Effective volunteer screening helps organizations better match people to volunteer positions, and helps improve the safety and quality of programs in communities, while reducing risks and liability.
Volunteer screening is about making informed, reasonable, and intuitive judgments about people based on information from various sources. For volunteers, screening begins before they start their volunteer role and continues throughout their involvement with the organization. Properly managing and screening volunteer resources is key to an organization’s ability to carry out its mission.
Through the Volunteer Screening Program (VSP) – a shared strategy with the Government of Alberta, stakeholders, and network stewards – we help inform and support the nonprofit sector about volunteer screening and engagement.
What is screening?
Screening is a process that helps match people with volunteer positions while improving the quality and safety of the programs and services offered in communities.
It’s an ongoing 10-step process performed by an organization to ensure that volunteers’ involvement is meeting the needs of the organizations, the populations they serve and the volunteers themselves.
Screening involves much more than police record checks. While police record checks are one of the 10 Steps of Screening, screening is a comprehensive process that begins long before a volunteer is selected and continues beyond his or her involvement with the organization.
The benefits of screening are:
• People’s skills and experience are better matched to the needs and opportunities of organizations.
• The quality and safety of volunteer programs in communities are improved.
• The risks and liability for people and organizations are reduced.
Screening helps organizations find the right roles for their volunteers. The screening process takes into account the skills, experience and qualifications needed for a volunteer role. Through the process, organizations learn about the applicant’s interests and goals.
At the same time, screening improves the quality and safety of our communities. Screening policies help to lay out the responsibilities of both organizations and volunteers.
Screening practices play a role in fulfilling an organization’s moral, legal and ethical responsibilities to the people it reaches. This includes members, clients, participants, employees and volunteers. This obligation is even greater when the organization is working with vulnerable people, including children, youth, people with disabilities and senior adults.
Why is volunteer screening important?
Organizations have moral, legal and ethical responsibilities to the people they reach.
This includes members, clients, employees and volunteers. Screening is especially important for organizations that work with vulnerable people. Vulnerable people may include children, people with disabilities and senior adults.
The following factors affect an organization’s obligations for screening volunteers:
• Population served
• Volunteer opportunities offered
Each volunteer position has its own set of requirements, risks and benefits. Boards of directors must set screening policies that suit the range of roles within the organization.
It’s important to note that screening should be ongoing during a volunteer’s involvement. Screening involves ongoing monitoring and quality assurance. This approach benefits the organization and the volunteer, by ensuring that the volunteer role is meeting the needs and expectations of both.
10 Steps of Screening: An ongoing process
Screening practices begin when an organization creates a new position.
Screening is used to select volunteers for specific roles, and it should continue as long as a volunteer is involved with the organization.
The 10 Steps of Screening give clear guidelines for developing screening policies. These policies show an organization’s commitment to safe and meaningful volunteer engagement:
2. Position – Assignment (9 Steps to a compelling position description), (Risk assessment template), (Creating a job description Learning resource guide), (Developing Job descriptions for Board Members Guide), (Sample position description),
3. Recruitment (View recruitment resources here)
5. Interview (Learning resource guide)
7. Police Checks
8. Orientation and Training
9. Support and Supervision
10. Follow-up and Feedback
The 2012 Edition of The Screening Handbook
Volunteer Canada created The 2012 Edition of The Screening Handbook on behalf of Public Safety Canada. The handbook lays out the steps of screening and provides information and resources to support ongoing screening practices. We designed the tool to suit organizations of all sizes and mandates. It is meant to provide guidelines for screening volunteers.
• 2012 Edition of the Screening Handbook
• NEW: 10 Steps of Screening Brochure
• Understanding Police Records Checks
• RCMP police check information
• Calgary Police online police check registration
• Frequently asked questions about vulnerable sector checks (RCMP, 2015)
• Best Practice Guidelines for Screening Volunteers: Finding the Right Match (2008)
• Safe Enough? (2006)