Intake form for Volunteers

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    • #133008
      Judy Knight

      Do any of you have forms that volunteers fill out when they sign up with you? Something that lists their contact preferences, type of expertise they have, specialized equipment they can operate, etc. (as well as their interests). We haven’t had such a system, just a card file. Are there disadvantages (i.e. resistance) to collecting this kind of info from volunteers? If you do have any you could send, I’d appreciate having a copy.

    • #133013
      Sharon McCullar

      We have a fairly simple application form that contains the questions you listed: Name, Address, emergency contact information, areas of interest for volunteer tasks, and availability questions. We are also doing an interview with the potential volunteer with the person who would be supervising them, department head and volunteer coordinator. THose applicants interested in being Interpretive Staff Members (leading tours and programs at our Historic Sites) get invited to a group orientation/open house that works well as the interview phase.
      If they pass that interview we move on to a background check. Sometimes the applicant’s interests and skills just do not match what is needed at the moment or the comfort level with the person just isnt there. Two of our curatorial staff work alone in stand-alone buildings away from the museum proper – so we have to be cognizant of personal safety and general security as well.
      This system is fairly new to us but applicants don’t seem to mind the process and appear to understand the importance of getting a good fit for the volunteer and the museum. They want to be placed where they will be most useful and will be happy with the work they are doing.
      I suggest start small with a simple application and group orientation/open house once or twice a year. You might find that gets the interview in without a lot of staff time committment.
      My two cents worth.

    • #133012

      In the UK many museums are adopting a slightly more formal approach because it helps if both parties (the museum and the volunteer) take a little time at the outset to understand the nature of their arrangement. What can the volunteer expect? What support will they get? What will the be doing? It takes skill to match what the museum needs and what the volunteer can offer.
      In addition, it is helpful to have an annual review to see if the volunteer would like to take on a different role. Sometimes age or family commitments mean they would like to change, but they find it hard to ask for this – an annual review makes it easier and is a sensible time to do this,. Sometimes the museum has to point out that the person is no longer able to undertake duties they once did or that the system needs to change.
      Having a fixed term (which can be renewed) is also helpful to both parties. It can be much easier to find someone who will volunteer for a year or 3 years, than for an open-ended term. It makes it easier for a museum to say thank you and goodbye to someone who is proving to be difficult or unhelpful.
      Some museums have also found it helpful to have an “In Case Of” form which can be kept confidential. If a volunteer is taken ill, the form says who should be contacted and how – but it can be kept in a sealed envelope in the museum office until needed. Occasionally volunteers (many of whom are elderly) are taken ill, or even die, in the museum and it is vital to know who should be told.
      There are a lot of resources on the South Western Federation of Museums and Art Galleries website which I hope you will find useful.

    • #133011

      Hello All! I’m posting the following comment on behalf of the Mattress Factory Museum’s Visitor Services Assistant/Volunteer Coordinator, Maria Mangano

      “We have a form on our website that all prospective volunteers fill out, and I use this to decide who to bring in for an interview to discuss volunteering. The form includes basic contact info, a spot for references, what they’re interested in volunteering for (topic-wise), what their strengths and experience are, whether or not they are students, and what kind of hourly commitment they envision. None of the fields are required, but I rarely get an application that isn’t filled out all the way. I think people generally want to get as much info about themselves out there as they can to show what kind of a volunteer they can be for us. The form really helps me get a quick idea of how an applicant can fit in as a volunteer or if we even have a need for their skills in the first place.

      I do keep the applications on file and refer to them before volunteers come in so I can remember details about them, but I also transcribe some of the information over to my address book. That way, when I’m contacting volunteers to fill a specific project, I can more easily target my emails towards people who are interested in a specific department, or who have weekend availability, etc.

      I tend to go over things like how we run the program, specific time/effort commitments, and details about their backgrounds if I meet prospective volunteers in person. For us the form functions as a way to decide if a candidate fits a need we have and should be brought in for an interview. So I guess, analyzing that, the forms help me a lot with the initial application processes, and then I refer back to them later as needed, but I rely on other shortcuts for day-to-day skill matching and volunteer calls. I don’t really see a downside to using them other than extra work it might create that you don’t have time to process. I don’t get a lot of one-on-one time with volunteers when they’re here because I also staff the admissions desk, so for me it really helps fill out a more complete picture of who is helping us.

      We’re a relatively small museum with about 80 on-and-off volunteers (half of whom I would describe as active). I do all the recruitment, interviewing, and coordinating of volunteers, and it’s about half of my job (the other half being working at the admissions desk). When we plan volunteer socials or open house events I often have other staff help me, so running the program at this scale is not an undue amount of work.

      Maria Mangano, Visitor Services Assistant/Volunteer Coordinator”

    • #133010

      During our recent webinar on Staff and Volunteer Management for Collections Care (recording at we referenced the Sample Volunteer Application from the Yale Peabody Museum–see and

    • #133009
      Lee Boyko

      here is ours

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