Frequently Asked Questions

University of Michigan Volunteer Guidelines


The University of Michigan has a long history of encouraging individuals to volunteer and welcomes their presence. These guidelines are for the U-M community and potential volunteers to provide information regarding who may volunteer, where individuals may volunteer at the U-M, what information volunteers need to know, and what, if any, liability there is to the U-M or to the volunteer in particular circumstances.

U-M appreciates the efforts of volunteers, who enhance a number of programs and activities, and recognizes that they derive benefits from being volunteers, including learning new skills, enhancing career opportunities and making professional and social contacts. Volunteers contribute of their own free will and should not be coerced or pressured in any way to volunteer.

U-M volunteers are expected to comply with all applicable laws and U-M rules and regulations, as well as comply with the rules and regulations of the specific department for which they are volunteering. It is the responsibility of the individual unit to ensure that volunteers are aware of the unit's rules and regulations and comply with them.

U-M departments should keep records of volunteer names, dates of services, and services performed, and should issue letters describing the volunteer service prior to the volunteer's start date with the unit. These records (volunteer letter, name, dates of service and services performed) should be maintained for a minimum of three (3) years after their volunteer service ends. A sample volunteer letter may be viewed at Appendix A to this FAQ.

Q: Who is eligible to Volunteer at the U-M?

A: In general, most people can volunteer at the U-M. It is recommended that volunteers be at least sixteen (16) years of age.

Note: If the volunteer is performing services that would otherwise be performed by someone in a paid position, please contact your central U-M Human Resources Representative/Consultant for guidance.

Note: If the volunteer is performing services covered by a grant please contact the Office of Research and Sponsored Projects (“ORSP”) grant coordinator for that grant.

For volunteers under the age of eighteen (18) years there are certain restrictions on working conditions. For this information please refer to the University of Michigan Standard Practice Guide at

U-M employees: U-M exempt staff, who are not covered by FLSA overtime regulations, are eligible to volunteer in any capacity at the U-M. U-M non-exempt staff, who are covered by FLSA overtime regulations, may only volunteer for service that is completely unrelated to their ordinary work.

General Public: U.S. citizens and non-citizens allowed to reside permanently in the U.S. (i.e., “green card holders” or “lawful permanent residents”) over the age of eighteen (18) years who are not U-M employees have no restrictions on their volunteer efforts. Non-U.S. citizens who are temporary visa holders may volunteer except under the following circumstances:

  • Visitors who are in the process of changing their immigration status: A temporary visa holder who has applied to change status and whose employment authorization from the original status has expired must wait for the new status to be approved to resume employment. Such an individual must not “volunteer” anywhere in the U-M while waiting for a decision on the change of status application.
  • A temporary visa holder working at the U-M on an Employment Authorization Document (“EAD”) whose document has expired must stop employment and must not volunteer in the position previously held or another similar position. This individual must wait until receipt of the new EAD card to resume employment.
  • A temporary visa holder who has applied for an immigration benefit such as for permanent resident status and whose previous status has expired, may not volunteer in the position for which they previously held employment, but must wait for receipt of the permanent resident card.

For all of the examples above: Volunteering to continue to perform the duties, or a portion thereof, of the previously held position can be viewed as unauthorized employment and is not allowed.

NOTE: B-1 Visitors for Business and B-2 Visitors for Recreation/Travel are NOT eligible to volunteer.

For questions about other visa statuses, contact the U-M International Center at 734-764-9310 or

The International Center has developed a list of visa categories commonly held by temporary visa holders at the U-M. For additional information please consult the International Center web site (

All individuals in the following categories are eligible to volunteer in most circumstances:

F-1 Full-time students
F-2 Dependents of F-1 full-time students
J-1 Exchange visitors who could be full-time students, professors, researchers, short-term scholars, or specialists
J-2 Dependents of J-1 exchange visitors
H-1B U-M employees in particular occupations
H-4 Dependents of H-1B employees

Please check with the International Center for individuals in specific categories.

