The temptation to accept a volunteer, anyone who will work for free and can walk through the door, is a strong one. Bad experiences, however, have brought the realization that volunteer screening is a necessary part of volunteer recruitment.
It’s important to think about what level of screening you need for your volunteer program. Some programs might only need an introduction to the organization and the work it does. Order up some pizzas, make some brownies, and bring in that group of volunteers to let them know about your organization and thank them for donating their time.
Other organizations might need a more robust screening procedure. Will your volunteers work with children or the elderly? It might be a good idea to have a one-on-one meeting with your volunteers and run a background check.
- The purpose of screening is to get the right person to the right job, not just to rule out inappropriate candidates.
- Fairness and consistency are important. Treat every volunteer applying for the same position in the same way, and never lower your standards, no matter how desperate for volunteers you are.
- The level of screening you do should be tied to the demands and risks of the volunteer position. Screen wisely, because you are ultimately responsible for the actions of your volunteers.
- When interviewing volunteers, ask open-ended questions to unearth the person’s motivations and to understand what they want to get out of the volunteer experience.
- References can tell you more by what they don’t say than what they do say. Short and clipped answers can serve as a red flag.
- Saying “no” to an under-qualified or otherwise inappropriate candidate is not easy, but it’s better than having to fire that person later on.
- If you do have to say “no,” don’t just close the door on the volunteer. Take a few minutes to look around at organizations that have similar missions to yours, and suggest those as possible opportunities for volunteering. If you know other volunteer managers who are looking for volunteers, pass the volunteer’s name along if the volunteer wasn’t the right fit for you but they might fit better somewhere else.