Nonprofit organizations really do need to be careful about who is volunteering for them. There are many horror stories about inadequately vetted volunteers causing harm to a nonprofit's clients, especially when there are at-risk populations such as children under the age of 18 or the elderly involved. An adequate volunteer application form is essential.
The organization can be held responsible for illegal acts of volunteers unless there are adequate safeguards and paperwork, not to mention lawsuits from clients that claim abuse. Umbrella insurance policies usually protect nonprofits, but only if they properly vet and document volunteer workers.
It is tough sometimes to put volunteers who only want to help through the hassle of background checks and application forms, but this is an issue that really cannot be neglected.
A nonprofit should check with its legal counsel about basic safeguards and to draft or approve the volunteer application forms that you use. Volunteer application forms vary from organization to organization but typically have, at least, the following elements:
- Contact information, including an email address
- Birth Date and social security number (SS# is important if a background check or credit check is necessary)
- Emergency contact; relationship of the contact, address and phone #
- Previous work or volunteer experience
- Highest education level reached
- Language/s spoken
- Physical limitations
- Current Employer
- Other organizations where applicant has volunteered
- Description of training or experience that may be pertinent to the volunteer position desired.
- Statement of and description of prior criminal convictions or offenses
- Certifications such as First Aid and CPR with dates of certification and expiration dates.
- Valid driver's license #
- References: One or more personal references with contact information; and one or more professional or work-related references with supervisor's name and contact information
- Skills checklist (list skills needed in organization's volunteer positions such as computer, tutoring, clerical skills, phone calling, teaching, supervision, etc.
- Preferred volunteer areas (list typical volunteer jobs that applicant can check if interested)
- Reason for volunteering
- How did you hear about us?
- Hours and days available for volunteer work
- Include any disclaimers from organization. For instance you could include a fair and equal opportunity statement and a list of requirements for volunteers such as reference check, interview, trial period, and required training.
- Signature of applicant and date of signature
Some nonprofits make their volunteer applications available online. Sometimes they can be submitted online or printed out for the volunteer's use.
Volunteer Application Form Example:
The Welcome to America Project Volunteer Agreement.
We particularly like the Volunteer Agreement that is at the top of this application. It covers a lot of ground and makes it clear what is required to become a volunteer. It also has a photo release statement and a statement about health insurance.