Volunteers are screened for many of the same reasons employers conduct pre-employment screenings. The employer’s goal is to verify an individual’s identity and weed out potential problems. These are problems that could result from an undisclosed criminal history. Laws that require volunteer screening specify that an individual should undergo a criminal history check, and check sex offender registries in the case of workers or volunteers involved with children.

Nonprofit organizations are major users of volunteer hours. Rather than being required by law to conduct background checks, nonprofit organizations are more likely to have adopted an organizational policy of screening volunteers. Here are some guidelines to follow when implementing guidelines to perform background checks on volunteers.

What Should Be Included in a Background Screening for a Volunteer

When conducting a background screening on a volunteer, a criminal history and a sex offender history should be reviewed. Many state and federal laws protect individuals that are considered “at risk” such as children and senior citizens. Also, these laws are related to the National Child Protection Act of 1993 and the Volunteers for Children Act of 1998. Both laws protect children and the elderly against any individual that could potentially pose a threat.

How to Screen Volunteers Properly

Within your organization make sure that the policy is correctly outlined for screening volunteers, and set expectations for the volunteer and the specific group that the volunteer will interact with regularly. After reviewing federal and local databases, conduct a personal reference check so that the potential volunteer has been cleared and is free of any potential concerns of harm. A background screening in combination with a particular reference check is a system of checks and balances that will deter your organization from working with an unsuitable volunteer.

What Information is Gathered for Screening Volunteers

In addition to criminal history, an organization can review employment history, bureau of motor vehicle checks, civil court actions, drug, and alcohol test results and social media posts. Collecting this information will help determine if a volunteer is a good fit for your organization. A background screening for a volunteer should be as thorough of a process as with a paid employee. The same amount of potential risk is in question as hiring a full-time employee. This data will help disqualify any individual that has a questionable past and is unfit to be a volunteer.

Volunteer background screenings are essential. Volunteers often have a direct relationship with the public when working with an organization. Without volunteers, organizations couldn’t function in the same capacity. A background check ensures that you are protecting the best interest of your organization, volunteers, and the population that the volunteers are in direct contact with. Failure to maintain trust can be devastating to an organization, leading to loss of community support, loss of funding, or even a lawsuit for careless selection of a volunteer. Ensure that your organization has implemented all of the appropriate procedures to protect and prevent any negligent circumstances in the future.

References: Volunteer Hub, Trusted Employees