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VT readers ask questions about volunteer management and administration. Ask Connie, an experienced volunteer manager, consultant and trainer, provides the answers for all to see.
Send questions to AskConnieP@cs.com

~ July 2007 ~ Topics

Volunteer Background Checks in Healthcare Settings
Managing and Dismissing Aging Volunteer
Emeritus Volunteer Status

Dear Connie:

I am looking for some information on Police Record Screening for volunteers. I am wondering glass imagewhat the national trend is for screening volunteers who work in health care or hospitals. I am trying to find out if volunteers and paid staff are screened via police checks and/or the Family and Community Services Prior Contact screening and approximately when the screening was implemented. Any information you can provide will be helpful.


Dear CB:

A quick Google.com search tells me all hospitals are now requiring some level of background check for potential volunteers. The level appears to vary depending on the position the volunteer is applying for and the hospital's policy. Hospitals appear to be doing everything from a basic driver's license check to fingerprinting. 

As with most nonprofit organizations utilizing volunteers, hospitals are conducting background checks after the potential volunteer submits an application and before the volunteer is placed in service. And, most organizations include the background check requirement on their application or in the description of volunteer requirements. This way potential volunteers know from the very beginning that the background check will be required if they are accepted into the volunteer program.

In my experience, most volunteer resource managers prefer to review the potential volunteer's application first and then if the person has the needed skills, time availability, etc., they conduct an interview, either in person or by phone. If the candidate is appropriate, he/she is asked to sign a background check authorization so that the VRM can proceed with the application process.

For more specific information, I suggest you do a Google.com search on "hospital volunteer background checks." You'll find many links to hospital volunteer programs that require the background checks.

book image Also, here are some additional resources for you to consider:

"Beyond Police Checks: The Definitive Volunteer and Employee Screening Guidebook" is an excellent book by Linda L. Graff. It's available in the VolunteerToday Bookstore for $25.00. 

California Hospital Association has several excellent publications on hospital volunteer programs.

American Society of Directors of Volunteer Services (of the American Hospital Association) deals with all things related to health care volunteerism.

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Dear Connie:

How and when do you approach the subject of "is it time” for a volunteer to stop volunteering due to age, health etc.? It's a sticky subject for a volunteer who has given years and years of service yet is unable to do all the duties of a department. Thank you for any suggestions.


Dear MR:

You're right when you say that approaching "aging volunteers" is a sticky subject and one that most volunteer program managers avoid until it is too late. The best time to begin approaching interview imagethe subject is during a regular annual volunteer assessment/evaluation. This is a neutral time when all volunteers receive and give input about their performance "on the job." You can suggest to a volunteer that there are tasks (be specific) that they no longer perform as well as they used to and that your organization still needs. So for this reason you'd like to move them to another position or reduce the number or type of tasks they do for your organization. This helps to preserve their dignity and helps you retain a valuable person who has given years of experience to the organization.

If you don't do regular volunteer evaluations, I suggest you have a private conversation with the volunteer along the same lines. You can ask if he/she is satisfied with how they're doing their work, what challenges they have in getting the work done, etc. Then you've set the stage to discuss with them how you want to change their responsibilities. winner image

The idea is to keep long-term volunteers at your organization as long as you possibly can and gradually change their duties as their abilities permit before you dismiss them. Sometimes a volunteer will choose to stop volunteering once he/she knows that you know they're not performing as well as expected. Volunteers are loyal to your organization and they don't want to let it down so they keep "chugging" along.

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Dear Connie:

I have heard that some volunteer programs have a special status category for volunteers that need to retire from their position. It may be called Alumni, but I can't find any background information on this project. We want to honor the contributions of our volunteers as they age, keep them involved by inviting them to events, send them our regular newsletter, etc. Thank you in advance for any support/information you can offer.


Dear B:

Organizations seem to use a variety of names for their "retired" volunteers. Some that come to mind are: emeritus, emeritus club, associates, honorary society, VIP, and of course alumni. Some organizations use a name that directly reflects their institution, e.g., the Founders Club or the Explorers Club.

There's a great article about emeritus volunteers on the Charity Channel website. Check it out.

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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 AskConnieP@cs.com.
Connie Pirtle
Strategic Nonprofit Resources
10103 Edward Avenue * Bethesda, MD 20814 * VOICE: 301-530-8233 * FAX: 301-530-8299

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