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2 min read

Hot Take: Screen Volunteers as Early as Possible

February 1, 2024

Group of volunteers in a circle

One of my favorite Hot Takes is the idea that being really clear and honest about what a volunteer role entails, including specific tasks, skills needed, and time commitment, will pay off by screening out more volunteers who are not the right fit early on.

While fewer volunteers start the process, hopefully more volunteers complete onboarding and stay through a minimum commitment. On the surface I absolutely support this, and if you’ve attended any of my trainings where I’ve talked about screening or onboarding you know that I believe it’s just as important to know when to say “yes” as it is to learn how to say “no” to a volunteer. If I know what it takes to be a great volunteer for a role or for my organization, it’s just a good practice to screen prospective volunteers against that criteria.

But, I can also think of many times in my career where a volunteer that I didn’t think would be a good fit turned out to be an amazing volunteer! If I had screened them out in the initial stages my organization would have missed out on the passion and talent of those volunteers, and that would have been a loss.

It is always important to be open and honest with prospective volunteers about the role and the work, and it’s never okay to do a bait and switch – where you promise one type of work or experience, usually an exciting one, and then require volunteers to “prove” their loyalty by doing repetitive, low-skilled work first.

I think I’ll continue to try and screen out volunteers as early as possible in the process. Our volunteer roles require quite a bit of training and supervision, and I have a pretty good idea of the types of volunteers and volunteer motivation that work best for VolunteerMatch. But I’ll also think more about taking a chance on a volunteer who’s really passionate or has potential.

What about you? Do you try and screen out volunteers who might not be the right fit, or do you encourage everyone to start the onboarding process? Does your current strategy work for you and your organization, or would you consider taking a different approach? Let me know what you think in the comments below.

(Thank you to Amy S. for this inspiring Hot Take!)

Jennifer Bennett

Written by Jennifer Bennett

Jennifer Bennett, CVA is the Director of Education & Training at VolunteerMatch. Jennifer joined VolunteerMatch to formalize and manage the organization’s volunteer engagement program. With her breadth of experience, she is well qualified to help VolunteerMatch’s community of nonprofits better recruit and engage volunteers.