Volunteer Policies

Throughout the year there are many people who will serve as volunteers to help assist the University in its academic, research, healthcare and public service missions.

Every volunteer must be approved and authorized by a Sponsoring Manager (Faculty, Staff or Administration member). The Sponsoring Manager is responsible for all documentation, supervision and training of the Volunteer.

One of our goals in utilizing volunteers is to protect the volunteers from injury or illness while serving the University. It is important to realize that volunteers are not employees of the University, and they would normally not have the benefit of workers compensation if they were injured while volunteering on behalf of the University. Also, keep in mind that a volunteer could bring a claim or lawsuit against the University and/or a faculty or staff member if the volunteer is injured and the injury is alleged to be caused from negligence by the University or its employees. (i.e. a volunteer sustains an injury in a lab, and afterwards sues the University alleging that he or she did not receive appropriate safety advice or instruction.)

Please see the University's policy on Authorization and Engagement of Volunteers for additional information.

Remember: Volunteers should not be placed in an unsafe situation while serving the University. If there is any concern that volunteers may be volunteering in an unsafe environment or if you will be using volunteers under the age of 16, you should contact our office to discuss the situation.

Guidance, University Policies, Laws and Regulations

Available Guidance

Relevant University policies

Related Laws and Regulations


Volunteers are permitted provided they have authorization by the University, which means there must be written documentation (Volunteer Terms of Service) to support this authorization, signed by the Sponsoring Manager and Volunteer, as well as the Parent/Guardian, if the volunteer is a minor. It is important to make certain that you have and maintain this documentation that indicates someone is a volunteer on behalf of your department. Likewise, you have a duty to educate volunteers about any foreseen hazards they may encounter during their service on behalf of your department.

Documentation giving permission is important for future reference in the event that something occurs, such as a claim or lawsuit brought against the volunteer and/or the University because of the volunteer's negligence in causing an injury to someone or causing damage to someone's property. For the Commonwealth to provide legal defense and insurance protection for our volunteers, there needs to be a clear documentation trail indicating their status as a volunteer agent of the University.

HELPFUL HINTS for Volunteer Terms of Service completion

Up If the student's permanent home address is other than their local address, both their local and permanent home addresses should be listed. The same applies to phone numbers. Length of Service – the amount of time and dates the volunteer is authorized to act on behalf of the University in a volunteer capacity. If this time frame changes for any reason, this form should be updated accordingly. A complete and accurate description of the volunteer's activities is important. There should be no confusion about what the volunteer will be authorized to do on behalf of the University. It is important to understand that the volunteer, while engaged in an authorized capacity for the University, is acting as an agent of this institution. This makes us responsible for their activities while they are serving as a volunteer. Furthermore, the volunteer's safety is important to us. Therefore, it is wise to document any restrictions or limitations that pertain to the volunteer's activities, alleviating any confusion later as to what the volunteer was authorized to do. This can be particularly important when the volunteer is performing services in a visible public service function (i.e. interacting with the general public) or in a high-risk area of the University (i.e. research labs). There is a strong desire on the part of executive administration to protect volunteers from getting injured or sick while serving in their volunteer capacity on behalf of the University. It is very important, therefore, that volunteers are instructed in the appropriate safety guidelines applicable to your department, particularly as it relates to the volunteer's activities. It should be documented as to what safety guidelines are discussed with the volunteer. You should keep in mind that what seems commonplace to you, because you work in a particular setting every day, is probably quite foreign to the volunteer. They may not be familiar with your building or other aspects of the department's operation. It may be appropriate to indicate we will be doing a criminal background check on the volunteer if the individual will have interaction with students, especially minors, or will have access to sensitive University data or University funds. It is also important to have emergency contact information for a volunteer in case something happens to that person.

Frequently Asked Questions
What type of insurance does a volunteer need?

It is required that volunteers carry personal health insurance to protect themselves against the costs of medical expenses from injuries and illnesses they may incur. When volunteers do not have personal health insurance, if something happens to them while performing volunteer services for the University there will be more of a tendency for them to expect the University to pay for their medical expenses, whether or not the University is at fault for their illness or injury.

What constitutes a Volunteer Engagement?

A volunteer engagement must meet all relevant criteria:

  • Volunteer engagements must conform to the requirements of all laws, regulations and policies, including the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and any visa restrictions. In accordance with FLSA, volunteers typically serve on a part-time basis and may not displace regular employed workers. Departments may not use volunteer engagements to circumvent the University’s hiring processes or requirements.
  • Sponsoring Managers must engage volunteers without promise, expectation or receipt of compensation, including future employment, deferred payment, or any other financial benefit. Any volunteer services must be offered freely and without pressure or coercion, direct or implied from the University.
  • Volunteer engagements must comply with University Policy HRM-001: Authorization and Engagement of Volunteers
  • Please contact UVA Human Resources with questions about whether a volunteer engagement is compliant with all applicable laws and regulations, including the Fair Labor Standards Act.
Does the Volunteer Engagement require additional screening or background check?

The Sponsoring Manager must request or perform any screening (e.g., reference check, background check, driving records check) required by law or as appropriate for the nature and sensitivity of the activity to be performed by the volunteer. Background checks for volunteers should be aligned with the procedures and standards outlined in HRM-034: Background Checks, Screenings, and Ongoing Responsibility for Employees to Disclose Criminal Convictions.

