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Social service organizations (SSOs) are designed to meet unmet health and human service needs in the community. There are about 1.8 million nonprofits in the United States, a large percentage of which are SSOs. The economic downturn increases demand for services and shrinks pools of funding. Most expect these trends to continue into 2010 and their total expenses to increase. These circumstances create an ever-greater need to control their insurance costs. Over the years, The Van Dyk Group has learned that there are a number of key components to writing and retaining these accounts. To boil it down to the basics: o Be familiar with the unique exposures presented and the appropriate coverages needed o Use specialty programs if possible o Maintain close relationships with your clients, prospects and underwriters o Prospect by asking for referrals and using online social service databases o Get involved in the social service community. The first and probably most important step in introducing or expanding any specialty program is to become intimately familiar with the unique exposures and coverage needs of SSOs. The best way to understand the issues SSOs face every day is to become involved with one, either as a volunteer or a board member. Contact those SSOs in which you have an interest in serving. Don’t be concerned that the organization may not be a legitimate prospect–you can learn how SSOs operate and what they need. Volunteer to serve in any capacity the organization needs, and take a sincere interest and an active part in promoting the interests of the organization. If you happen to serve in a management role (e.g., board member) and are subsequently asked to act as the insurance agent or broker, be careful to avoid the possibility, or even the appearance, of a conflict of interest. Even if you never act as the organization’s agent or broker, the organization may be helpful to you as a source of referrals. In addition to the usual sources of prospects, such as the Yellow Pages, there are others that are more specific to SSOs. You can find these organizations on Web sites of government agencies that fund them, such as the county health department. For example, the local United Way Web site will have a list of member agencies. Other Web sites, such as GuideStar (www.guidestar.org), provide a great deal of information about nonprofits around the country. Unique exposures There are a number of unique exposures presented by SSOs. These include acts by management resulting in loss of donated financial assets, and abuse and harassment of children and elderly in the care of the organization. Also, if there are medical or other professionals on staff (employed, contracted or volunteer), there’s the exposure to loss resulting from E&O. Children and volunteers can be exposed to medical expenses resulting from accident or illness suffered in the course of their involvement with the organization. There may be a need to transport clients to a safe location in the event that the organization’s location is damaged or unsafe. Other unique exposures involve volunteers. Many SSOs could not function without volunteers, who can be exposed to liability claims by others arising out of their activities on the premises, at other locations or while driving their own or the organization’s vehicles. SSOs hold many fundraising events to meet their budgets, and these present additional exposures, especially if they involve selling or serving alcohol. Also, funding sources often require that they be named as an additional insured. Available coverages for these and other exposures include nonprofit D&O liability (sometimes called nonprofit professional liability), including employment practices liability; sexual abuse and harassment; medical malpractice coverage for doctors, nurses and other health care professionals (whether employed, contracted or volunteer); professional liability coverage for others providing professional services; student, youth and volunteer accident insurance; emergency vacating (of clients) coverage; volunteers as insureds and key employee replacement expense insurance. Hired and non-owned auto insurance will be necessary for organizations that allow employees and volunteers to use their personal autos in the course of their work for the organization. The carrier connection Another key to success with SSOs is to use carriers and wholesalers who offer programs specifically designed for those organizations. Experts in SSO are more likely to correctly anticipate exposures presented, be interested in writing this class and be competitive. The carriers we use most frequently are Selective Insurance and Philadelphia Insurance. We also work with wholesaler Irwin Siegel Agency, Rock Hill, N.Y. We also use Professional Risk Placements, Red Bank, N.J., and Hull & Co. for specialty lines such as D&O and professional liability. The carrier you select also should have loss control and claims staffs that are experienced in dealing with SSOs. Claims services should be available 24 hours a day. Programs that are endorsed by national or state associations, such as the United Way or National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, are likely to include appropriate coverages and may be competitive. When choosing a carrier, be aware that not every social service program is appropriate for every social service class; you may need several markets if you want to write a broad spectrum of these risks. You generally will need more than one carrier to write a particular risk; for instance, workers’ compensation is rarely if ever included in the program, and sometimes other lines are excluded as well. However, it’s reasonable to seek carriers that will write most, if not all, lines of business for a particular class. Look for carriers and wholesalers that continually develop new coverages to meet changing needs. For example, the social service program offered by Irwin Siegel Agency recently developed the “Upgrade to Green” endorsement, which is designed to ease the financial burden while enabling a commercial property policyholder to rebuild insured property and replace select damaged or destroyed personal property with products that embrace sustainability principles. After you have established relationships with your SSO underwriters, protect and nurture those relationships by providing them with accurate, thorough and complete information. When the chips are down, the underwriters who trust you will be much more willing to help in a difficult situation. Because the SSO operations can vary dramatically from one to the next, carriers will want a substantial amount of information to underwrite the risk. The basic ACORD applications will not be sufficient. Supplemental applications covering activities such as professional and residential services, sheltered workshops, child care services and other unique operations will be required. The carrier will want to review brochures and Web sites, and financial information is often required. Many SSOs use vehicles in the course of their service to clients, and in this situation the underwriter will want to review motor vehicle records and will require driver training and regular vehicle maintenance. Because SSOs serve children, seniors and otherwise vulnerable clients, underwriters may require criminal background checks on employees. The more the underwriter knows about the account, the more comfortable he will be with it, and the more likely he will be to price it favorably. Another area of expertise that’s useful in dealing with SSOs is a knowledge of risk management techniques that may be applicable to the exposures of SSOs. Among these are training of supervisors and staff, vehicle safety, consumer safety, quality assessment, and guidance in obtaining and maintaining accreditations such as those conferred by the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities and the Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations. Carriers offering programs for SSOs can be very helpful in this area. It’s important to maintain an ongoing relationship with both your current clients and your SSO prospects. In addition to providing excellent professional service, communicate with them periodically by phone, e-mail, newsletter and personal visits. Look out for their interests by keeping them advised of alternate markets. Solve your clients’ problems before your competition comes along and does so. Convert your prospect to a client by solving his problem before the current agent does. And, where possible, provide assistance to the organization in the form of your time, talent and financial resources. Finally, seek referrals from existing clients and from other SSOs with whom you a have a relationship. When visiting your client, show him a short list of other SSOs and ask if he knows any of them and would introduce you. Remind him of the services you have provided so he will be comfortable describing to your prospect how you have been helpful. Follow up with your client a few days later to see how the introduction went. There’s no better prospect than one which has been referred to you by a satisfied client.

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