Is Volunteer Screening Important? You Tell Us.
Posted Thursday, February 12th, 2015 by Verified Volunteers Staff
It wasn’t that long ago that nonprofit organizations needed to adapt to an increasingly online world. They invested in websites and built a social media presence. They started fundraising online too. The Internet is not going anywhere, so these organizations must continue to focus on their digital presence. Similarly, over the past few years, the importance of volunteer screening programs has risen to the forefront. Organizations understand just how essential volunteer background screens are and they recognize the risks not having a volunteer screening program in place puts on their finances, program participants and reputation.
But as second nature as it has become, it is very easy to get complacent when it comes to volunteer screening. Now is a great time to review the benefits.
Why we need to screen – whether we work with vulnerable populations or not.
Nonprofit organizations exist across the country for a variety of purposes. Some work directly with families or children, running programs to provide food or shelter. Some help children build their self-esteem by getting involved in community sports. But many nonprofit groups support non-vulnerable populations. Since volunteers aren’t directly interacting with youth or vulnerable adults, is it safe to allow them to work with these organizations without undergoing a background screen? An animal shelter in Utah would likely answer this question with a resounding “no” following a theft of up to $10,000 by one of their volunteers. Nonprofits need to recognize that volunteer screening doesn’t just protect against someone who might harm a program participant, it also helps to secure your finances and your reputation.
Why we need to screen – using a high-quality check.
In February of 2014, we shared a blog post targeted at the most common myths around FBI background checks. We wanted our partners and readers to understand that not all background checks are created equal. When developing your volunteer screening program, it is very important to understand what you are getting.
A lot of organizations utilize FBI database searches, but since there is no single database in the U.S. that hosts all information pertaining to a criminal record check, using only FBI fingerprint searches could still pose a risk to your organization. Take this story, for instance. A volunteer in a California middle school was arrested for having sexual relations with a thirteen year old. The volunteer was helping out in the drama class. He had been fingerprinted, had to sign in and always wore a visitor’s pass. Nothing was found during the background check.
It’s unclear whether any criminal history would have been found had the school utilized a more comprehensive search, but if there was anything on his record, going to the primary source would have given the school a much better chance of catching it – and preventing this dangerous individual from getting into the school.
Are you screening all your volunteers? Have you decided to not screen short term volunteers or those working in the back office? Tell us why. Connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn and share your comments below.