Your responsibility to your organisation is to ensure that anyone coming in to your organisation is suitable, safe and appropriate. This duty of care extends to how your group or organisation screens potential volunteers.
With any form of screening, it is important to make your volunteer applicants aware that this will take place at the earliest opportunity. Also remember that you can use your knowledge of volunteers to screen and select. For example:-use a trail period or compulsory training as a means of screening your volunteer’s suitability.
It is best practice for you to ask for references for volunteers, but this is not necessarily going to be the same as asking for references for paid employees.
Who will you accept references from?
It is important that you let your applicants know from whom you will accept references:-
- it may not be appropriate to ask for a reference from a former employer – these are often irrelevant to the role and can be difficult to obtain
- asking that a referee should be someone who has known the applicant for a minimum number of years can be difficult for some volunteers
When contacting referees, give them information about the role and your organisation and ask them specific questions – you will have more chance of receiving a reference if you give them a prompt.
Consider accepting a phone call or email as a reference, this can often speed up the reference and make it easier for the referee to respond.
If your volunteer is going to be working with children or vulnerable adults you have a legal duty to ensure that they are suitable to do so. Make sure that your committee or board members are fully aware of their responsibilities and duties concerning the protection of children and vulnerable adults, the Protection of Vulnerable Groups Scheme and Disclosure checks.
Is this person suitable?
Having met your potential volunteer, read their references, (and accessed a PVG Scheme Record or other type of Disclosure to check their suitability to work with either children or vulnerable adults – if appropriate) – consider how the person matches the skills, knowledge or aptitudes which are essential for the role.
- if the candidate does not immediately match the role’s requirements, would they have the potential to do so with support and/or training?
- if they are not suitable for that particular role – are they suitable for a role elsewhere within the organisation?
Saying ‘no’ to an applicant
Saying ‘no’ to an applicant is something that anyone recruiting for volunteers should be prepared for. If an applicant is simply not suitable – tell them. Give them the reasons why in as positive a way as possible and help them to consider their options. Just because they are not suitable for you, it does not mean that they are not suitable elsewhere. Letting them know this means that they are not put off volunteering and can enquire somewhere else about other volunteering opportunities.