This is an archived version of the Virtual Volunteering Project web site from January 2001.
The materials on the web site were written or compiled by Jayne Cravens.
The Virtual Volunteering Project has been discontinued.
The Virtual Volunteering Project web site IS NO LONGER UPDATED.
Email addresses associated with the Virtual Volunteering Project are no longer valid.
For any URL that no longer works, type the URL into archive.org
.
For new materials regarding online volunteering, see
Jayne Cravens' web site (the section on volunteerism-related resources).
 
 
 
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screening online mentors and
other direct contact online volunteers

There are a number of goals in screening, on or offline, volunteers that are going to work directly with others at or through your organization:

  • You want to make sure the volunteers have the skills, capacity and commitment to take on the volunteer assignment successfully.

  • You want to make sure they truly understand the program and its goals, the commitment they will make as a participant, and all expectations.

  • You want to make sure, if they are going to work directly and unsupervised with people you serve (clients, the public, children, etc.), if they are going to have access to sensitive information or systems, or if they are going to represent your organization, that they do not have a criminal or personal history that would make them inappropriate as a participant in your program.

 
Don't think of screening as a tool only to prevent predators from becoming involved in your program; harmful situations, as well as disappointing or frustrating ones, can also arise from an unqualified or overwhelmed person participating as a volunteer in a mentoring program.

The best screening methods are combined with training: as volunteers go through the screening process, they should also be getting an idea of what working with you and in this program is like.

What kinds of screening must you do for online volunteers working directly with students, other volunteers, clients, or others served by your organization? Based on the safety standards for face-to-face situations as defined by the National Collaboration for Youth's Screening Volunteers to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse, as well as the experiences of various online mentoring programs, we've created the following suggestions.

At minimum, these applicants should:

  • express interest in participating via e-mail or an online form. Those who call or send in a postal mailing to express such interest should be directed to the online method. Otherwise, you have no proof that this person really, truly does know how to use basic Internet tools, or that this person has a reliable Internet connection.

  • complete an online application. Doing so shows that they know how to perform the basics of web navigation; again, this is another test of their online abilities. It also shows their attention to detail, and how well they express themselves online.

    Here are sample three online volunteering applications:

     
  • receive an immediate online response (within 48 hours/two business days) after submitting the online application, that directs the applicant to a next step. This next step can be to subscribe to an e-mail-based discussion group or e-mail alert, or to answer additional questions.

     

  • meet a deadline for submitting information via e-mail. Some programs have followup questions that are sent immediately upon receipt of a completed online application, or require applicants to subscribe to an electronic update, with a deadline for the volunteer to answer. This will demonstrate the volunteer's commitment to timely communications.

    It's one thing to answer "yes" to the question "do you reply promptly to e-mails and follow directions well" on an online application. It's another to SHOW it. This further screens out people who might not be appropriate for an online program.

  • be subjected to a reference check. These should be personal references that can talk about how well a person works with others (specifically children, if students are involved in your program), how well they represent themselves online, etc. We have a list of sample reference questions for potential online mentors here on our web site. For other kinds of online volunteers, use questions similar to those you use for potential paid staff or volunteers who work in face-to-face situations, as appropriate.

You might also want to consider online role-playing, such as sending the applicant sample e-mails and asking the applicant how he or she would respond to each.

 

What about a criminal background check?

If online volunteers are going to be working directly and unsupervised with people you serve (clients, the public, children, etc.), your organization will need to conduct a criminal background check of each and every online volunteer.

You do not have to perform a criminal background check of every online volunteer working with these populations if they will never be in an unsupervised situation, and will never be given the opportunity for such an unsupervised encounter. For instance, for an online mentoring program, you do not have to perform a criminal background check of online mentors if the following three standards are met:

Even if all of these standards are met, you may want to consider doing a criminal background check anyway, depending on the culture of your organization and community.

The Virtual Volunteering Project considers the greatest method for online safety to be fully training participants -- site managers, mentors, AND those to be mentored. We provide numerous online safety suggestions and links to other online safety resources on our web site.

 
What about volunteers who are scattered across the U.S.?
(or the world, for that matter)
How can we do criminal background checks on these people?

Many online mentoring programs opt to involve online volunteers only from a particular partnering company because the company will assume all responsibility for background checks. However, this eliminates participation for anyone outside of this particular company.

There are a number of ways to secure criminal background checks for these candidates:

 
The VV Project has many more suggestions for online safety here on our web site.

 


 
Information for those who wish to
quote from, copy and/or distribute the information on this Web site

 
If you find this or any other Virtual Volunteering Project information helpful, or would like to add information based on your own experience, please contact us.

If you do use Virtual Volunteering Project materials in your own workshop or trainings, or republish materials in your own publications, please let us know, so that we can track how this information is disseminated.


 

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All Rights Reserved.


 
This is an archived version of the Virtual Volunteering Project web site from January 2001.
The materials on the web site were written or compiled by Jayne Cravens.
The Virtual Volunteering Project has been discontinued.
The Virtual Volunteering Project web site IS NO LONGER UPDATED.
Email addresses associated with the Virtual Volunteering Project are no longer valid.
For any URL that no longer works, type the URL into archive.org
.
For new materials regarding online volunteering, see
Jayne Cravens' web site (the section on volunteerism-related resources).
 

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