Liability insurance

Liability insurance is something your orchestra might want to consider getting, but it's a very confusing topic, and I'm not sure I can really do it justice. I'll spell out what I've learned, but it would be best for you to speak to an expert.

Why you might want liability insurance

First, a lot of venues require anyone using their facilities to have a general liability policy. This ensures that damage you inflict on the venue or its equipment is covered and also relieves the venue from any responsibility if someone gets hurt during your events. So even if your organization is super low risk, and you don't feel that you need it for yourself (you're willing to take that risk), you might have to have it to satisfy the venue.

Second, you might feel safer knowing that you have a policy in place in case you DO accidentally drop the school's timpani off the stage or an audience member falls down the stairs during your concert and breaks a leg.

Types of liability insurance

There are actually several types of liability insurance. General Liability is the most basic and probably the one you'll need, but others are available, and brokers might try to sell you more of them (whether or not you actually need them). Actually, we found that purchasing a General Liability policy was a prerequisite for purchasing any of the other types of liability policies, and we then decided we didn't need the others anyway.

General Liability

This is probably the one you want. A general liability policy typically covers things like:

Note that if you pay your conductor, musicians, or any other staff, they have to write this into the policy explicitly, and it's handled slightly differently from volunteers because these people are considered independent contractors. The broker will have you fill out a bunch of info, including about any paid staff, when they prepare a quote.

Directors' and Officers' Liability

A Directors' and Officers' Liability policy protects the board members if they make a bad financial or management decision that causes harm to the organization (for example, the board does something which causes the organization to go bankrupt, and the shareholders sue the board). This one might be worth looking into, but unless you are handling large amounts of money, it's probably not going to be too relevant. In the policies we investigated, it was not possible to purchase a Directors' and Officers' Liability policy without first purchasing a General Liability policy.

Accident policy

This is similar to workers' comp but for volunteers. This provides extra funds if an orchestra member gets hurt as a result of something the orchestra does (like placing their chair or stand too close to the edge of the stage) and their own insurance doesn't cover all the costs of their injury.

Non-owned auto policy

This covers accidents if an orchestra member is using their own car to conduct orchestra business (but not commuting to rehearsals or concerts).

Terrorism coverage

This covers certain acts of terrorism.

How to get liability insurance

If you are affiliated with another organization (a church, school, city, or facility), check if you fall under their liability policy, or if you can be added. If that isn't possible, you should try to find a broker who specializes in writing insurance policies specifically for non-profits. The Nonprofits Insurance Alliance Group is an excellent resource.

In California, we found general liability insurance to be shockingly expensive. We qualified for the minimum premium available (because we represent an extremely low risk), and this amounted to about $800 per year (in 2015). While this may seem like pennies compared to what a gym or dance studio would pay, this represented about a quarter of our budget at the time. As a contrast, my orchestra in Michigan paid about $200 for an equivalent policy, so the cost very heavily depends on where you are. Make sure you do your homework and consider this in your budget.