation if it is essential to a specific volunteer activity. Volunteers are entitled to open-ended gender identity responses (not limited to male/female) and to this information remaining confidential. Whenever possible, all-gender restroom facilities should be available to volunteers.
c. Sexual Harassment
All volunteers are entitled to be free from harassment in their volunteer work for Extension, and are responsible for maintaining a harassment-free environment in their outreach and education work with others. UNH policies prohibit sexual misconduct, unwanted sexual contact, stalking, and discriminatory harassment. Enrolled volunteers must be made aware of the UNH Extension harassment policy and reporting process.
Volunteers will not be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under UNHCE volunteer programs on the basis of age. Age-based Harassment is unlawful and involves unwelcome and offensive conduct that is based on a person’s age, such as derogatory ageist remarks or jokes, age-based insults, remarks reflecting hostility or animosity toward older or younger individuals, or comments that reflect negative, age-based stereotypes.
UNHCE is committed to providing programming for volunteers of all ages. There are, however, some permissible uses of age distinctions that apply to Extension programs. If a program or activity provides special benefits to the elderly or to children, the use of age distinctions is presumed to be necessary to the normal operation of the program or activity, and are allowable.
3. Volunteer Recruitment
Extension volunteers will be recruited to reach beyond traditional demographics to demonstrate organizational readiness to welcome and engage a diverse cadre of volunteers. UNH 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.
b. Screening Process for Enrolled Volunteers
Those interested in becoming enrolled UNH Extension volunteers are entitled to a fair and transparent screening process. The following steps will be used to process volunteer applicants at UNH Extension:
Volunteer applications will be used to assess potential enrolled volunteers. At a minimum, volunteer applications will include contact information, volunteer experience, ability to meet volunteer requirements, skills and interests and background information that relates to the position. Applications will make clear the sponsors of the volunteer program and UNH Extension’s non-discrimination policy.
2. Reference Checks
Volunteer programs with enrolled volunteers will solicit at least two references for each volunteer applicant and follow up with at least one to learn more about the applicant. Reference checks can be conducted by phone, email, mail, or in person
Volunteers to programs with a significant commitment and those that work directly with youth will require interviews with potential volunteer applicants, which may be conducted in person, by phone or by video.
4. Background Checks
All enrolled Extension volunteers must undergo criminal background screening 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.
c. Rejecting a Volunteer Application
Not all applicants will meet the expectations required for a volunteer, and some programs may have annual enrollment limits. Under no circumstances can UNH Extension staff reject an application for reasons that would fall under the non-discrimination policy. If space is limited, programs must have clearly articulated criteria, explained to applicants, to guide admission to volunteer programs. Applicants are entitled to timely communication about a rejected volunteer application, but will not receive detailed reasons for the decision.
4. Volunteer Activities on Behalf of UNH Extension
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. Confidentiality of medical information of participants, volunteers and staff is required by UNH’s HIPAA policy.
b. Political Activities
Volunteers may not engage in partisan politics while in their role as a volunteer on behalf of UNH (leading groups, staffing a booth, delivering a program, conducting outreach, etc.). Volunteers must be offered training to minimize the risk or perception that Extension is associated with or endorses any political platform, policy, or position.
c. Reporting on Discrimination and Harassment
Volunteers must have access to UNH Extension’s discrimination and harassment reporting procedures, and know what to do if they or anyone they are working with as a volunteer believes they, as part of the Extension program, have experienced discrimination or harassment based on race, color, religion, sex, age, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, disability, veteran status, or marital status. Volunteers should have access to the following procedures for reporting discrimination complaints (for example on volunteer program websites):
Questions and complaints about discrimination should be reported immediately to the volunteer supervisor or the Extension Civil Rights Coordinator. Discrimination complaints may also be reported anonymously through reportit.
d. Conflict of Interest
The actions or decisions of a volunteer that are driven by personal considerations, including political, social or financial benefits, will be considered a conflict of interest and will not be permitted. This policy also includes unauthorized use or misuse of UNH resources in the course of a volunteer activity. USNH Conflict of Interest Policy (Section D.7)
e. Digital Communication by Volunteers
While in their role as a volunteer on behalf of UNH Extension, volunteers must use communication that uses a tone aligned with UNH Extension professionals: non-partisan, positive, and based on research. All communications written by volunteers including social media posts, blogs or messages shared as part of volunteer programs must be reviewed and approved by Extension Staff. Volunteer content used by UNH Extension may be edited or removed at the discretion of the program manager and/or marketing communications staff. All volunteer work must comply with the UNH Academic Honesty Policy that prohibits plagiarism.
