First, do no harm.

If you work at a nonprofit serving people in vulnerable situations, you’ve probably heard that phrase. It feels like a given—of course nonprofit professionals want to protect people from harm. Yet, as recent news stories highlight, safeguarding needs to be approached systematically. Staff need to be equipped with tools, training, and resources to recognize instances of abuse and know how to respond.

Where can your nonprofit start? An essential building block is a safeguarding policy. In fact, some major funders in the United Kingdom and Europe now only grant to organizations with safeguarding policies.

So what is safeguarding, anyway?

GlobalGiving defines safeguarding as the philosophies, policies, standards, guidelines, and procedures to protect children and people in vulnerable circumstances from both intentional and unintentional harm. Safeguarding involves both prevention and responding to abuse. In short, safeguarding is protecting people from abuse, sexual exploitation, neglect, discrimination, physical and emotional harm, and harassment.

Use this checklist to develop or improve your safeguarding policy:

□ Do a self-assessment.

Does your organization have a safeguarding policy? If so, when was the last time you reviewed it? You should review your nonprofit’s policy every three years at minimum. This tool from Keeping Children Safe focuses on child protection specifically, but is a good starting point to assessing your organization’s policy. (GlobalGiving partners can complete a child protection self audit in GG Rewards to earn effectiveness points.)

□ Design or revise your policy.

First, identify who needs to be involved in this process at your organization. We recommend nominating a safeguarding officer or team, depending on the size of your nonprofit. During this process, consider how you can involve the community you serve in your policy design.


✓ Identify victims and protect members of your community from harm
✓ Work safely with data you’ve collected about your community
✓ Use constituent information in communications
✓ Train new staff and volunteers on the policy
✓ Refresh current staff on the policy regularly
✓ Recognize, report, and react to allegations of abuse
✓ Pursue disciplinary measures for staff or volunteers involved in an incident

□ Implement your policy.

Make sure you’re following local and federal laws when implementing your policy and involving authorities when necessary. If an incident does occur, do not make any promises to the victim you cannot keep. Be honest and upfront about cultural conflicts, gender equity, power imbalances, and other factors that could influence the effective implementation of your policy. Display your safeguarding policy in your facilities and promote it so your community knows about the steps you’re taking.

□ Train your staff and volunteers.

Keeping your community safe is part of everyone’s job at your nonprofit. Once your new policy is developed, share it widely with your board, staff, and volunteers. Organize a training and consider the power of role play. By acting out theoretical situations, your staff and volunteers can prepare for potential situations in the future. Be sure to train new hires and regularly conduct refresher trainings.

□ Review your photos and stories.

Look through the photos and stories you share in your communications and ask yourself, “Would I want to be depicted this way?” If your answer is anything other than “yes,” the photo or story probably does not protect the safety and dignity of the person in it. Learn more about ethical storytelling.

from GlobalGiving (Miranda Cleland)

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