Getting Started: 4 Nonprofit Digital Waiver Best Practices

Waivers have a variety of use cases and benefits for both for-profit business and charitable organization events. Waivers are typically intended to obtain a liability release from participants, but nonprofits can also gather supporter data through waivers.

Using waivers can have many benefits for your organization. If applicable, they can also include a photo release statement so you can freely share photos of event-goers in marketing materials or on social media. Depending on the questions in the waiver, you can also get information from supporters that allows you to make accommodations for them in advance, improving relationships and even boosting donor retention.

For example, if you include a field on the waiver asking attendees to list any accommodations or additional help they will need, you can have these arrangements ready when they arrive. Not only does this make supporters feel more comfortable and included in the event, but it enables more people to attend. Additionally, you can use data like this in future communications to tailor messages and interactions with donors to their unique needs and interests.

Digital waivers, or waivers that are accessed and signed online, are highly useful and require little upkeep from your organization once they are set up. Keep in mind that when your nonprofit is getting started with waivers, you should follow waiver best practices to ensure you are using them in a legal, accessible way.

In this guide, we’ll explore four waiver best practices to help your nonprofit get started. Let’s dive in!

    1. Choose a digital waiver provider.

    While you might be more familiar with a traditional paper waiver, don’t shy away from the efficiency and convenience of digital waivers.

    Compared to paper documents, digital waivers offer more:

    • Convenience: Supporters can sign from anywhere and even complete the form in advance, saving them time and stress on the day of the event. And if supporters forget, you can allow them to complete the form on a tablet or other device once they arrive. Creating and using the waivers is also more convenient for your staff and volunteers, eliminating tasks like printing, stapling, and filing paper forms.
    • Accuracy: These waivers verify that supporters fill out the form correctly, and the software will flag questions or forms that are inaccurate or incomplete. For example, if someone filling out a waiver indicates that they are under 18 years old, the question will be flagged and they will not be able to complete the form.
    • Sustainability: Because digital waivers live on a screen, they significantly reduce paper waste. This can be particularly important if your organization prioritizes sustainable, eco-friendly practices. Plus, limiting paper use can also cut down on associated costs like ink and printer maintenance.

    Before you choose a provider, make sure the tool has the right tools and features to make these advantages a reality for your organization. Smartwaiver’s waiver software offers free kiosk apps for both Apple and Android tablets, making it easy for your nonprofit to accept waiver signatures both before and during your event.

    2. Prioritize accessibility.

    Not-for-profits should always strive to be as accessible as possible to accommodate any supporter who is passionate about their cause. Accessibility best practices can apply to everything from your website design to physical accessibility at facilities to waiver accessibility.

    Making the switch to digital waivers is an easy way to improve accessibility because:

    • They are available online. Online availability makes it much easier for people to sign in advance without needing to go anywhere. This is particularly useful for those who have a hard time traveling or do not have access to reliable transportation. Additionally, being able to complete forms ahead of the event gives those who need assistance (or a longer amount of time to review the document) the extra time they need.
    • It’s easier to make disability accommodations. With a paper form, your nonprofit is fairly limited in the changes you can make to the page—changing the font size, for instance, would be impossible. However, digital waivers allow you to increase the size of the text, adjust screen brightness, and use screen readers with just a few clicks. You can also offer the waiver in multiple languages.
    • There are e-signature options. In some situations, a person’s ability to physically sign their name can be impacted. When you require a “wet signature” (a signature made with pen and paper), you could be unknowingly excluding some supporters. Digital waivers allow them (or someone assisting them) to type their electronic signature instead.

    While digital waivers tend to be much more accessible than paper documents because of these technological advantages, it’s still important to ensure the finalized form has everything your supporters might need to read and complete it. Once your waiver is created, do a final sweep through it to make sure all text is legible and clear. Also, ensure supporters have a way to contact someone at your organization if they have any questions or issues related to accessing and completing the waiver.

    3. Share the waiver in advance.

    One of the key benefits of digital waivers is that your supporters can complete them before your event kicks off, from any device and location. To take full advantage of this, you’ll need to share the waiver with attendees prior to the event.

    Here are some of the ways you can get your waiver out there for supporters to sign:

    • Link to the waiver on the event registration form/page
    • Post links to the waiver on social media
    • Add links to your waiver in emails promoting the event
    • Embed the waiver on your website
    • Include QR codes to the waiver on mailers, flyers, and posters promoting the event

    Encourage supporters to complete the waiver in advance, but don’t forget to let them know that there will be a way to sign a waiver at the event, too. If you plan to send out a reminder to attendees right before the event, make sure to include details about where to find on-site waiver kiosks so they can sign the form before participating.

    4. Consult a legal expert.

    Any time your organization drafts a legal document, it’s paramount that you ask a lawyer or other legal professional to review and approve the document before using it.

    Laws about waivers can differ greatly between countries, regions, and even cities, so finding someone who is an expert in your area’s laws is recommended. Additionally, using waiver templates is usually not a good idea. While it can be tempting to quickly download a template for your upcoming charity race and plug your nonprofit’s information into it, this could cause problems down the line if the document wasn’t written and/or reviewed by a legal expert.

    Remember to get your waiver reviewed again any time you add to or modify an existing one.

    Waivers aren’t just an important tool for adventure sports like kayaking tours—many industries use waivers as a way to help protect their businesses and organizations. To ensure your nonprofit gets the most out of its waivers, it’s important to follow best practices that allow for increased accessibility and ease of use for supporters. And, most importantly, always consult a legal expert before having supporters sign any waiver.