Asking for Volunteer References

by the Nonprofit Risk Management Center

Nonprofits often suffer from limited resources to accomplish large goals. Volunteers can be vital to accomplishing an organization’s mission. Every nonprofit should exercise reasonable care to make certain the applicant seeking a volunteer position is the right person for the position. More intensive screening is required if the position requires interaction with vulnerable clientele, such as children, the elderly, and individuals with disabilities, handling funds or driving vehicles.

General questions from references may include:

  • In what capacity have you known the applicant, and for how long?
  • Would you rehire the applicant? If no, why not?
  • How did the applicant handle frustration and criticism on the job?
  • Was the candidate punctual?
  • When and where have you observed the candidate working with _____________ (select appropriate group: young children, the elderly or persons with disabilities)?
  • What is the candidate’s philosophy about discipline?
  • In your opinion, are there any reasons why placing vulnerable people in the care of the applicant would expose them to undue risk or harm?
  • Would you be comfortable having the applicant assigned to mentor someone in your family?
  • Is there any reason this person shouldn’t be working with children (other vulnerable population)?

This article was written by the Nonprofit Risk Management Center (NRMC). NRMC is a MCN partner and provides training, technical assistance and informational resources for controlling risks that threaten a nonprofit’s ability to accomplish its mission. For more information about all of MCN’s partners and discount programs for members, visit Cost Saving Programs for MCN Members.

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