From interest to reality: Transition volunteers smoothly

Once someone’s indicated an interest in volunteering, explore these considerations for creating a smooth transition for candidates as they move from applicant to full volunteer.

Many organizations require a background check of some sort before a volunteer is allowed to begin service, particularly if the position involves working with vulnerable populations. Once a volunteer’s application has been turned in, it is best to meet this requirement first and as quickly as possible. If there are red flags that would cause you to reject a volunteer such as a previous violent offense or drug charge, it’s best to know that before you spend a good deal of time completing the other portions of the screening process.

Once you have the “green light” on the background check, you can begin the other parts of the screening process that might take a bit more time to schedule. For instance, many organizations require both an in-person interview as well as reference checks. Because these things rely on others giving you their time, we’d recommend getting them all going at the same time so that one doesn’t become a hold up for the others. If you wait to schedule the interview until you have all your reference checks back, you might be waiting an additional two to three weeks until a volunteer’s available time coincides with yours. Remember: the longer you keep an interested volunteer waiting, the greater the likelihood is that something else will come up and fill that time.

Communication is the key to keeping a volunteer’s interest during this crucial time. Never leave a volunteer wondering if you have forgotten about him or her. When they submit an application, find out what their preferred form of communication is: phone, email, text, etc. This will help you to check in regularly with them as you’re waiting for the various pieces to fall into place.

Additionally, once they’ve passed the background checks, there might be other things they can do while they’re waiting to get fully through the process, such as orientation and training. You might also consider inviting a volunteer to observe a site, participate in a volunteer meeting or a council meeting, or get together with an experienced volunteer who can tell them about what to expect. All of these things will keep them engaged in the process and get them excited about what’s to come. What’s more, they’re all things that you don’t have to directly do yourself but instead could have another volunteer do while you’re working behind the scenes to get everything set up.

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