Oh where or where has the volunteer screening cycle gone? Oh where or where could it be?

Last month when I was preparing to co-facilitate Volunteer Victoria’s “Leading Volunteers: Foundations in Volunteer Management” course for Volunteer Burnaby, I spent some time updating the content and links in the online course. Since I built the course to draw upon foundational resources and websites in the field I visited, in particular, Volunteer Canada’s site a few times to find the new location of links that had changed. At one point I went looking for the volunteer screening cycle.

It wasn’t there.

Now the volunteer screening cycle is sometimes just generally called the volunteer management cycle, and it has been available as a foundational resource in the field of volunteer management for me to reference since I entered the field in about 2002 (and I’m sure, before). The phrases “volunteer cycle” or “volunteer management cycle” or simply “the cycle” have tumbled out of my mouth practically as often as I’ve uttered the word “volunteer” over my years in the field. And not just mine. Everyone I know who has had some training and education in the profession refers often to the cycle and its stages. We base our training on it, draw from it in discussions at our professional association meetings, and “school” newbie coordinators of volunteers in it as soon as we get the chance. It is one of the foundational pieces of theory that we have had to refer to in Canada in the volunteer management field to guide our work.

And all of a sudden, it was gone.

I wondered to myself, was it a glitch on their website? Did Volunteer Canada just reorganize their website so much that they missed putting the screening cycle back in place? I admit that I went to the first day of the Foundations course in Burnaby a little baffled about the location of the missing cycle and just what its “missingness” implied. Was it really gone? Or just temporarily and accidentally misplaced? I admitted to the course participants that I didn’t know what the cycle’s absence meant and vowed to them that I would find out – and soon.

Luckily I was slated to have dinner with someone from Volunteer Canada that week so I could get to the bottom of the whole affair. Paula was in town doing a workshop on skills-based volunteering and we met for a lovely dinner at a local restaurant. I asked her, “Where has the volunteer screening cycle gone?” and she confirmed for me (cue ominous music here) that it is around no more. She told me that we are now to look to the Canadian Code for Volunteer Involvement and the 10 Steps of Screening as guiding documents. The screening cycle has been replaced.

Whoa.

Now I must say that the Canadian Code has always been an excellent resource to guide us in the field, and it was just updated in 2012. The 10 Steps of Screening are also sound, especially when considered in conjunction with the robust Screening Handbook (also updated in 2012) which flushes out the 10 Steps into much, much more. But did we really just lose the ongoing nature of a cycle model in favour of a linear one? It seems as though the 10 Steps stop when you get to the end and put all your checks in the boxes, but this is contrary to what we always say, that our work is never done in screening volunteers. It’s ongoing. It goes round and round.

Kind of like a cycle.

Call me slow to change in this particular situation, but allow me my time to grieve the disappearance of the cycle. At the very least the visual of the cycle was a neat, compact image to quickly show someone the full gamut of not just the necessaries of screening volunteers, but our work overall in managing them. To quickly illustrate the scope of this profession and its high level complexities. There was a reason everyone always screwed up what the name of the cycle was called. The screening cycle became the “volunteer management cycle” in many people’s eyes. It formed the basis of our work.

Yes, the tenets of volunteer management that we know still apply, and they are all covered very well in the excellent documents mentioned above. As far as I can tell nothing foundational has changed in how we will do our work. But without fanfare or even mention, a model seared on the brains of professionals in the field has just been taken away and I need time to think this through. Will its absence be noted and remarked on by more people than just myself? Will it be mourned? Change comes quickly sometimes, and often it is needed. But sometimes it can happen too quickly, and without any notice at all.

A good friend has gone away and I didn’t even get a chance to say goodbye.