While everyone wants something different from their volunteering experience, most people are looking for an organisation that they can connect with through the volunteer work that they do. A prospective volunteer's first real experience of your organisation will be when they make an enquiry or apply for a volunteering position.
Why have an application process?
Thinking about the volunteer experience from the very first time a potential volunteer makes contact with your organisation helps to ensure that they get a positive experience right from the start. Having a simple, yet well-planned, enquiry and application process – speaks volumes about your organisation. And having people in your organisation who are briefed and equipped to welcome, support and inform prospective volunteers shows that you are organised and that you actually care about how your volunteers are treated.
The good news is that it doesn't take much time or effort to set up a welcoming and effective enquiry and application process.
Your process doesn't have to be complicated, but having something set down ensures that everyone involved knows what’s going on and what needs to be done.
When you brief staff or volunteers you should:
- Provide them with a copy of your recruitment timeline
- Provide them with copies of relevant documents (position descriptions, fact sheets, frequently asked questions, contact registers)
- Explain their role in the recruitment process and what is expected of them
- Provide the contact details of someone they can escalate enquiries to if needed.
How will you handle enquiries?
Think about the best way for prospective volunteers to contact your organisation:
- Do you have someone who can handle enquiries all the time? When are they available? Will the job need to be shared? How best can you manage the work?
- What is the best way to take enquiries in your organisation, by phone, email, or face-to-face? This will depend on how your organisation is set up and who is available. Smaller organisations are usually better suited to take enquiries by phone or email only.
- What is a realistic turnaround timeframe for responding to enquiries? There's no use aiming for immediate turnaround if you are only available once a week to check and respond to messages. Once you set a turnaround time make it a policy to stick to it. You can also manage prospective volunteers' expectations by letting them know when they can expect a response.
- What are the typical kinds of enquiries that you will receive? Knowing this means that you don't need to make up answers on the spot. You can brief people or prepare a fact sheet, flier or answers to frequently asked questions that tell prospective volunteers everything that they need to know.
How will volunteers apply?
Not every organisation has the same application process. Giving some thought to what works for your organisation will streamline the application process for you and your volunteers. Think about:
- How do prospective volunteers apply for a role? Do they just call or email and register their interest? Is there an application form? Can they apply at any time or only at specific times?
- Is there an application closing date? Will this date allow you time to review applications and conduct other things like information sessions, interviews, screening and checks?
- Do you need to create a paper-based application or registration of interest form? Can you make an online form?
- What details do you want to collect from prospective volunteers? How will you record these details?
- Do prospective volunteers need to meet any mandatory criteria as part of their application, like a driver's licence, food handling certificate, Working with Children Check?
- How do applicants submit their applications? By phone? Online? By mail? In person?
- How will you keep a record of who's applied?
- How will you acknowledge applications received? By email? By phone? By mail?
- What happens after you receive applications? Is there an interview or information session? How are volunteers selected?
Use your answers to these questions to design your enquiry and application process. Write down the process (and any procedures and documentation to support the process) in a short document. Make sure everyone involved with enquiries and applications has a copy of your process and understands what is expected.
Create any documents you need to support the enquiry or application process well before you start advertising for volunteers.
Volunteer applications forms, or registration of interest forms, are a particularly useful way for organisations to gather essential information from prospective volunteers as part of the application process.
Application forms don't have to be very complicated or complex to be effective. But they are a really useful way to find out about an applicant so you can judge how they would fit into a role or your organisation. This information can feed into program evaluations and re-designs, or your marketing strategy and campaigns.
Be sure to only collect information that is relevant to the application process or useful to your organsiation. Remember that applying for a volunteer role is not the same as applying for a job and not all the information required for a job application is relevant in a volunteering context.
Information typically found in a volunteer application form includes:
- Name and contact details
- How did you hear about us? (Useful for evaluating your promotion and marketing activities)
- Work status (full time, part time, student, retired etc)
- Why do you want to volunteer? (work experience, meet people, learn new skills, to lend a hand)
- What’s your availability (days of the week, times of the day)
- What type of volunteering are you interested in (ongoing, every now and then, events or campaigns)
- Have you volunteered before? Where did you volunteer? What sort of volunteering did you do?
- Do you have any specific skills?
- Do you have any specific interests?
Also include questions that address any specific requirements you may need that are relevant to your organisation and the volunteer program, such as having a certain level of proficiency in English or languages other than English, a driver's licence, or contact details for referees.
If you are asking for referees also ask for an applicant's permission to contact them. You can include this in the application form as a simple checkbox that's labelled with: 'I give my consent to obtain personal information from my referees'.
You may also wish to include a simple privacy statement at the end of your application form which informs applicants that your organisation is committed to protecting the privacy of any personal information that you collect. Most not-for-profit organisations are required to comply with the National Privacy Principles of the Commonwealth Privacy Act 1988.