Non-profits and other charity organizations rely on volunteers to ensure the continuity of various operations. With people from all walks of life presenting themselves for consideration, the organizations have to enact measures to ensure they acquire only the ideal volunteers. A volunteer application form can help with that. This form is a tool used by nonprofits to streamline the recruitment and vetting process by collecting applicants’ background information in relation to the specific role in question.
While the content of the form may slightly vary depending on the role and the organization, it basically serves the same purpose of protecting both the organizational interests and the volunteers. For instance, an organization dealing with housing and feeding orphaned children ought to screen the volunteers they want to bring on board, lest they risk opening their doors to individuals who can potentially harm the kids.
Such an organization needs to implement the volunteer application form, which is important in many ways:
- It issues disclaimers and collects background information of volunteers, thereby protecting staff members and the organization at large against being held liable should any volunteer commit a crime when working.
- A volunteer application form protects your nonprofit from various forms of liability in a court of law. While certain laws and policies shield nonprofits, the nonprofits themselves have to do their part.
- The application form facilitates the smooth running of organizational operations by ensuring that only the most qualified and deserving volunteers join.
- By collecting personal information, such as full name, social security number, and home address, you can run a sound background check to protect your organization against potential harm on legal and logistical grounds.
- This application form reduces the chances of unknowingly onboarding volunteers who want to join your organization with malicious intentions.
What to Include in a Volunteer Application Form
The sensitivity involved in hiring volunteers explains why application forms need to collect as much information as possible regarding potential volunteers. While the forms work best when customized to fit the needs of a specific organization, here is a list of conventional sections that should feature in the volunteer application:
A short description of your organization
Since the target individuals will be volunteering to work for your organization, start with giving information about your establishment so that the applicants know what they are getting into. Some of the details to feature here include what you do, the principles that govern your existence, office hours, and your ultimate mission. By reading these specific details, potential volunteers can picture what awaits them and make an informed decision if they indeed want to be a part of your establishment.
Conventionally, start by asking the volunteer to write their name on the application form. Ensure they provide their official first and last name to avoid any confusion.
Ask the volunteers to provide their personal contact information. Besides asking for their phone number, have them provide their personal email to make future communication more accessible. Emails are ideal when it comes to passing group-relevant messages, including organizational newsfeeds.
Let the volunteers fill in their general information to continue to shed light on who they are. Ask for the birth date, address, social security number, and driver’s license, among others. This will be vital information when it comes to checking their credibility through running background checks.
Have the volunteers provide their emergency contacts on the application form. This could be a phone number of a person they live with or a close relative. These numbers will be important in case of an emergency, such as an accident occurring in the line of volunteering work.
Allow the volunteers to provide a list of languages they speak fluently. Some of them may possess vital language skills that may come in handy, especially if you deal with international services. If it suits your organization, ask them to indicate if they possess any special language skills like sign language and brail.
Past volunteering experiences
This information is vital in the screening process because it could lead you to find people who are already experienced in performing the operations at hand. To optimize the use of this section, ask applicants to provide specific details about where they volunteered before, including their specific engagements in those positions.
Work experience details
Request the volunteers to fill in their work details, for both the current and past jobs, on the application form. With such information, you will be in a better position to match applicants with roles that suit their natural abilities. In addition, you may request contacts for the current employer if you need to take your background check in that direction.
When looking for an employee, an employer asks for the academic information of a candidate, and so should you. Academic performance is essential because it gives insights into a person’s hard work, commitment, and dedication. Such characteristics are vital in many areas of life, including volunteering.
Physical disabilities, if any
Some applicants may want to help where they can, even if they have certain physical limitations. By obtaining this information, you will be in a better position to assign them to work that they can manage without much trouble.
Be sure to request the criminal records of the applicants so as to tell where they stand from a legal position. Depending on the nature of the criminal history, you can determine if you want to take things forward with them or leave them out. Some records can also help gain insights on how to relate with the individual if you decide to take them in. For instance, the records may reveal that the person is temperamental by nature, thereby guiding you into establishing how to handle them.
Other than the academic certifications, ask the volunteer to attach copies of any other certification that they may possess with the application form. These papers will expand your understanding of a person and help unearth other skills that you may find useful.
Has the person received any training regarding the role at hand? Let applicants describe such training in detail. The possibility of prior training may give you an easier time when making your selections and incorporating the successful applicants into your operations.
In the same spirit, ask the individuals to provide a list of skills they possess so you can easily assign roles. For instance, someone who has experience working in a hotel as a waiter can serve rations to children better than a person who worked in the same hotel as a cashier.
