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MAVA Voice

Reference Check Requirement
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Hey Arbor-

Thanks for your feedback. I think this is the way we will be going, to change the language. It sounds like most everyone on here has an explanation on who they would like to see them write down as references.
At this point we do not have our application online. We are looking into doing this, and you made very good point on how to help people fill this section out. Thank you very much for the information!
Thanks Cori-

We do not have anything on our application that says what type of reference we need. I cant assume, and we might need to change the wording on the application to be more clear. We also ask for two for volunteers we do background checks on that will be in contact with our clients working one on one.
Thank you Laura. I think we might have to change our application reference section to say something like this. I appreciate the help!!
Thank you very much for the information! I really appreciate the help with this Kathryn!
Hi Sara,

We don't accept immediate family members/significant others as references. This is the language we use on our application:

"Please provide 3 professional references (not family or friends) that can speak to your abilities. List at least one phone number and email address per reference, if possible."

We accept a wide range of references - employers/supervisors, coaches, professors, colleagues, mentors, advocates, youth group leaders, community/church leaders, etc. We have a drop down list on our application that includes these options. Most often people will submit professional references but occasionally we have to follow up with the applicant and be more specific about the type of references we need.

In some instances, most often with international service-learning students, we have been more flexible by accepting a roommate or classmate/friend as a reference. We still prefer to have at least 2 positive references before moving forward.


Kathryn Wegler
Minnesota Children's Museum
Hi Sarah,

We ask for two non-family references, but don't ask for anything more specific than that. I always remember that we can't assume anything from our volunteers (or potential volunteers) if we don't clearly state it. So while you'd think that people will list more "professional" references, it certainly won't just happen! Some people may never have had to list references for a paid position before.

In your scenario, if you decide you don't want to use significant others (which I wouldn't), I would reach out to the applicant and apologize that it wasn't more clear, but that you'll need a reference who isn't an SO. Going forward, putting something specific on the application should hopefully help.

Good luck!


Cori Ballew
Ecumen Hospice

I agree, specifying the references would be a good idea. For instance, if it is for an intern that is applying for a school required internship one reference could be their professor or adviser. I have always excluded family references.

Rut Kessel
Volunteer Specialist @ Be the Match
The previous volunteer coordinator asked for two references on the application - one professional and one personal.  Only once did I have a personal reference provide a bad reference for someone.  Every other time they only said good things.  Because of that I switched to two professional references.  If someone hasn't been in the workforce, they can list someone from a community group, a faith community, or another volunteer organization.

Here's what our application says:

Please provide two professional references we can contact about your application to volunteer. References will not be contacted until after your interview.


Volunteer Manager | The ALS Association, MN/ND/SD Chapter
Hi Sara,

I like your idea about stipulating what kinds of references you can accept.  We have a light stipulation in ours of submitting 3 references, with 2 not being relatives.  I've also seen significant others listed, and have accepted them if the the other references and the application checked out.

Take care!

Arbor Otalora-Fadner
CommonBond Communities 
Hello Everyone-

I recently had a few volunteers write there significant others names down as references on our volunteer application. We don't have anything on our application that says what kind of references we are looking for, but shouldn't references be those who can relate to the volunteer job they are interested in. Does anyone use a significant other as a reference or would you always ask for professional or friend references? What do you do if they list a relation or significant other? I am wondering if we need to change the section where we ask for the two references.

Thanks for your help in advance!

Sara Triplett
Goodwill-Easter Seals
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