Human Services Agencies Can Benefit from Agent Advice, Especially in Challenging Economic Times

By David J. Firstenberg | February 8, 2009

Custom Coverages and Loss Control Can Help Non-Profits Survive

While today’s economic environment presents some challenges for many companies large and small, independent agents who understand and embrace those challenges can help solve problems for their clients and even create new opportunities.

This is especially true for agents with not-for-profit, human services organizations as customers, because they are being uniquely impacted by the country’s financial landscape.

Fortunately, with the expert advice of independent agents, these organizations can protect themselves against many risks, helping to ensure their stability and even success into the future.

Human Services Landscape

Unlike other businesses, human services organizations are experiencing an increase in the demand for services tied to economic-related issues. And, at the same time, long-reliable sources of funding, including state and local governments and charitable foundations, are being compromised.

Because most of these non-profits are small or mid-sized local agencies with budgets of under $1 million — they are precisely the kind of organization that stand to benefit from the skill and knowledge of local independent agents.

The Importance of Agent Advice

Independent agents — who, generally, are well-known to be personally vested and involved in their local communities — can enhance the ability of local non-profit organizations to operate with greater efficiency and effectiveness. Through their expertise and valuable advice, agents can be a major asset to customers in this highly specialized, unique market, helping them to thrive and be more successful to carry on their mission, in spite of the prevailing economic environment.

First, by extending important baseline coverages to small to mid-sized non-profit and human services agencies — including professional liability, general liability, physical and sexual abuse, management liability (including employment practices liability), umbrella and commercial auto — independent agents can provide these critically important organizations with protection against further financial strain resulting from accidents, lawsuits and more.

Additionally, agents can provide guidance on new types of coverages that are designed to help protect non-profits against existing and emerging risks, which are especially relevant during the current fiscal climate.

For instance, coverage for unpaid donations and pledges — a growing problem in challenging economic times — will pay out when a donor is unable to fulfill a written pledge due to bankruptcy or unemployment.

For organizations that place patients who are aging or have mental or physical disabilities, some carriers also are offering protection for residential room reserve. Such coverage will replace state reimbursement income to human service agencies when a client is temporarily discharged to the hospital because of accident or illness, protecting non-profits against the sudden loss of budgeted revenues.

Additionally, some carriers are extending protection provided by the property form to also cover property and vehicle damage caused by a client placed by the insured not-for-profit organization. This type of protection would cover foster care agencies placing a child in the residence of a home health care provider.

Later this year, The Hanover Insurance Group, which has a long and proud history of supporting local non-profit organizations through charitable donations and the valuable contributions of employee volunteers, will introduce Human Service Advantage, an expanded package of coverages strategically created for a broad range of not-for-profit organizations. Human Service Advantage expands existing offerings for not-for-profit organizations and will enable agent partners to offer an important safety net for those organizations that do so much to help others.

Loss Control

Besides advising non-profits on specific coverages to protect against their unique exposures, independent agents can deliver significant value to human services agencies through counseling on loss control issues.

Agents know that the only thing their customers want more than fast, efficient claims services, is to not have any claims at all. Working closely with loss control experts from their most experienced carriers, agents can provide a wide variety of valuable loss control services that will help reduce the likelihood of incidents that might result in a claim and, in this way, provide added financial protection for their customer.

Appropriate loss control services may include seminars on exposures unique to human services organizations, such as helping clients employee effective de-escalation techniques to diffuse tense situations, reducing the need to use manual restraints which can lead to severe injuries and even death; risk transfer programs, to protect organizations from paying the price for someone else’s error or carelessness; discounted staff screening services (especially important in an industry that provides personal services and where there is a relatively high turnover rate).

Together, these services can help organizations save money, and eliminate the need for claims before they even happen. Agents can work with their partner carriers, to offer loss control services unique to specialized organizations, like not-for-profits.

A Unique Way to Help

While insurance may not be the first thing that comes to mind when people consider how they can help local non-profits survive a severely strained economy, it can make a meaningful difference.

In partnership with strong carriers, independent agents can help these organizations to take a more pro-active approach to understand and effectively manage their risks, while reducing costs and operating more efficiently, so they can continue to meet the needs of the most vulnerable members of the community.

Firstenberg is the commercial lines president for The Hanover Insurance Group.

About David J. Firstenberg

Firstenberg is the commercial lines president for The Hanover Insurance Group.

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