The volunteer application process is an important part of the volunteer experience because it speaks to the credibility of the organization.
An efficient process keeps the application information organized and makes volunteers feel confident about getting involved.
There are many pieces to the application process and each step should be part of an overall process that prepares for the next step.
1. Create an Application Packet
The volunteer application packet should be assembled with the many pieces of information that the volunteer candidate will need. An application packet might include the following:
- Cover letter – Explains the contents of the packet and gives instructions on completing forms.
- Application form – (click here for an example volunteer application form).
- Statement of faith or organization’s mission statement.
- Organization chart/chain-of-command.
- Background check authorization form.
- Reference check form.
- List of volunteer opportunities and volunteer job descriptions.
2. Distribute Volunteer Application Packet
Volunteer packets should be assembled and made available to volunteers in several convenient locations.
For example, have volunteer applications available in the church lobby and church office, as well as a downloadable form on the church website.
Completed applications should be returned to the volunteer office for processing.
The application should include instructions for returning the completed forms and who to call if there are any questions during the process.
3. Check Application
Once an application is received, it should be checked for completion by reviewing if it has applicable signatures, if all forms are returned, and if all the information is complete.
The most efficient way to do this is to have a volunteer application check sheet so you can mark each item and date when it was received.
This also allows you to keep a history of the file with dates for when each piece of the application is received.
Tip: Use this form as a cover sheet on the volunteer file. Or, create an electronic document that can be updated as steps to the process are completed.
If the application is missing any information, an email, phone call, or post card can be sent asking the applicant for the missing information.
The volunteer should also be made aware of any delay in processing the application.
4. Complete Application
Once all the forms for the application have been received, it is time to begin the screening process:
Perform a Criminal Background Check
It is becoming more and more crucial for all volunteers to go through a criminal background check.
Whether they are working with children or ushering people to their seats, it is only wise to be aware of the volunteer’s background. You wouldn’t want someone who has a history of embezzlement counting your offering and a criminal background check is the only way to uncover this type of information.
It is our job to protect people from uncontrollable temptations. This is done to not only to protect the church, but also to help the volunteer.
There are lots of vendors available who can run a criminal background check for volunteers. Most require a volunteer signature, as well as their social security number.
Here are a couple of companies to check out. I’m not endorsing any of them; I’m just providing a starting point for your research. Another excellent resource is your insurance company. Ask them for a recommendation.
Here is an example volunteer background check form.
Check Personal References
Personal reference checks help to ensure there is consistency in the information the volunteer provides and that the job they are applying for is a good fit for them.
For example, if someone is applying to work with small children, and you call a friend or relative who says they don’t have a lot of patience with kids, there might be a red flag for placing that person in kid’s church. This would result in trying to find a more suitable position for the volunteer.
Conduct a Personal Interview
A personal interview is the best way to get to know someone and to understand what their personality is like. This added step can help ensure the volunteer is placed in the best volunteer role for them.
This type of interview also sends a message that the candidate is valued and allows the organization to get to know them on a personal level.
The goal of the volunteer interview is to have a casual conversation and just get to know them.
Ask questions about their background, what they enjoy doing, and how the volunteer opportunity they are applying for can help fulfill them as a person. This is also an opportune time to explain how the volunteer office can support them and the organization’s expectations for them.
5. Secure Approval Signatures
Once all of the required forms are returned and the screening process (interviews and background check) is complete, the application file can be forwarded to the approval committee. Every organization is different, but it is recommended to have at least two people review all the information and work together to identify the best volunteer role for the applicant.
It is also beneficial to have two sets of eyes on the application and signatures for approval to attach some accountability to the process.
Once the application has gone through all the screenings and approvals, the volunteer can be assigned a job. The next step is to simply contact the volunteer supervisor over that area and forward the volunteer information to them.
6. Send Confirmation and Placement Letter
This is when a confirmation of approval and placement letter can be sent to the volunteer.
Example Approval Letter
Dear (volunteer applicant name):
We are excited to welcome you as a volunteer at (ABC Organization). We value your interest in helping us further our mission by providing the services that we provide to our customers.
Enclosed in this letter, please find your volunteer schedule, along with the name of your volunteer supervisor. Your supervisor will be contacting you in the next few days to introduce themselves and share training dates and additional information about your role.
The next volunteer orientation session will be (May 23, 20XX from 10:00 am to noon in the ABC conference room). Please let me know if this orientation does not work with your schedule and I will provide you with alternative orientation dates.
If there is anything else I can do to help make this a smooth transition, please let me know. I can be reached at (firstname.lastname@example.org) or by phone at (123-456-7890).
Thanks again for partnering with us to further the cause.
Miss (Volunteer Manager)
You can access an editable copy of a volunteer approval letter by clicking here.
7. 90 Day Review
After a volunteer has been on the job for a couple of months it’s helpful to have a conversation with them to see how things are going. It is also an opportune time to get some feedback from their volunteer supervisor to determine if there are any issues that need to be addressed. This 90 day review should be two-fold. First, identify ways to improve the screening, selection, and placement process. Second, it is essential to help bridge the gap in the training process.
After the 90 day review and follow-up steps are completed, the application can be officially closed and filed. If your organization uses electronic volunteer files, make a note as to the date that all of the pieces to the application were completed.
The steps to the process are many, but each step helps to ensure that volunteers are screened and selected to determine the best fit the organization. But more importantly, to create a fulfilling experience for the volunteer.
If you would like to learn more about managing volunteers you can check out our book Smart Volunteer Management, available on Amazon.
photo by: DanielKulinski
Article originally posted December 2012, updated September 2015.