Is your church or nonprofit organization considering sharing building space for wedding parties and other outside groups? If so, it’s important for you to consider the liabilities that come along with hospitality.  Before opening your doors and rolling out a welcome mat, it’s important that your church or nonprofit is protected by safeguards from liability and safety issues.  Similarly, churches and nonprofits need to develop policies and procedures that make their facilities available for additional use, and yet keep all of its assets protected.

First, assemble a go-to approvals team with key leaders and legal counsel to review and accept or deny requests, advises Eric Spacek, Director of Risk Management and Loss Control at GuideOne. Then implement the five “I”s of building-usage best practices:

Identify. Create crystal-clear overall facility usage guidelines based on what you will and will not allow – this will help streamline the approval process. Consider the following when identifying and developing expectations:

  • Which spaces within your church or nonprofit are usable and which are off-limits
  • Whether or not a church or nonprofit member must sponsor an outside group
  • Whether or not you’ll limit building rental to groups that advance your church’s or nonprofit’s mission
  • Whether or not you’ll rent your building to for-profit organizations
  • Rental fees and related expenses
  • Set-up and clean-up responsibilities
  • Behavioral expectations (drinking, smoking, conduct, respecting the facility)
  • Whether or not childcare providers must be selected and screened by the church or nonprofit

Note that there can be legal and tax implications for your decisions on these issues, so it’s always best to consult with your organization’s legal and financial advisors in developing your facility usage policy.

Inquire. When a group wants to use your facility, learn as much as you can about the group and event before approving the usage request. When possible, Spacek recommends checking venue references at places where the group has held past events – something he learned the hard way after one outside group that rented his church and caused damage had previously been barred from several other facilities in the area due to the same issue.

Examples of information you’ll want to gather during your fact-finding mission include:

  • What specific type of event will the group host?
  • How exactly will the group use the space?
  • How has the group treated previous event venues?

Insure. Confirm that the group has insurance coverage limits that are equal to or higher than your church’s or nonprofit’s insurance policy limits. You’ll also want to verify that the group names your church or nonprofit as an additional insured on their policies. They can prove this one of two ways:

  • A certificate of insurance that lists your organization as an additional insured; or
  • An endorsement that names your organization as an additional insured

Inform. Once you give a group or wedding party the green light to use your facility, have them sign a Facility Usage Agreement. The Agreement should cover the following:

  • Costs
  • Rental times
  • Expectations
  • A release from liability
  • A “hold harmless” clause
  • A provision regarding insurance and additional insured protection for the church

Review this agreement every year to ensure it’s in line with your facility usage policies and your church’s mission.

Inspect. Blocked exits, faulty playground equipment, slippery surfaces and other safety hazards indoors and out should be documented and fixed. Also, make sure that any off-limit areas and valuables are secure.  Add another layer of risk protection by hosting a walk through with someone from the outside group or wedding party before and after the event to ward off potential disputes.

For more information, contact your trusted local insurance agent, Sandi Purinton with The Insurance Connection. We help our clients Live Better. Save More. That’s what we try to help you do at The Insurance Connection. Offering the benefits of an independent agency, The Insurance Connection carefully considers your individual insurance needs and finds the right coverage for the best price for you, all with a smile. Contact us today at 678-439-8757 or to get free insurance quotes

Disclaimer: This material is for information only and is not intended to provide legal or professional advice. You are encouraged to consult with your own attorney or other expert consultants for a professional opinion specific to your situation. This information is only a general description of the available coverages and is not a contract. In an effort to keep your policy coverage affordable, the actual policy contains certain limitations and exclusions. Please refer to your insurance policy for the pertinent contract language and coverages. Some coverages and discounts are not available in all states. The Insurance Connection welcomes all applications, without regard to religion, race, color, national origin, sex, handicap or familial status.