What Should We Consider When Volunteers Want To Join Our Staff?

January 8, 2015

Dear Rich,

We are fortunate to have many talented and committed volunteers, some of whom would like to work for us as employees. Do you have any advice on how to handle an upcoming job opening? Anything we should consider when interviewing any volunteers who apply, and anything we should prepare for if we hire a former volunteer? Help!

Sam Fuqua, Executive Director
Pop Culture Classroom

Dear Sam:

These are very delicate and politically sensitive situations and need to be handled carefully with plenty of tact. You should be clear at the outset that volunteers are volunteers and that occasionally there may be employment opportunities. People should not volunteer with the expectation that they will be hired.

Make sure the job description details the skills and experience required, the activities that must be accomplished, the kind of personality you are looking for, and the cultural fit that will do well in your organization. Hire based on competency and fit rather than “I owe this person a job because they have volunteered in the past or they are friends with one of my board members.”

Observing volunteers in action is a great way to test how well their skills, expertise and personality fit within your organization, and it’s fine to give preference to people who have demonstrated a commitment to your organization. Just take time to go through the same employment review process for volunteers as you would for other job candidates. The best guarantee of making the right hiring decision is to keep your eye on the prize of competency, skills, personality and cultural fit.

If you do decide to hire a volunteer, tell them personally in a face to face meeting rather than through email. If you decide not to hire the volunteer, take the time to explain your decision – without apologizing – and emphasize how much you value his or her continued volunteer involvement.

Good luck!