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Should I be Screening Volunteers?

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An estimated 60 million people have given their time to volunteer in 2014. That’s the equivalent of 25 percent of working Americans. Women are more likely to volunteer than men. Despite the many noble causes women and men volunteer their time to, very few undergo background screenings. Is it necessary to conduct background checks on volunteers?

Facts about volunteering and organizations

One in four organizations that use volunteers perform background checks on them. Approximately, 12 percent of organizations admit that they don’t have a screening process in place for volunteers. 95 percent of Americans view mandatory background screening as normal. Only 47 percent of nonprofits are screening their applicants.

 

What kind of screening?

There is a list of background checks that can be conducted on volunteers. Identity verification requires verifying a person’s social security number. A felony and misdemeanor criminal check should also be reviewed for all volunteers. Volunteers should always be screened in the sex offender registry. You also want to make sure to comply with any additional state-mandated checks. Volunteers that may be responsible for driving should complete a drug screening or driver’s license verification.

 

Advantages of Conducting Background Screenings

You want to be able to avoid negative publicity. Should word get out that a volunteer was convicted of a serious crime involving children, then you would want to be prepared to address the onslaught of criticism as a result of the information getting out. You also want to perform your due diligence in making sure that the population you serve is protected from predators and hidden dangers. The public agencies recognize that vulnerable populations served by volunteers should be particularly vigilant in implementing certain safeguards to protect the people they serve.

What to consider when developing a screening program

You should start with evaluating any available open positions and assess the risks for those positions. You should then select the appropriate screening tools to identify the appropriate screening tools available. You want the screening tools used to uniformly applied to all applicants according to their roles and compliance requirements.

 

Remember when implementing a system, volunteers must:

  • Consent to screening
  • Be transparent about what’s being checked and what will be collected
  • Employ three-step adverse action: receive a negative response, provide rebuttal period, and submit final notice

 

The volunteers are an extension of the nonprofit and its core values. The law treats nonprofits with the same level of scrutiny as it does private entities. Volunteers should be screened just like employees are in the private and public sectors.

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