Criminal Record Check Shelf Life: The Importance of Renewals for Volunteers
Posted Thursday, September 18th, 2014 by Verified Volunteers Staff
A criminal background check is like a photograph – it’s a snapshot of an individual’s history at a specific point in time. If it comes back clean, it shows that your prospective volunteer has never engaged in any criminal behavior – up until that point – that could damage your organization’s reputation. But what happens once an individual joins your organization? How often should you be taking a new snapshot?
The National Center for Victims of Crime summed up this concern perfectly in their review of non-profit and volunteer screening practices:
“It [is] every non-profit organization’s worst nightmare: a trusted volunteer is charged with a crime involving a … vulnerable person in the community.”
How can you make sure you are kept abreast of any criminal behavior your volunteers may engage in? Background check renewals.
While it may be difficult or uncomfortable to ask a long-time volunteer to renew their background check, it is necessary in order to protect your organization and the community you support. At Verified Volunteers, we firmly believe that rescreening volunteers is an essential part of your screening policy. We are seeing more and more volunteer programs set up renewal policies, expand their current renewal policies to include more volunteers, or shorten the duration in between renewal checks. The more often they require renewals, the less likely they are to have an untrustworthy individual working with them.
Of course, it can be time consuming and expensive to run and re-run background checks. For this reason, renewals are often run less frequently than they should be. Beyond that, some nonprofits with tight budgets might utilize online services selling alluring all-encompassing background checks that cost almost nothing. These checks are fraught with quality and safety issues and also ignore the Fair Credit Reporting Act’s volunteer consent requirements.
Let’s sum it all up: not only is screening your volunteers a must, but rescreening them on a regular basis is essential as well. Luckily, rescreening can be easier and less expensive than you might think. New automated tools exist that make renewal screening streamlined and easy to manage. These include upload tools, tracking mechanisms, and automated reminders. All of these automated tools help volunteer managers to save time, which translates into dollars. At Verified Volunteers, for instance, our volunteer management tools help volunteer programs save 13 minutes on average per volunteer.
So reconsider your screening – and rescreening – policies. Make sure you know who you have on board at your organization. If you have questions about volunteer screening, I would be more than happy to talk with you. Shoot me an email – firstname.lastname@example.org.