References: A Screening Tool
In some volunteer
programs, asking for references on an application went out of favor. The
idea of having a prospective volunteer provide the names and contact information
for people who can provide insights into their suitability for a volunteer
position appears to be making a comeback. Here are some hints on how to
do this in a manner designed to bring the most useful information to make
the right volunteer placement.
clear instructions on references to the person completing the application.
the instructions on providing references explain why names are requested
and describe how questions are asked of references. Assure people
that questions are related directly to the work the volunteer does
for the organization. Explain what is meant by references that are
neither relatives nor personal friends. Give examples of all these
items. (Example: References might include a leader in your church,
synagogue or temple, a person with whom you worked on another volunteer
task, the parents of children with whom you worked, etc.)
sure references come from individuals with direct knowledge of the
person in question.
knowledge, say from the chair of a committee for a big event who never
worked directly with the person, is inappropriate. You want names
of people with direct knowledge of the individual and who have interacted
for four references and then check the bottom two.
is likely that the top two candidates will give the most favorable
assessment. A more balanced view may come from those the person listed
as his/her third and fourth choice.
questions that are open-ended and do not violate privacy laws.
should always be related to the work the person will be doing. (Example:
The person applying for this position will be handling money,
can you tell me if you have seen this individual handle money and
if so, would you allow them to do it again, and why?")
should be asked the same questions.
is unethical to ask different questions of different references (unless
it is specifically job related). Questions should always be the same
for each position. Anyone applying to work directly with clients,
for example, might be asked about the persons ability to maintain
confidentiality for children and their families.
ask vague questions.
clear questions that go directly to the position the volunteer will
hold. (Example: Describe to me how you know this person and
why you think they would list you as a reference for a volunteer position
that involves the following ________________________.)
an introduction for the reference interview that describes three things.
should explain briefly about the organization and the role volunteers
have, the purpose of the interview and the role of the interviewer
in the organization, and how the reference is helping make the best
placement for the volunteer (not axing them out of involvement).
the reference givers time.
calling to ask reference questions ask to set up a time when it would
be convenient for you to call again. Imagine it is a meeting. Also,
give them an estimate of how long the interview will take. It should
not take longer than 15 20 minutes. It is one thing for them
to go on about a person, but the person conducting the interview should
keep it within these time limits.
references requires the skills of the worlds best listener.
attention to pauses or hesitation. Listen between the words. If you
sense some doubt on the references part, it is an indicator to do
some additional checking before placing the person.
in more information? Check out our online
bookstore for: "Volunteer Screening: An Audio Workbook,"
by Nancy Macduff and "Beyond Police Checks: The Definitive Volunteer
and Employee Screening Guidebook," by Linda Graff.
Big IntroductionTips on Giving Speeches or Talks
opening of a speech about the volunteer program or the organization
needs to do three things: tell about your history of being involved
in the organization, tell what the organization does; and what your
purpose is in speaking to this group.
who you are and what you do in the organization
background on how you came to be in this positionwhat you
this position is important to your life
is the Organization
overview of the mission
volunteers fit in the organization and the way it accomplishes
short, funny, and personal
I Intend in this Speech
why you are here making this speech
what you hope to accomplish when you are done
Trends: What They Mean for Volunteerism
listed below are taken from an article in The Futurist, a publication
of The World Futurists Society, in June 2003. There is a brief review
of the trend and what it entails and then implications for volunteer programs
Workers are retiring later. In the developing world, it appears
that workers are retiring early than their parents. This is misleading
however because many of them retire only temporarily and begin
another career. True retirement, an end of work life, is likely
to be delayed until late in life. By 2010, the average age of
retirement will be delayed well into the 70's.
for volunteerism: The senior retiree volunteers who are the
backbone of many programs will dwindle in numbers, or will become
more episodic in their service. The new seniors will be older
and more experienced with perhaps two or three career skill
sets to share. These folks will make good mentors to young people
in the organization, and in some cases the staff.
The work ethic is vanishing. Tardiness is on the increase in
the workplace; it is common for workers to abuse the use of sick
leave. Gen-Xer's have little company loyalty, due to watching parents
be downsized and put out of work. The post baby boom generation
works to have money, fun, and leisure. Job security and high pay
are not as important as motivators, such as having a job that gives
a real sense of accomplishment.
for volunteerism: Like their employed counterparts, volunteers
will move from organization to organization. To keep them, they
need to be nurtured, not just selected and then forgotten. Training
is important, as is regular communication and appreciation.
If the new volunteer cannot learn new skills, they are likely
to move somewhere where they can.
Time is becoming the worlds most precious commodity.
The electronic revolution (computers, cell phones, the Internet)
has created a high-pressure do it now mentality. In
the USA workers spend 10% more time on their job than they did
10 years ago. Everyone in the Western world is desperate for anything
that will simplify life or save time.
for volunteerism: Providing volunteer opportunities that are
short in duration, but contribute to the mission of the organization
is a must for the coming volunteer. They will not wait five
years to chair the Board, or be given a meaningful task. And
working efficiently is how they are likely to measure an organization
Consumers want community and social responsibility from companies.
Buyers want the products that come from companies that care about
pollution, child safety, and financial transparency. Government
intervention is likely to push companies to behave in more ethical
and responsible ways.
for volunteerism: Companies want to look good. They have organized
employee volunteer programs as one way to do that. Volunteer
programs need clear guidelines and policies for affiliating
with a for-profit company. There is also a growing opportunity
for such partnerships. The company gains, by looking like a
good citizen, and the organization gains, by increasing its
pool of potential volunteers and/or donors.
OF LIGHT AWARD FORMS AVAILABLE
of Light Foundation has forms available to nominate volunteers and volunteer
organizations for the Daily Points of Light Award. It is designed recognize
individuals and groups that demonstrate unique and innovative approaches
to community volunteering and citizen action, with a strong emphasis
on service focused on the goals for children and young people set by
the Presidents Summit for American's Future. The award is given five
days a week, excluding holidays. If you would like nomination forms,
By calling 1-800-VOLUNTEER in the U.S.,
individuals can be connected to their local volunteer center.
This is a national interactive call routing system designed to get
volunteers connected to people who can help them volunteer.