Changing times mean agencies need to keep tabs on volunteers

Posted: Tuesday, September 10, 2002

It's been said that it is always better to give than to receive. Many a volunteer could tell you how true that statement is.

However, an agency that relies on volunteer ingenuity and hard work also needs to cover all its bases when it comes to ensuring that the organization and the volunteer will be a good fit.

For this reason most organizations have an application process -- often including criminal background checks and fingerprinting -- that volunteers need to complete before they can begin.

"We want to know why they want to volunteer," said Helen Ware of Forget-Me-Not Care Center. "In the past we have told volunteers if they don't click with our people it just isn't going to work out."

Because a lot of United Way agencies, and nonprofit organizations in general, deal with sensitive issues or clients who need services because of illness or tragedy, there is a real need for discretion on the part of volunteers.

Generally, it is the organizations that provide the most one-on-one care that need to safeguard their clients and require the most extensive checks.

"It's getting to be the norm," Ware said.

That is not to say though that the time people volunteer with these agencies is not appreciated or needed. It simply means that volunteers who genuinely want to help an agency may need to comply with the group's requirements. So, if you are interested in volunteering with any of the agencies listed in this section, or any other group, make sure to ask what you might need to supply in order to facilitate the process and get you out there helping as quickly as possible.

For example, you may need to:

Get fingerprinted

Interview with the organization's director or program's coordinator

Fill out an application

Supply personal information for a background check

Supply references

Go through required training

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