V.T. readers ask questions about volunteer management and administration. Ask Connie, an experienced volunteer manager, consultant and trainer, provides the answers for all to see.

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~ November 2002~ Topics

Dear Connie:
Do you have a source for a volunteer questionnaire that will produce information about a person's interests, skills, etc.?


Dear Maureen:
I worked for a national organization for 10 years, and we utilized volunteers from all across the U.S. I developed an interest/contact form that you could easily adapt for your use. The categories of information that I sought were:

Contact information (name, address, email, fax, emergency contact, etc.)
Educational background (degrees earned, major areas studied)
Professional background (employer(s), type of work, address, phone, email, fax, etc.)
Volunteer background (organization(s), type of volunteering, years, positions held, etc.)
Skills (administrative, languages, computer, public speaking, training, etc.)
Availability (weekdays, weekends, nights, etc.)

I compiled the information in a simple database so that it was always handy for placement of the volunteers. I often discovered "hidden" skills and interests in the information provided about volunteer background, education, and employment.

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Dear Connie:
We are a nonprofit organization that would like to implement a policy for our staff to go to other organizations to volunteer. I was looking for policies and procedures that other businesses/companies use. Would you have copies of policies or resources that I could review to assist me in developing a policy for our agency? Thank you for your help with this.


Dear Linda:
I suggest you visit the Points of Light Foundation website They have a section on "Best Practices in Workplace Volunteering." Your approach to employee volunteerism would be similar to that of businesses and corporations. Here's an excerpt from the site:

"The Points of Light Foundation encourages business leaders to create environments that enable employees and retirees to volunteer in the communities in which they live and work. The Foundation developed the Principles of Excellence to serve as guidelines for companies working to build and improve their employee volunteer programs."

You'll find many good resources at this site on workplace volunteering. I also suggest that you contact your local volunteer center to get examples of policies from local businesses. You can locate your volunteer center using the "Volunteer Center Network" on the Points of Light's home page.

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Dear Connie:
My staff and I were discussing whether in light of recent developments, organizations that use volunteers are getting background checks on volunteers, especially if they are schools with children, as we are. In light of recent events, many organizations are getting background checks on their faculty and staff to be aware of any past problems. Have you heard of any organizations getting background checks on volunteers?


Dear Deborah:
Organizations that involve children and volunteers (even if volunteers don't normally come into contact with the children) have been screening their employees AND volunteers for several years now. So, I encourage you to consider if it's right for you, develop a policy, and research how to implement it. In other words, it's not something you do "lightly" and most organizations do it for both employees and volunteers, to avoid any perception of discrimination.

There's an excellent book you should read on the subject - BEYOND POLICE CHECKS: THE DEFINITIVE VOLUNTEER AND EMPLOYEE SCREENING GUIDEBOOK by Linda L. Graff. You can buy it for $25 at Bookstore.

Here's the description:

"This is a comprehensive 'how to' manual on volunteer employee screening. Loaded with practical tips, helpful cautions, fully reproducible checklists and assessment tools, this guidebook will lead you step-by-step to increased screening awareness and program safety.

Don't wake up one morning to a tragedy and find yourself wishing you had paid more attention to the escalating liabilities and higher standards of screening employees and volunteers."

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Dear Connie:
What is the prospect of someone volunteering in hopes of finding a job that pays eventually? I have a lot of education and age is a factor here - too many years and still need and want to work for pleasure and money. Any advice? Appreciate any help that you may be able to offer.


Dear SJS:
While there isn't much hard research to go on, conventional wisdom says that your prospects are good. For you, volunteering at an organization that you're interested in working for provides an opportunity to prove your worth and skills AND let's you see what the organization is like without making a commitment. On the part of the organization, a potential employer gets to see your skills and experience AND can come to rely on you and want to have a more permanent arrangement with you.

My advice is to select the organizations that you are interested in where you think your skills and experience will be an asset. Inquire about volunteer opportunities without telling them that you are looking for permanent employment so that they will judge you just for who you are. Seek opportunities that will give you the most exposure to administrative staff, such as relief receptionist, working on mass mailings, computer work, etc.

I wouldn't be shy about applying for jobs either! In the nonprofit world, good experienced staff members are hard to find. So you might be pleasantly surprised at how many job offers you receive!

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Do you have a question? Now you too can ask an expert!

Connie Pirtle, of Strategic NonProfit-Resources, has 15 years' experience in working with volunteers.
She has consulted and/or trained for such organizations as the Washington National Cathedral, Anchorage
Symphony Orchestra, Chamber Music America, and the Association for Volunteer Administration.

Send your questions to Connie at:

Connie Pirtle
Strategic Nonprofit Resources
2939 Van Ness Street, NW - Suite 1248
Washington, DC 20008
VOICE: 202-966-0859 FAX: 202-966-3301

A Service of MBA Publishing
925 "E" Street
Walla Walla, WA 99362
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