f. Volunteer access to Extension software and platforms
Enrolled volunteers may be granted access to use and/or assist in the management of data or communications as part of their volunteer role with UNH Extension. Access to websites, databases or other UNH software platforms must be under the supervision of a volunteer manager and permission must be granted by the UNH Extension IT office.
g. Media Release Policy
Volunteers communicating directly with the media about UNH Extension programs must work closely with Extension volunteer manager(s) to develop a media plan including key messages, verified facts and contact information for appropriate/affiliated UNH Extension staff, should questions arise.
h. Reimbursement for Expenses
Reimbursements may be made to volunteers based on funds available and grants They need approval by program managers and UNH Extension BSC office. Per Diem reimbursement for volunteers requires approval by program manager and Extension BSC office.
i. Recognition & Gift Policy
Awards, gifts, and prizes for volunteers may not be lavish or extravagant. As stated in USNH policy, “Awards, gifts and prizes are allowed to the extent the expense is reasonable and necessary to carry out the mission of USNH.” Incentives for survey completion must also comply with UNH policies and should not exceed $200.
Registration records must be maintained on all volunteers (enrolled and unenrolled) that include the full name and at least one form of contact information (phone, email, mailing address) and the date and length of volunteer service. This fulfills UNHCE’s responsibility to comply with New Hampshire’s Volunteer Immunity Law.
b. Volunteers Hours and Program Evaluation
Volunteers are encouraged to provide accurate records of their hours of service on an annual basis, or as requested by the program manager. All enrolled UNH Extension volunteers will also be solicited to participate in an annual survey to evaluate Extension volunteer programs and improve individual programs.
c. Volunteer Feedback
Volunteers are entitled to feedback and evaluation by their volunteer supervisor. If a volunteer is not performing the requirements outlined in their service description or are not in compliance with UNH Extension policies and procedures, they should be notified by their supervisor and provided steps to take and a timeline for improvement. If significant improvement is not made, a volunteer should be notified that they may be asked to leave the program.
d. Grievance Process for Volunteers
Volunteers are entitled to provide feedback to UNH Extension staff about all aspects of their volunteer experience. Feedback should be directed to their volunteer supervisor if possible. If comments or grievances involve the supervisor or are sensitive in nature, volunteers should direct feedback, comments, or concerns to the Chair of the UNH Extension Volunteer Management Team: Ruth Smith (updated 2020)
e. Volunteer Termination
UNH Extension has the right to terminate a volunteer from any program. Termination of a volunteer must be conducted and approved by the Program Team Leader in consultation with the Extension Dean and Director. 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 volunteer manager.
2. The volunteer manager provides an opportunity for the volunteer to respond to the issues documented in step number one.
3. The volunteer manager will forward documentation, the response of the volunteer and any other relevant information to the appropriate Program Team Leader.
4. The Program Team Leader will make a determination in consultation with the Dean and Director of Extension 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 Team Leader can act immediately to terminate a volunteer from the program.
6. Risk Management with Volunteers
Volunteer managers and volunteers must work to reduce liability by understanding risks and reducing that risk.
1. Volunteer Legal Protection by State of NH
UNH Extension volunteers are protected by NH RSA 508:17, which provides legal protection for volunteers by limiting the liability of an enrolled volunteer who is acting reasonably and within the scope of their official duties and responsibilities as outlined by this document and individual position descriptions.
2. UNH Liability Documentation for Volunteers
Volunteers conducting outreach and education are covered by UNH liability coverage if they are acting within the scope of their volunteer position description. Volunteers may use the following documentation in support of their volunteer efforts:
Accident insurance for volunteers is not automatically provided to UNH Extension volunteers. Limited accident insurance may be provided for NH 4H members and volunteers at most larger county, state and regional events but it is the responsibility of the 4‐H staff, club or committee planning the event to arrange for this coverage in consultation with 4H program staff.
4. Property and Land
Volunteers must request permission to perform volunteer activities on any land or site not owned by themselves or UNH, including both public and private lands.
5. Use of Volunteer Waivers
Volunteer managers are responsible for assessing risk to determine if additional liability waivers should be required of volunteers (either enrolled or episodic). Examples might include when volunteers are using their personal equipment or tools that might be damaged by volunteer work, or when the volunteer activity requires specific skills (such as boating or swimming).
6. First Aid and Medical Treatment
Volunteers must have access to first aid supplies and training or have immediate access to a phone to call for medical or first aid assistance. Volunteers should be encouraged to use safety checklists. They will be provided with steps for dealing with a crisis, and reporting incidents, accidents or injuries in the course of their volunteer activities.
