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The most effective way to manage risk in order to keep our clients, volunteers, and staff safe is by ensuring a consistent volunteer management process.

The Screening HandbookThe 10 Steps to Screening are found in the Screening Handbook. The handbook features tools and resources to advance volunteer screening practices.

Meaningful volunteer engagement and the quality and safety of program delivery are improved through screening. Effective screening greatly reduce risks and liability for organizations and volunteers.

This indispensable guide, prepared in 2012 by Volunteer Canada for Public Safety Canada, is available free for download online

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10 Steps to Screening: Video

Learn about the “10 Steps to Screening” and how to implement these steps within your organization to enhance volunteer screening practices. This video will provide an overview of the following topics:

  • Learn about the important steps in the screening process
  • Learn how to plan for hiring a volunteer and implementing the important steps in the hiring process
  • Begin to identify ways to scale these steps for your organization

This video is available as a free resource through the Volunteer Screening Program with the support of the Government of Alberta.

10 Steps to Screening: Highlights

For a printable version of the 10 Steps to Screening, download the Volunteer Screening handout.

  1. Determine policies & risks | Set standard policies and identify potential risks to participants/organization.
  2. Write clear volunteer position/role descriptions | Set guidelines and behavioural standards for volunteer positions, and clarify roles and responsibilities.
  3. Establish a formal recruitment process | Commit to a thorough recruitment process and make this commitment clear to potential volunteers by informing them of your recruitment process up front.
  4. Use an application form | Limit the collection of information to what is necessary to carry-out an interview for the volunteer role, and ask for permission to call references.
  5. Conduct interviews – get to know the volunteer | Communicate your organization’s expectations and assess the suitability of the candidate for the role. Ask about past employment and volunteer positions. Remember to use your intuition!
  6. Follow-up with references | Always do more than one reference check. Be sure to explain the position/role, the potential vulnerability of participants, and ask for open comments.
  7. When necessary, request the appropriate Police Information Check | If you have determined a Police Information Check is necessary for a volunteer role, contact your local police service to clarify which type of check you need. Be sure to include the volunteer role description for the benefit of the police service, your organization, and the volunteer during this process.
  8. Conduct orientation & training sessions | Ensure that the candidate is aware of organizational structures and policies, and assess their approach, work style, and skills. At this point, you may still decide if they are the right person for the volunteer role or not.
  9. Supervise & evaluate| Using the position description as a reference point, evaluate the volunteer at least once a year and preferably 2-3 times a year. Clarify expectations and identify challenges.
  10. Participant/recipient follow-up & feedback | Listen to feedback about the service provided by the volunteer. Ensure that volunteers are aware that follow-ups will be conducted.

Important Definitions 

Duty of Care

Duty of care is a volunteer manager’s obligation to take reasonable measures to care for and protect staff, clients, participants, volunteers, and the organization to an appropriate standard. The appropriate standard of care is dependent on the situation and risks. It is a legal principle that is designed to protect vulnerable individuals from manipulation or harm.

For example, a volunteer working with children should be screened more heavily than one doing office work or helping at a special event.

Standard of Care

Refers to the degree or level of service, attention, care, and protection that one owes another.

Individuals and organizations are not legally required to absolutely guarantee that no harm will come to their client, their staff, or the community at large. However, “the standard of care expected in individual circumstances is that of a reasonable or prudent person.”

Position of Trust/Authority

Is a situation in which someone has:

  • Significant degree of authority or decision-making power over over a vulnerable person; and/or
  • Unsupervised access to a vulnerable person and their property.

A position of trust may also include situations where the success of the volunteer’s service may depends on the development of a close, personal relationship between two individuals (e.g. mentor).

Vulnerable Person

One who, because of their age (under the age of 18 or over the age of 65), a disability (mental or physical disability or mental illness): is in a position of dependence on others or; is otherwise at greater risk than the general population of being harmed by a person in a position of trust or authority towards them.

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