Overview of key risk management issues associated with UW–Madison volunteers.

Below provides overview of key risk management issues associated with volunteers.

Guidelines for volunteers

Responsibilities for volunteers

A department should not rely on volunteers to perform duties typically performed by permanent employees—other than on a short-term basis. Volunteers should be supplementing the work done by employees, not replacing the need for paid staff. Volunteers are not to be paid or compensated.

Letter to the volunteer

To document the terms of the relationship, the department shall send a letter to the volunteer spelling out the begin date, end date (if any), time commitment, responsibilities, who to contact with questions, and information about insurance coverage.

Be sure to review the UW–Madison Volunteer Policy (UW-5001) and the OHR Volunteer Fact Sheet.

Insurance issues for volunteers

Liability protection is provided to all officers, employees, and agents of the University under Wisconsin Statute, Section 895.46(1). Volunteers acting under the direction and control of the University and for its benefit are considered agents and thus covered. This statute authorizes the State to pay claims based on the negligent acts of employees or agents or to defend employees or agents against allegations of negligence, which may have caused injury or property damage to others provided the employee or agent was acting within the scope of his/her responsibilities to the University. It is important volunteers acknowledge mistakes that could lead to potential liability claims and that such incidents be reported promptly by the department to the UW–Madison Risk Management Office.

Volunteers are not covered by worker’s compensation. If injured during the course of their volunteer work, they would have the same legal rights as other citizens have to pursue a claim if the injury resulted from University negligence (see Liability webpage).


Risk Management's location

Risk Management
21 N. Park Street
Madison, WI 53715

Note – Please contact the appropriate topic area’s email address with questions and/or to schedule an in-person meeting. Advanced meeting scheduling is necessary in order to meet with Risk Management staff; drop-in appointments are not available.

Email Risk Management

General Risk Management

Driver Authorization and Automobile


Worker’s Compensation