How to Interview and Screen Nonprofit Volunteers
If you’re placing volunteers in sensitive jobs with your nonprofit, such as working with children or providing peer counseling, screen your applicants carefully. Screening, including a fingerprint check, is sometimes required by law, by licensing requirements, or by your insurance carrier. Some states and counties also require a test for tuberculosis. Check with local authorities about the requirements in your area.
Even though the authorities do the fingerprinting and criminal background checks, you can do some screening of your own as well. Require volunteer applicants to fill out job applications just as if they were applying for paid work. Ask for references and check them. Review résumés and conduct formal interviews. Avoid paranoia, but don’t discount your gut feelings, either.
If you’re using volunteers in professional roles, such as accounting, check their qualifications just as you would check the qualifications of an applicant for a paid position. It’s possible that this process may offend potential volunteers, but it’s far better to make sure that the person can do the job, even if she’s doing it for free.
Screening can be a delicate issue. You’re walking a tightrope between the rights of individual privacy and the rights of the organization to be sure that no harm befalls clients. Some potential volunteers may be offended by background checks. Explain to them that the procedures aren’t directed at them personally but are in place to ensure that clients are protected.
Also, treat all volunteer applicants the same. In other words, don’t pass up screening someone just because she’s a personal friend.