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Who Needs to Sign a Waiver? (And Other Waiver Essentials)

During vacation time and outside of your normal working hours, you’ve probably had dozens of waivers pass through your hands or pop onto your computer screen. While you may not recall every one of these times, the memories that stick out are probably the clunkiest, most confusing, and most inconvenient experiences. 

Maybe you were hunched over a clipboard trying to fill out a rambling four-page document. Or maybe you weren’t offered a waiver at all, and ended up in a frustrating legal mess after getting injured during what should’ve been a fun activity. 

As a nonprofit professional, you never want your supporters to suffer a negative experience caused by something as easily solvable as a poor waiver experience! Waivers are meant to be a straightforward, convenient way to protect your nonprofit and your supporters from harm, and it’s critical that you have the right strategies to make that a reality. 

In this short guide, we’ll explore the answers to a few key questions regarding how you can make the most of your waivers. From reviewing who should sign your waiver to finding the best custom nonprofit software solutions, we’ll cover:

  • Who needs to sign a liability waiver?
  • What should be included in your waiver?
  • How can effective waivers benefit your organization?
  • How do you find the right waiver software?

Ready to take your event waivers, volunteer waivers, and other liability waivers to the next level? Let’s dive in.

Who needs to sign a liability waiver?

Now that you’re committed to creating effective liability waivers for your organization’s events or programs, it’s time to determine who will need to sign these waivers. Should you just provide them to participants for high-energy fundraisers like 5Ks?

The simple truth is that nearly every type of event or in-person program has associated risks that can and should be covered by a waiver. While it might be obvious to see how a 5K can lead to sprained ankles and other liabilities covered by your waiver, even something as leisurely as a gala can present its own risks in the form of exposure to illnesses or allergens. 

Additionally, beyond simple injury liability, waivers also cover other important risks and legal processes. This can include photography releases, securing parental consent for children to participate in activities, warnings of exposure to illnesses like COVID-19, and information about food allergies and accessibility limitations.

And don’t forget about your volunteers! If someone is helping you to set up an event or engages in a program where any of these risks might be present, they’ll need a waiver, too.

Be sure to cover all your bases and think of waivers as a standard practice for any participants in your events, activities, or volunteer program.

What should be included in your waiver?

According to re:Charity’s resource on what happens if you don’t have a waiver, failure to provide comprehensive waivers with the right information can result in legal complications and fail to fully prepare participants for their experiences.

To avoid these pitfalls, it’s not enough to just have liability waivers—there are certain fields and sections that need to be included in order to make them effective. In particular, be sure to include these basic elements in your liability waivers. 

  • Names and contact information
  • Assumption of risks and responsibilities, verified by a legal aid
  • Signature lines for participants or their legal guardians
  • The date of the event or program
  • Confirmation of food or other allergies
  • Details about accessibility or mobility limitations 

On top of the other important reasons we mentioned, these fields can also give you access to plenty of useful information about your supporters. This can go a long way to improve your communications—such as email marketing campaigns, personalized appeals, and event opportunities.

While we’re on the topic, let’s take a look at some other top benefits of creating effective liability waivers.

How can effective waivers benefit your organization?

We’ve covered the penalties and disadvantages of not having a waiver or using a poor waiver. Now, consider how a well-crafted, comprehensive waiver not only keeps your organization at its current level of success, but promotes improvements in the following areas:

  • Better data management. With an effective online waiver system, you can essentially streamline data management. Important volunteer, attendee, and event data will automatically be organized in your CRM for maximum accuracy and efficiency.
  • More enjoyable participant experiences. Whether it’s a volunteer helping to set up an event or a high-value donor signing up for a gala, all of your supporters should be given the information they need to enjoy and prepare for their experiences. Additionally, your waiver can help you to further personalize your activities by accommodating for participants’ special needs, like nut-free food options or wheelchair accessibility.
  • Improved program and event planning. Waivers allow you to collect a pool of personal data on your event attendees, volunteers, and other supporters. This can then be used to tweak your offerings to match their needs and preferences. For example, you might create more kid-friendly events based on your percentage of supporters with children or boost volunteer retention by incorporating more disability accommodations into your program. 
  • Reinforcement of your organization’s professionalism. A poor waiver experience is a surefire way to frustrate your supporters and negatively impact your nonprofit’s image. By contrast, a well-constructed, convenient waiver will definitely make a positive impression. Additionally, a good waiver solution should be able to smoothly incorporate your organization’s branding, images, and even videos.

For best results, an online waiver solution can maximize the advantages of your waiver. In particular, Smartwaiver’s guide to tour waivers explores how online waivers eliminate the tediousness and disorganization of manual systems, while also being far more convenient and secure.

But what makes for a strong waiver software solution, and how do you know what system is a good fit for your organization? Let’s find out. 

How do you find the right waiver software?

From cheap mainstream options to more powerful and sophisticated solutions, there are quite a few online waiver systems on the market. Of course, not everything out there will be attuned to your needs and there are some standout features that can help you distinguish great online waiver software from something that’s just serviceable. 

In particular, keep an eye out for these impressive features:

  • Flagged questions. While some pieces of information (like “how did you learn about us?”) are good to have for long-term knowledge and record-keeping, others are a little more pressing (like food allergies or previous event-related injuries). With flagged question features, you can mark certain fields that will have an immediate impact on your event planning and management.
  • Mobile signing. As mobile devices become more sophisticated, mobile usage is only going to go up. The reality is that not every attendee is going to sit down at their desktop to complete their waiver, so you’ll want a waiver system that optimizes the waiver completion process for all of your supporters, no matter the device they sign on. 
  • Embeddable forms. Being redirected off of your main website to complete a waiver is an unnecessary annoyance and slowdown for your supporters. With embeddable waiver software, you can streamline the process and keep supporters on your site for the entire process.

Additionally, some online waiver systems even offer mobile kiosk systems for your supporters to conveniently click through and fill out their waivers on site. This extra step can help cover all your bases and streamline entry for participants who neglected to pre-register and pre-sign.

In the chaos of managing your events, volunteer programs, and other activities, it can be easy to forget about your waivers. However, if you find yourself often forgetting about or putting off fixing your waivers, consider this your wake-up call! Waivers are an extremely important step in the registration process that can’t go unaddressed.
Fortunately, these waiver strategies and solutions will put you on the path to success. With these tips and the right software, you can improve the waiver process, optimize your nonprofit techstack, and strengthen data management and communication.

About the Author:

Daryl McCarl

Daryl McCarl is the Director of Business Development at Smartwaiver, the leading digital waiver service trusted by thousands of organizations around the world.