In this essay we’re going to look at the role played by two different types of ‘declarations’ in your volunteer recruitment process.
We’re going to have a think about what we can learn from two leading historical documents (and visions) and what they can teach us in our volunteer recruitment programmes. And we’re going to take a trip to the bottom of the Mariana Trench as well, all in an effort to improve our own organisation’s processes.
THE AMERICAN DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE
I was thinking this summer about America’s Declaration of Independence.
I won’t profess to being an expert on that historical document, but one thing I do know is this.
The American Declaration of Independence was a statement about doing things differently.
THE 1916 PROCLAMATION
In that sense, the 1916 Proclamation of the Irish Republic, carried many similar sentiments.
Both declarations were important statements about the way the peoples of those countries wished to govern themselves, to regulate the conduct of public and private life in those countries.
And reflecting on those seminal declarations, I got to thinking about the roles of declarations in a more modern, less historical, but related context.
Because the American Declaration of Independence, and the 1916 Proclamation were ultimately (amongst other more political matters) about the relationship of people to authority, about self-determination, better governance, fairness and a commitment to equality.
MACRO -V- MICRO
And that got me thinking about your volunteer recruitment process.
If the American Declaration of Independence, and the 1916 Proclamation, were ‘macro’ large-scale documents articulating their visions of their countries at a point in time, then today, at a grassroots level, the policies and procedures that stipulate how you recruit people into your own organization, are the equivalent at a ‘micro’ level.
There are two important but differing levers at the heart of the process of recruiting volunteers into a sports club or charity.
And these levers are in fact what I call ‘declarations’:
- Declaration of the absence of an inappropriate criminal record
- Declaration of the presence of suitability of character
In this essay, we explores those two declarations, their relationship to one another, and determine what needs to be done to reconcile the two concepts.
DECLARATION OF THE ABSENCE OF AN INAPPROPRIATE CRIMINAL RECORD
A check of a statutory register of a person’s criminal record history, is the process that in Ireland is known as ‘vetting’ or ‘Garda vetting’ (where An Garda Siochan is the national policing authority).
In certain situations, involving certain types of work, involving children or vulnerable adults, there’s now a statutory requirement to carry out a check of an applicant’s criminal record history (known colloquially as a ‘vetting check’).
Readers of this blog will know that we’re approximately half-way through a detailed section by section analysis of the mainstay of this new Irish legislation, the National Vetting Bureau (Children and Vulnerable Persons) Acts 20012 to 2016. We'll be returning to this series in September.
The legislation covers a lot of ground, but stepping back a moment, it’s essentially today what drives the requirement to carry out the check of the statutory register of a person’s criminal record history.
But what do you do with the results of that check?
Well the information that you see very much depends on where you sit in the line of management as regards access to data disclosed as part of the vetting process.
However, at a grassroots club level, the majority of organizational volunteer managers / administrators will only receive, at the conclusion of the vetting process, a letter something along the lines of this:
Please note that the Garda Vetting letter from the [National Governing Body] is not an approval letter to work with children. Therefore if an Affiliated Member [i.e. a club] takes on a person to work with children, it is the responsibility of the Affiliated Member to ensure they are sutiable.
Garda vetting is not a substitute for safe recruitment but provides another element in determining a person’s suitability to work with children. The [National Governing Body] recommends that Affiliated Members do not solely rely upon vetting checks but should seek to determine an individual’s suitability for a position through normal recruitment processes including interviews and reference checks.
And these two paragraphs, above, go to the heart of how you, as a grassroots administrator, need to view the outcome of the vetting process.
It’s an important – nay, critical – part of our volunteer recruitment process.
But that’s all it is.
It can only ever play a limited role in the strategy you adopt in safely recruiting volunteers into your organization.
Recognising this, you’re able to effectively hold the outcome of that check in balance with the outcome of the rest of your volunteer recruitment process (the interviews, ID checks, reference checks, application forms).
DECLARATION OF THE PRESENCE OF SUITABILITY OF CHARACTER
Which leads on to what I think of as the meat of the volunteer recruitment process.
That’s not the vetting piece (important though that is).