NOTE: The International Center recommends that F-2, H-4, and J-2 dependents only volunteer for defined volunteer programs, as these are clearly delineated as not employment.

For any other questions about volunteering regarding non-U.S. citizens, contact the U-M International Center at 734-764-9310 or

Q: For which liabilities are volunteers covered?

A: In general, the University of Michigan provides only general liability insurance coverage for volunteers acting within the course of their duties. This coverage will pay for all amounts that the U-M, or volunteer, are legally obligated to pay due to negligence that results in personal injury and/or property damage to others. Please remember, the U-M expects U-M units to conduct volunteer programs in a way that minimizes risk or potential liability to the U-M. There are three areas of -coverage (indemnification) related to the volunteer activity:

  1. Liability of the U-M as a result of harm to a third party through the actions of the volunteer.

    Example: A claim for damages by a third party may be made against the U-M as a result of actions taken by volunteers while carrying out (acting within the course of) the good faith performance of their volunteer duties.

  2. Liability of the volunteer to third parties.

    Example: A claim for damages by a third party may be made against a volunteer for actions taken while carrying out their volunteer duties.

  3. Liability of the U-M to the volunteer.

The U-M is obligated to provide a safe working environment for volunteers, adhering to the same standards it has for its employees. Volunteers are not covered by workers' compensation disability benefits. Medical treatment for injuries is covered through the volunteer's private health insurance. Because volunteers are not covered by workers' compensation, there is potential for legal action against the U-M on the basis of our (U-M’s) negligence.

Q: What is the difference between performing work and volunteering?

A: Wage and Hour Compliance. Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), all non-exempt employees must receive no less than the minimum wage for every hour worked and time and a half for every hour over forty (40) worked in a week1. There is an exception to this rule for volunteers of a public employer. The exception is applicable as long as:

  • The individual receives no compensation for his/her services or is paid only expenses, reasonable benefits, or a nominal fee to perform the services for which he/she volunteered. Foreign nationals on non-immigrant visas may only accept reimbursement for actual expenses and may NOT be paid reasonable benefits or a nominal fee (as this may be considered performing services or labor for remuneration and would be considered employment);
  • The individual is not coerced or pressured in any way into volunteering the services; and
  • If already employed by the U-M in a non-exempt position, the volunteer services are not the same type of services that the individual is employed to perform for the U-M. [Foreign nationals on non-immigrant visas are not allowed to ‘temporarily' volunteer in the position for which they were employed by the U-M.]

Q: Are volunteers eligible for any compensation?

A: A volunteer is an individual who performs a service of her/his own free will without any remuneration. A unit may offer to reimburse volunteers for expenses such as parking, travel, or child care or reward the volunteers with an appreciation event. Volunteers are considered to be freely assisting with a project or service as a personal choice and do not receive any other monetary compensation.

NOTE: Foreign nationals on non-immigrant visas may only accept reimbursement for actual expenses and may NOT be paid reasonable benefits or a nominal fee.

Q: Whom should I call for questions I have about volunteering?

A: This FAQ was not intended to answer specific questions. For these call the OGC at 734-764-0304. Staff at the OGC will answer your question or direct you to the appropriate office able to answer your question.

1 The FLSA also provides Hospitals the ability to utilize 8/80 scheduling provisions, which provide for overtime greater that eight (8) hours in a day or more than eighty (80) hours in a two (2)-week pay period.


To: Name of Volunteer
Address of Volunteer


Dear Name of Volunteer,

On behalf of the department of [Name of Department] I thank you for your offer to volunteer your time and energy and welcome you as a valued volunteer. We will do our best to ensure that your volunteer activities are rewarding to you and want you to know that volunteers such as yourself make a real difference to our office.

Please be advised that you will need to comply with all applicable laws and U-M rules and regulations, as well as comply with the rules and regulations of our department. Your supervisor will introduce you to the rules and regulations of our department.

We look forward to getting to know you as a valuable member of our team.

Details of your Volunteer Placement are below:

Placement Title:


Contact Information:


Volunteer Supervisor:

Population to be served:

Begin and end dates of service:







Additional Information: