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Cost Effective Volunteer Background Checks

Posted by Ryan Howard on Fri, May 15, 2015


In the news, we're seeing more articles about background checks for youth sports coaches, Sunday school nursery teachers and more. Volunteers can be used in many industries from healthcare and education to childcare and charity work. While we applaud anyone who steps into a volunteer role, we also understand the need to put the safety of children, the elderly and others first. How can you screen volunteers without paying what a corporate client would pay? Keep reading. 

The Statistics

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, over 60 million people gave their free time to help others or organizations in 2014. That's over 25% of working Americans every year for the past few years. Women tend to volunteer more often than men and the highest volunteer age group is 35 - 44 years old. 

Yet, in this report from the National Center for Victims of Crime, the following statistics were discovered when reporting on volunteer background checks in the non-profit space:

  • 1 in 4 organizations do not call references for potential volunteers
  • 12% of organizations said they do not screen volunteers at all
  • A majority of organizations never re-screen their volunteers
  • Most organizations that said they would disqualify a volunteer with a criminal history aren't actually screening for criminal history.

The main reason non-profit organizations don't thoroughly screen their volunteers is because they believe background screening is cost-prohibitive.

Yet despite this observation, crimes against children and the elderly are more prominent than ever. So lets take a look at some of the options.

What Background Checks Are Needed for Volunteers

One of the most cost effective ways to screen volunteers is to understand which background checks you should be running. As of this writing, the only laws for volunteer background checks are in the case of volunteers who work with children. These volunteers should have a criminal background check and sex offender check.

Here is a general list of background checks that we suggest for volunteers:

  • Identity Verification (including a Social Security Number Trace)
  • Felony and Misdemeanor Criminal Check 
  • Sex Offender Search
  • Plus any state requirements (ie. Child Abuse Clearance) 

If the volunteer will be driving, here are a few more screens to consider:

  • Driver's License Verification
  • Lab Conducted Drug Screening

Without running certain background checks such as employment verifications, this automatically cuts down on the cost of a background check for volunteers.

Keeping It Safe & Simple

One of the challenges of volunteer background checks is that the volunteer may not consent to be screened. Many volunteers may feel distrusted when they are only offering aid. They may also be concerned about the privacy of their data. 

By using an online system for screening your volunteers, the records are less likely to have misspelled information and mistyped data. This not only allows your organization the ability to get a background check at any time, but also clear and accurate results are generated quickly. The volunteer enters his/her information directly into the system, which allows them to keep their important identifying data private. 

Understanding which screens are necessary is another way to simplify the screening process and help the volunteer to feel safer in providing their information. They should understand how the screens relate to their volunteer position and that their data is kept secure. Using an online system that encrypts data for background screening will allow both the volunteer and the organization to trust the process.

Things may have changed since your parents or grandparents offered their time by giving back to the community. Organizations have valid reasons to run background checks on volunteers. The trick is to continue to build trust between the volunteer and non-profit. Having a well-planned screening policy and a professional screening company is a great place to begin. 

VeriFirst offers discounted rates for volunteers and non-profits. Request a quote today!

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Topics: Types of Background Checks