Volunteer background screening – in one form or another – has become standard practice for the majority of volunteer programs throughout the country. 

  • Some organizations still screen just a portion of their volunteers – usually the ones who work with vulnerable populations like children, the elderly or the disabled.
  • Others screen each and every volunteer who walks through their door.


The act of volunteering is a noteworthy deed – and one that should be selfless. Volunteers entail the true spirit of commitment to helping those less fortunate. Although we would like to trust all potential volunteers, not all of them come to us with good intentions or clean criminal histories. That’s why organizations that are simply “checking the box” and running low cost, instant database checks – often known as nationwide or multistate database checks – run the risk of putting their organization, volunteers and reputation on the line.

These checks are of inferior quality, out of date and incomplete. Additionally, these checks are likely missing key criminal history information – a scary thought when considering all that’s at stake.

Did you know? Even if you’re running the highest quality criminal background checks available, there is still a gap in your volunteer screening program. Why does it exist and what is it? Potentially, your volunteer could be submitting someone else’s name and/or social security number in order to run their background check.


It’s shocking to learn that even if you’re running the most robust check you can – screening at the county or state courthouse, performing regular renewal screens and the like – you can still be leaving your organization open to exposure.

If you’re in the group not running high quality, comprehensive checks – you should and need to be. These checks:

  • Search the primary source of information (the county or state courthouse)
  • Search current addresses and address history, and
  • Search alias and maiden names. 

They include the NSOPW sex offender search – the only complete, 50-state sex offender search out there. And, depending on volunteer role, they include other products like motor vehicle record checks (MVRs), credit checks, and reference checks. 

If you’re in the group running high quality, comprehensive checks and additional checks and searches, good for you. It’s great that the trend is swinging in the right direction. The more checks you run, the safer your organization, your volunteers, and your constituents, right? Well...almost.

The underlying question now becomes “If the criminal history that comes back does not belong to the volunteer who walks through your door, what good is it”? Unfortunately, the answer is not good at all!

You need to go beyond the volunteer background check to validate the identification of each volunteer.


Fortunately, there are products that can be incorporated into your volunteer screening program to help you fill in the gap.  They’re called identity validation products and they do a few things.

  1. They use advanced photo technologies to verify that an ID used as part of the screening process is a legitimate government-issued ID.
  2. They help extract information from the ID to run the background check.
  3. They confirm that the person whose identity you are checking is the person who the ID is issued to. 

Not only is this an exciting technology but it’s a huge step in volunteer background screening.  If combined with a robust criminal background check, it can help you run a safer and more secure volunteer program that reduces risk and liability in the event something should go wrong.


Join us for a free 30 minute webinar on May 5, 2016 at 2PM ET/11AM PT.  Katie Zwetzig (Executive Director of Verified Volunteers) and Christine Sbatella (Vice President, Product Management & Global Operations at Verified Volunteers) will present Volunteer Background Screening: What Are You Missing?

Topics focused on:

  • The types of gaps that exist in even the most robust background check
  • How you can fill those gaps and ensure you have the most complete picture of your volunteers, including new products you can use
  • Best practices for using identity validation products as part of your background check – and remaining compliant while doing so

Save your seat now. Remember to register even if you can’t make it. We’ll send the recording afterwards!

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