  • A background check is recommended if any of the following applies:
  • Contact with minors, students, patients or human subjects study participants
  • Access to confidential information or cash
  • Potential exposure to permitted hazardous materials or controlled substances
  • Laboratory research or animal care
  • Controlled access to University facilities
  • The University has established minimum screening and training requirements for volunteers who interact with individuals under the age of 18 as part of a covered program. (Refer to HRM-050: Protection of Minors and Reporting Abuse for more detail.) Volunteers may not supervise or be responsible for minors unless within a covered program approved by the Office of Youth Protection.
  • Volunteers have a continuing obligation to disclose all criminal convictions to their Sponsoring Manager within five calendar days of the conviction.
  • Please contact UVA Human Resources with questions about conducting a background check.
What training and guidance should be provided to a Volunteer?

Training requirements for volunteers will vary based on the location and nature of the services to be provided.  Below is a list of potential training that a Sponsoring Manager should consider when engaging a volunteer, as appropriate:

  • Expectations (e.g. attendance, supervisor contact information, University policies, Code of Ethics, applicable laws, incident reporting)
  • Basic Safety Training (e.g. protocols for medical emergencies and weather events, location of fire exits, etc.)
  • Safety Awareness (Responsible Computing) Training
  • Preventing and Addressing Discrimination, Harassment, and Retaliation Training
  • Title IX Responsible Reporter Training (Not on Our Grounds)
  • FERPA Training
  • HIPAA Privacy Training
  • CITI Human Subjects Training
  • EHS Radiation Safety Training
  • Institutional Biosafety Committee Training (for use of infectious agents or human specimens)
  • Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) Training (for use of vertebrate animals)
  • Bloodborne Pathogens (BBP) Training
  • Personal Protective Equipment
  • Motorized Equipment/Tools
  • Other department-specific safety issues
Can volunteers be exposed to Hazardous Environments or hazardous materials?

The University strongly discourages volunteers from conducting unnecessary activities involving potential exposure to hazardous materials and/or equipment.

  • Sponsoring Managers intending to engage volunteers in activities with potential exposure to hazardous materials (e.g., hazardous chemicals, biological agents, radioactive materials) and/or equipment (e.g., lasers, power-driven machinery) must first complete all required forms and obtain any required School approval.
  • Volunteers are prohibited from conducting activities involving potential exposure to (1) radioactive materials unless explicitly approved by the Radiation Safety Committee; and (2) biological agents requiring biosafety level 3 containment unless explicitly approved by the Institutional Biosafety Committee.
  • Volunteers must successfully complete all relevant training and demonstrate proficiency before conducting activities with potential exposure to hazardous materials and/or equipment.
  • Contact the Office of Environmental Health & Safety for guidance or with questions regarding prohibited activities or hazardous materials and equipment.
Can minors volunteer?

The University strongly discourages the use of minors as volunteers. Additional restrictions apply to engagements involving minor volunteers.

  • The Sponsoring Manager must provide supervision for minor volunteers at all times, and supervision must be aligned with HRM-050: Protection of Minors and Reporting Abuse.
  • Engagement of volunteers under the age of 16 must be approved in writing by the Office of Property & Liability Risk Management.
  • Minors are prohibited from conducting activities involving potential exposure to defined categories of hazardous materials and/or equipment, depending on age and applicable federal, state, or University restrictions. (A list of prohibited activities and additional guidance can be found on the Office of Environmental Health & Safety webpage.) The Sponsoring Manager is responsible for verifying that the volunteer activities proposed for a minor are not prohibited.
  • Contact the Office of Youth Protection with questions regarding volunteer engagements involving a minor.
Are there restrictions for Foreign Nationals who want to volunteer?

Foreign nationals may serve as volunteers for the University if in accordance with all legal restrictions and should consult their own immigration attorney for guidance..

  • Foreign nationals may not perform work as a volunteer that would normally be performed by a paid employee. All foreign nationals must have the appropriate visa and authorization to engage in volunteer activities; violations of visa status could result in significant consequences.
  • Foreign nationals shall be allowed access to controlled technology and may participate in controlled activities (as defined in FIN-043: Managing Export and Sanction Compliance in Support of University Activities) to the extent necessary to perform their assigned duties, provided such access and participation is permitted by the regulations or authorized in an export license or other authorization issued by the appropriate regulatory agency.
  • Contact the Office of Immigration Services or the International Studies Office with questions regarding the engagement of a foreign national or their dependent as a volunteer. Contact the Office of Export Controls with questions regarding the applicability of export or sanction regulations.
Can volunteers drive University vehicles?

The University strongly discourages volunteers from operating motor vehicles for the purpose of performing volunteer activities.

  • The use of University vehicles is to conduct University business and should be limited to University employees. A volunteer may only operate University vehicles when no University employee is available to perform the task. In such circumstances, the volunteer must be authorized to drive in accordance with PRM-014: Use and Management of University Vehicles.
  • Prior to use of any vehicle for University business by a volunteer, the Sponsoring Manager must request or perform a driving record check and verify a clean driving record. Any volunteer who operates a vehicle for University business has a continuing obligation to disclose any moving traffic violations to their Sponsoring Manager within five calendar days of the citation.


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