7. Reporting Accidents and Incidents
Volunteers are not covered by Worker’s Compensation; injuries and accidents involving volunteers are handled using the same forms as those for Extension program participants. Volunteers should report all accidents and incidents involving themselves or program participants to their volunteer supervisor as soon as possible (preferably within one hour). Extension program managers must work with volunteers to complete this form related to accidents involving volunteers, youth, visitors or program participants:
Volunteers and managers should be aware of the NH Good Samaritan Law, which states that any person who, in good faith and without compensation, renders emergency care by the use of an automatic external defibrillator shall not be liable for civil damages for any acts or omissions unless the acts or omissions were grossly negligent or willful and wanton.
9. Transportation Policy
Volunteers must rely on their own automobile insurance when using personal vehicles while performing their volunteer duties. Volunteers driving personal vehicles for volunteer work must be in compliance with all federal and state laws pertaining to use of such vehicles, including (but not limited to) possession of a valid operator’s license, vehicle registration and inspection. They must also have personal automobile liability coverage.
Whenever possible, UNH Extension volunteers should not transport program participants or arrange transportation for others as part of their volunteer duties. If transportation of participants in personal vehicles must be performed or arranged by Extension volunteers, the UNH Extension Transportation Policy must be followed.
b. Protection of Minors
1. Prevention of Child Abuse Policy
The University of New Hampshire is committed to providing a safe environment for all persons, including but not limited to children, and to prevent and respond to abuse, neglect and crimes against children. This policy establishes consistent standards intended to support the University in meeting its commitment to protect minors who participate in University activities. All members of the University community who have any reason to suspect child abuse or neglect shall follow all applicable NH state laws and the process for reporting as described in the UNH policy.
Volunteers must know that if they suspect that a UNH Extension program participant is being abused, they must contact their volunteer supervisor for guidance in reporting. By NH law, any suspected child abuse must be reported to the Bureau of Child and Family Services, New Hampshire Division of Children, Youth and Families. Failure to report is a misdemeanor. NH Law (RSA 169-C:29-31) requires any person who suspects that a child under age 18 has been abused or neglected must report that suspicion immediately to the contacts below. Note that proof of abuse and neglect is not required to make a report. Steps for reporting suspected child abuse:
Volunteer contacts program manager/volunteer supervisor or the Program Team Leader in cases involving UNH program staff
Extension staff in collaboration with the volunteer reporting alleged abuse, will contact the NH Division for Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) Intake Unit (If calling from NH: (800) 894-5533; if calling from outside NH: (603) 271-6562)
After a call to NH DCYF, contact UNH Police.
If the reported incident involves Extension staff or Extension volunteer, the Program Team Leader will suspend the person from all activities involving the supervision of and contact with children. Suspension will continue pending outcome of the investigation by DCYF.
Any volunteer, 19 years or older, who will be working directly with minors without the presence or direct supervision of UNH Extension staff or a screened and enrolled Youth Program/4-H volunteer must successfully undergo volunteer screening specific to youth volunteers. This volunteer working with youth must re-enroll annually, including undergoing volunteer screening procedures. Screened volunteers who do not re-enroll and then, in a subsequent year, wish to re-enroll after a period of absence, must have this re-enrollment approved by Extension staff.
To protect individuals, volunteers are encouraged to avoid, where possible, being alone with a single child. Volunteers shall be encouraged not to socialize with program participants under the age of 18 outside of Extension program activities. Volunteers will not, under any circumstances, discipline children by use of physical punishment or by failing to provide the necessities of care such as food or shelter. They will also not participate in verbal or emotional abuse such as swearing at children or subjecting them to a degrading act.
4. Enrolling Youth Volunteers (under 18) Child labor laws
Volunteers who have not reached age 18 must provide written consent of a parent or guardian prior to volunteering with Extension. The NH Department of Labor states that a youth needs to be at least 14 years old to work or volunteer, per federal labor law. Youth volunteers must work directly under the supervision of UNH staff or a screened volunteer. Youth under age 18 enrolled in UNHCE youth programs may volunteer as a component of their UNHCE learning experience.
Volunteer activities performed by youth volunteers must be in compliance with child labor restrictions relating to hazardous occupations, licensing, parental consent and timeframe of service. Summary guidance includes:
Youth volunteers must serve in non-hazardous environments
Must have parental permission
Must be supervised by an adult staff or screened volunteer
May be subject to time restrictions and/or working papers
This is a living document that is periodically updated to meet the changing needs of UNH Extension. This resource was last updated August 2020.
Members of the UNH Extension Volunteer Management Team who contributed to this document include: Haley Andreozzi, Lauren Banker, Nate Bernitz, Rebecca Betts, Dari Christenson, Malin Clyde, Wellsley Costello, Robert Craycraft, Joseph Drake, Alyson Eberhardt, Lara Gengarelly, Megan Glenn, Emma Joyce, Amy Ouelette, Casey Porter, Ruth Smith and Mary Tebo Davis.