Should I Background Screen My Volunteers?


Should I Background Screen My Volunteers?

In 2015, over 62 million people in the United States volunteered at least once. Many nonprofit organizations rely on this large volunteer workforce to accomplish their mission. But is your nonprofit including one very important step as part for your volunteer on-boarding? Background screening your volunteers can help not just with weeding out potential problems, it can also bring unexpected benefits.

A volunteer is a member of your organization. It can be easy to be more relaxed with an unpaid staff member, but they could expose you to the same risk as a paid employee. Whether in the court of law or the media, the employee will be viewed as a member of your organization. Being mindful of their background can help you stay aware and ahead of any potential risk exposure. Some volunteers may also interact with the public in an official capacity, representing your organization. A background screen helps avoid potential embarrassment, legal backlash, and other headaches.

One of the many factors to consider when bringing on volunteers is liability. The same legal exposure that would apply to employees also apply to volunteers. If they’re in violation of the law, it can mean you’re liable too. While a lawsuit is less than ideal, some issues easily found in a background screen can be a real public relations nightmare. Bad press can mean fewer donations, which is how many nonprofits stay afloat. If it does come to a lawsuit, your potential liability could keep you from accomplishing your mission. A background screening program is significantly cheaper than the potential risk.

But what about those unexpected benefits we mentioned? Screening can also help you recruit higher quality volunteers. By requiring volunteers to go through the screening process, you are asking them to show a higher level of dedication to your organization. Dedicated volunteers are more likely to show up regularly and on time. For those that rely on committed, long-term volunteers, it can help put the volunteer in the mindset of taking their role in your organization seriously. It also weeds out those who might not be confident they would pass a background check. If someone thinks they might not pass a check, they’re less likely to go through the work to have one completed, which saves you time and potential risk.

Adding a background check to your volunteer on boarding process is key to protecting you from bad press, liability, and attracting higher quality volunteers. No matter your organization’s mission, this affordable step is a no-brainer to keep you (and your volunteer) safe!

Ready to work with an organization that understands the needs of nonprofits of all sizes? Contact ClearStar today! Also, ask about our Shared Confidence program, which offers background and drug screening services at a discount to non-profit organizations.


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