- It's the check of matters that can never be part of any statutory register.
- It's the process of checking that your applicant is, in fact, who they say they are
- It's information that comes directly from your applicant, on their application form to your organisation
- It's the opinion of two people, giving their opinion of your applicant's suitability of character to work with children or vulnerable persons
- It's the informal conversation that you have with those character referees as and when you receive their character reference
- It's the process of sitting around a table with an applicant, getting to know them, them getting to know you and your organisation
- It's your board or management committee taking responsibility for safely recruiting someone into your organisation, and not you as an inividual
THE MARIANA TRENCH, CHALLENGER DEEP & DEEPSEA CHALLENGER
I remember the first time that I learned about the Mariana Trench.
If you’re not already familiar with it, the Mariana Trench is the deepest part of the world’s oceans. It’s located beside the Mariana Islands in the Pacific Ocean.
Plummeting 10KM in depth, it’s about 2.5KM wide.
The area that is in fact the deepest part of the Mariana Trench is known as the Challenger Deep.
And in all of human history, there have only ever been 4 successful trips to Challenger Deep, two of those trips being manned, and only one by a solo piloot.
That person was James Cameron. His vessel, the Deepsea Challenger
Think of your volunteer recruitment process as the Mariana Trench.
Challenger Deep is where you’ve got to get to, to successfully cover all your bases.
And Deepsea Challenger is the vehicle to help you get there.
And guess who the pilot of the Deepsea Challenger is in this case?
Yes, it’s you!
The American Declaration of Independence, and the 1916 Proclamation, were documents – and visions – that shape the lives of people decades, if not centuries, after they were drafted.
The ideals people should be held to are, necessarily, lofty.
At a micro level in society, every voluntary oranisation has important policies and procedures around the safe recruitment of volunteers.
A bit like the American Declaration of Independence, and the 1916 Proclamation, those policies and procedures need to be taken off their shelves from time to time, dusted down, and read through.
And as an organization you need to ask yourself how you’re measuring up to your own requirements, much the same way the citizens of the United States of America, and citizens of the country that is the Republic of Ireland (that emerged in no small part due to the 1916 Proclamation), must do themselves when looking at their country today.
There are competing tensions at play in the process of recruiting volunteers.
Managing those tensions effectively is key to have a robust, fair, transparent recruitment process that both inspires confidence, and builds trust at the outset.
Understanding that the declaration of the absence of an inappropriate criminal record, is completely different from establishing the suitability of character of someone applying to volunteer in your organization; and all the more so when that volunteer would be working with childen or vulnerable persons.
On one side of the trench of your recruitment process you have the obligation to check the criminal record history of your applicant.
But having the outcome of that check is seriously diminished if you’re not in fact prepared to get into your own Deepsea Challenger, and launch into the Mariana Trench of your volunteer recruitment process.
In fact, many organisations don’t bother to get into their own Deepsea Challengers.
Doing so is hard work, often unseen and is challenging stuff.
But what unites people as diverse as the drafters of the American Declaration of Independence, the 1916 Proclamation, explorers of the deep, and people willing to roll their sleeves up and give of their time to esure the safe recruitment of volunteers is this: independence of thought.
Regrettably, many volunteer managers stay on the side of the trench that deals solely with the criminal record history check.
And they say to themselves, ‘this’ll do, surely I don’t have to bother with any of the other stuff?’.
And, if they’re surrounded by ‘yes’ people, their fellow executive board members will nod their heads in agreement, and say ‘yes, you’re right, that sounds just like too much work. Let’s just rely on the vetting checks, and we won’t go advertising that that’s what we do. All agree?’.
I’m thinking of a large voluntary organization I know, where a senior manager told me that they don’t get character references for their volunteers, and it’s basically an administrative nightmare.
The question for you is: what do you do in your organization?
This essay is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal or other professional advice.
Specific legal advice from a firm of solicitors should always be sought on the application of the law in any particular situation.
Whilst all reasonable endeavours have been made to ensure the accuracy of the content, no liability whatsoever is accepted for any omissions or errors or for any action taken in reliance of the information in this essay.