Preferred volunteer roles
It is not unusual to find someone who wants to participate in a volunteering activity outside their professional roles. As such, have the applicants describe what they are willing to undertake. Ideally, you do not want to interfere with what gives volunteers happiness, as statistics show that happy volunteers are 20% more productive. Additionally, you will not waste much time on volunteers who solely want to take part in positions that have already been filled.
Ask the applicant to provide both personal and work-related references. These should be names and contact details so that you can get in touch to ascertain that the pertinent information provided to you is accurate.
If you want to expand your methods of reaching out to the community, ask the applicants to reveal how they found out about your organization and the volunteer role at hand. For example, the results may reveal that most applicants are finding you through Twitter, prompting you to find ways to streamline your Facebook presence.
This is a very vital piece of information as it will guide you when creating a shift structure. Remember that this is a volunteer role, and an individual can manage to join you only during the time they say they are available.
Reason for volunteering
This information will help you weed out the applicants who want to join you for unusual and cynical reasons. As much as you do not pay them, they represent your establishment, and you cannot afford to have them paint a bad picture about you in the community. Every volunteer you settle for should have genuine intentions and sound reasons for volunteering. Some good reasons could be a drive to make a difference in other people’s lives and give back to an organization that positively impacted their life in the past.
People tend to execute their hobbies with exceptional passion and dedication. By asking the applicants about their hobbies, you may unearth extra skills that could be useful. For example, a person who enjoys reading as a hobby could better read stories for young kids but not teach the kids how to swim.
This information falls in line with the reasons for volunteering. The reasons they give here could enrich your marketing team with more reasons that drive people to volunteer. Following this, the team could create more diverse marketing campaigns to reach more qualified people for future roles as they become available.
Be sure to include any other vital information pertinent to your organization so the applicants can familiarize themselves with everything before going ahead to apply for the position.
In the interest of protecting your organization from a legal perspective, including any disclaimers that govern your operational setting. In the event that a volunteer commits a crime leading to a court case, the declaimer you put on the volunteer application form could get you out of liability for the same.
As part of efforts to facilitate efficiency and dedication, finish with stating your mission statement and describing why it is vital to both you and society.
Signature and date
Ensure that the applicants sign the filled document as well as input the date they filled the form. Signing will show they personally filled the form and are ready to enter into an agreement with you.
Evidently, you are required to collect a lot of details from potential volunteers. Due to the intense nature of the volunteer application form, crafting it from scratch can be tedious and could see you potentially leave out vital sections. However, a template can help you come up with professional and complete forms that are concise in nature. Also, they help you save time which you can channel to the completion of other organizational operations. You can download free and customizable templates here to simplify the creation process of your volunteer application form.
Tips to Make a Great Volunteer Application Form
While looking for volunteers, you need to balance between being friendly and implementing cautionary measures for the selection process. Here are some top tips to help you come up with an excellent volunteer application form:
Make it welcoming for volunteers
Ensure that you portray your organization as a friendly environment to work in. You can achieve this by including an organizational profile that covers your core operations and mission. You may continue to inspire the potential volunteers by writing the roles of past volunteers in the success of the organization.
To further bring out your establishment as an interesting place to volunteer, including some information about the training and certifications you offer, as well as the fun aspect of volunteering. If you feel that sharing all this information will make your form unusually long, consider utilizing an employee handbook that readers can access by following a link. This way, you will be sure to hire fun, energetic, and enthusiastic people.
Consider including a release from liability statement
Accidents and other forms of damages may sometimes occur in the line of voluntary duty. As an organization, you may want to provide potential volunteers with a release of liability document so they can sign. This will put it clear that you will not be responsible for injuries and damages that may occur during the volunteering process. You may get this from the National Council of Nonprofit Organizations.
Make your application easily accessible
Ensure that applicants can access your volunteer application forms online so they can fill and submit them with minimal effort. Don’t forget to avail downloadable volunteer forms, such as PDFs, in case some applicants want to mail their applications physically.
Consider using volunteer portals
Volunteer portals simplify the whole process of landing the perfect volunteers, so you do not have to carry out everything yourself. Since these portals are web-based, they can reach out to more people and increase the chances of landing the best volunteers out there. Most of these portals work by displaying your volunteer vacancy in an ad-like method, giving a link to your website so that interested persons can follow up. In addition, some advanced portals go-ahead to initiate the process of background checks so that only the more qualified volunteers get in touch with your organization.
Organizations that are looking to bring in volunteers have the responsibility to come up with a volunteer application form to streamline the process of application and selection. A functional form requires utmost precision to reduce the chances of leaving out vital data-collection questions. It involves asking personalized questions, such as the level of experience in the volunteering sector, certifications, and availability. With the help of templates, you can prepare a complete volunteer application form with minimal effort. Consider using volunteer portals to reach out to as many potential volunteers as possible.