So, you’ve signed up for Taproot Plus, published a project, and gotten your first volunteer applications. Now it’s time to interview those candidates… but what should you ask them?
At Taproot we connect nonprofits with volunteers who are uniquely equipped to support your specific needs. One of the most important steps of this process is screening applicants to find the best fit: both for the skills you’ll need to complete the project and for a partner who aligns with your team’s values and mission. In order to maximize the benefits of pro bono for your organization (and for the volunteer!), your decision to move forward with a skilled volunteer should be judicious and intentional. Figuring out which applicant will be the right fit for you means asking diligent questions about their skills, interests, and expectations.
Enter: the Volunteer Interview
This interview is your chance to really get to know a pro bono candidate, find out what skills they bring to the table, and learn how they might mesh with your team. With years of experience collaborating with nonprofits to find the best possible volunteers for their needs, we’ve identified five of the most important questions you can ask during the interview process:
1. What specific experience and skills do you have that equip you to tackle this particular project at our organization?
Asking how an applicant’s experiences have prepared them for your project can help you determine how qualified they are and how well they understand the goals based on your description (giving you the chance to clarify any misunderstandings).
2. What draws you to our specific organization and/or project area?
A fair question and one well worth asking: why is this applicant interested in partnering with you? Ideally, you’ll find a volunteer who is as excited about your mission as they are about the skills they’ll be using.
3. What is your anticipated availability for working with us on this project?
A key cost of pro bono is time. Many volunteers do their pro bono projects in addition to 9-5 jobs so it’s important to get on the same page about their availability and time constraints up front.
Pro (bono) Tip: if a volunteer sounds like a great fit for everything BUT the timing, try to stay in touch! Schedules change and there might be a future project they will be ideal for.
4. Have you ever done pro bono in the past? Describe your experiences with volunteering or social good movements in general.
While prior experience with pro bono reflects a volunteer’s commitment to donating their professional skills, many qualified applicants are now looking for skilled volunteering opportunities for the first time. Asking about their general experience volunteering will tell you a lot about how they approach this kind of work.
5. Are you prepared to volunteer remotely? Do you have the technology available and experience needed to work on this project from home?
The majority of pro bono work occurs remotely, especially right now. It’s important to find a volunteer who is comfortable communicating and working virtually.
Ultimately, great pro bono means following the “golden rule of pro bono”: treat every project as if it were a paid project. That means approaching volunteer interviews as if you’d be ‘hiring’ the applicant you choose. We’ve found over the years that sticking to this standard creates the best outcomes in the long run for nonprofits, volunteers, and the communities you serve.