Selection and screening are two fundamental tasks of volunteer involvement that form part of the recruitment process. Depending on the nature of the role you are recruiting for you may wish to put certain criterions in place during volunteer recruitment that enable you to find the right volunteer for a role. For simple volunteering roles, such as general event volunteering, your selection and screening process will be less stringent than for roles that involve direct client interaction or require specific skill sets. Try to keep selection and screening processes simple where possible, but ensure you follow all necessary legal and compliance requirements for your individual roles.
Alignment with the National Standards for Volunteer Involvement
National Standard 4: Recruitment and Selection covers selection and screening. This National Standard suggests that volunteers should be selected based on interest, knowledge, and skills consistent with anti-discrimination legislation. Further, National Standard 4 covers the importance of screening processes that maintain the safety of volunteers, service users, and the broader organisation. It is important to ensure that your organisation is aware of and complies with any background checking requirements in your state or territory. These requirements are usually legislated and may also be dictated by industry-specific standards. Sometimes, grant and funding agreements stipulate the background checking requirements expected by program volunteers.
Background checking processes are an important aspect of selection and screening. In different states and territories there is legislation dictating background checking requirements, which often refer to ‘workers’ and include volunteers. It is essential that you are familiar with background checking requirements in your jurisdiction and understand how these apply to your volunteers.
Keep things simple
Depending on the role, you may also require volunteers to provide proof of certification, such as a current First Aid qualification, or evidence the volunteer can perform a certain skill. For other roles, there may be opportunities for volunteers to learn new skills on the job. All this information should be stated up front in your volunteer role description and discussed with prospective volunteers when they apply.
Be cautious not to apply all the same screening processes to volunteers as you would for employees. Remove unnecessary barriers to involvement with your organisation where possible to ensure you capture the interest of prospective volunteers.
In general, interviewing volunteers is usually unnecessary and may make a prospective volunteer feel anxious. Instead, try talking to prospective volunteers over the phone or inviting them for a casual chat prior to formally engaging them in your organisation. This enables you to understand if the volunteer is a good fit for your organisation and provides them with an opportunity to ask questions about the role and the organisation more generally. Sometimes, volunteers may opt out at this point if they realise the role doesn’t meet their motivations. Conversely, this conversation may help you realise the role won’t be a good fit for the volunteer.
Trial shift or tour
Your organisation may choose to invite prospective volunteers to attend a trial shift or do a tour of your premises. This is another mechanism, like the informal chat, for both parties to decide if the role is a good fit. It also provides an opportunity for prospective volunteers to meet each other as well as existing volunteers in your organisation, which can help them feel more comfortable if they choose to proceed with their application.
For more information on selection and screening, including an overview of background checking requirements in different jurisdictions, see Part 5 of the National Volunteer Guide.