Volunteers help contribute the skills, manpower and enthusiasm your organization needs to succeed without breaking the bank. But bringing new volunteers into your local council also presents risk, and that’s why all local councils need to screen volunteers.

We would all like the believe volunteers get involved in causes and organizations for the right reasons, but this isn’t always the case. Poor decision-making, dishonesty and criminal misdeeds by your volunteers can seriously impact your organization. Your local council could be a victim of crime, suffer public relations issues or be held liable for a volunteer’s actions.

Here are 8 tips to follow when looking for volunteers for the local council. Follow these guidelines on how to properly screen volunteers to reduce your risk so you can focus on your mission.

  1. Create an application process—Having a process that’s consistent and repeatable greatly reduces the risk your local council faces and makes it less likely you’ll make a mistake during screening or in the choice of your volunteers.
  2. Have everyone fill out a form—Ask those who want to volunteer to fill out a form, instead of accepting resumes. It helps you ensure you ask everyone the same questions and get all the important details you need.
  3. Ask the right questions—Ask open-ended questions about motivation to volunteer, education and work experience. Note special skills and talents, but also be on the lookout for signs of dishonesty, conflict or poor judgement.
  4. Check references—Ask for and check the references of all volunteer candidates. Confirm the nature of the relationship, how long they’ve known them and listen for insights into the potential volunteer’s personality.
  5. Interview potential volunteers—A phone or in-person interview is a great chance to get to know your potential volunteer better. Show gratitude for those willing to help out the local council, ask questions, explain the opportunity and answer their questions.
  6. Do a background check—Stakes are high for volunteer tasks involving driving, handling cash, serving alcohol and working with vulnerable populations. Check for criminal records, acts of dishonesty and other problems.
  7. Watch for red flags—When things don’t add up, it could be a sign of a deeper problem. Make sure resumes, interview answers and references agree with each other about the facts. Always look to get to the bottom of any discrepancies.
  8. Seek out legal guidance—It’s a good idea to involve your legal counsel in your volunteer screening process. They can help with volunteer agreements, liability waivers and compliance with applicable laws.

Remember it’s important to screen volunteers, just like you would any potential employee, before giving them free reign of your organization. After you’ve verified who you are working with, you can trust them with more responsibility.

Help preserve your organization’s public image and your local council by properly screening volunteers. View more risk management tips from Lockton Affinity to protect your local council.