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Application & Screening

Getting the information you need on the volunteer application

It’s hard to overstate the importance of making sure you have the right volunteer for your organization's needs. Determining if you have the right person starts with an application that gives you the information you need.

Besides collecting basic contact and availability information, it is a good idea to ask some questions to get to know more about your volunteers. What are their interests and why are they volunteering? Find out if they have any special skills that you could utilize, and if they are interested in making a long-term commitment, or if they just want to do short term work. Knowing these things will help you get the most out of your volunteers, as well as provide the volunteer with a more enriching experience.

Take a look at these examples of applications from organizations who participated in VIP 360.

  • Here is an example of a volunteer application from the Hearing Speech and Deafness Center, an organization that provides educational, service, and supply resource for deaf, hard-of-hearing, and speech impaired people.
  • Here is another sample application from the Low Income Housing Institute, an organization that develops, owns and operates housing for the benefit of low-income, homeless and formerly homeless people in Washington State.
  • Ask questions like those included in the volunteer questionnaire from Denise Louie Education Center, Denise Louie promotes school and life readiness by providing multi-cultural early learning services to children and families.

Ensuring it's a match

Another important step is to screen applications and conduct interviews. Do you have a set of good interview questions? Successful screening and in-depth interviews can prevent many types of supervision, liability, and management problems with volunteers. Interviews also give make it easier for you to place the volunteer in a role that they see as appropriate and appealing.

It is particularly important to make sure that there is a good match between a volunteer’s expectations and your organization’s needs. A volunteer may be motivated by a desire to be of service, an interest in learning new skills through a volunteer role, and/or an interest in meeting and being with people. In order to assess fit, think about these parallel considerations:


Volunteer’s values about who they want to help; what issues they care about

Focus/mission; staff/board diversity; who is served

Volunteer’s values about workplace culture

Organizational culture (formal/informal, studious/fun, how decisions are made, how people relate to one another)

Volunteer’s preferences about using/developing their skills

Organization's needs (what needs to be done; what skills, knowledge or expertise is needed)

Volunteer’s preferences about the structure and benefits of a volunteer opportunity

Structure and benefits of the volunteer opportunity (independence, hours, social opportunities, etc.)

Background checks

If your organization works with vulnerable populations, it is important to have policies regarding volunteer background checks, when they will be required, and how you will handle the results. Sample policies may be found within the volunteer handbook templates and examples. It is a good idea to include background check permission forms and confidentiality agreements with your application materials.

  • Life Long AIDS Alliance requires its volunteers to sign a volunteer agreement.
  • Because Denise Louis Education Center works with young children, their background check form is designed to be extremely thorough and comply with state and federal law.

For a comprehensive overview regarding applicable laws, what organizations really need to know and how to properly screen volunteers, check out this consumer guide from Privacy Rights Clearinghouse. Sterling Volunteers offers a good overview of 8 Popular Background Checks for Volunteer Organizations as well.

Return to Topics in Volunteer Management Guide.