Recently, I presented a webinar, 7 Things You Need to Know About Volunteer Background Checks in 2016, along with Verified Volunteers Account Manager Laura Stroud (who strongly referenced her many years working with the terrific volunteer program at the Girl Scouts). We had a great session and received lots of intriguing questions from attendees – which showed that this is a topic that resonates quite a bit. That’s likely because you know as well as I do that the world of volunteer screening and volunteer background checks is always changing. Volunteer screening is not a “one and done” type of activity; it needs to be revisited all the time – at least annually – to ensure you are on top of the latest trends and legislation. So I thought it would be helpful to summarize those 7 Things here for all you folks that could not make it to the presentation (and include a link to the recording for anyone who is interested in listening to the in-depth discussion!).

Here they are… the 7 Things to Know About Volunteer Background Checks in 2016:

1. Screening is not just for vulnerable populations

More and more organizations are screening all of their volunteers – not just those that work with children, the elderly or the disabled. That’s because they understand that not screening everyone means you are risking your organization’s assets, reputation and safety. Still, according to Verified Volunteer’s Volunteer Screening Trends & Best Practices Report 2016, 43% of organizations are still not screening all volunteers. These organizations should take a look at their program and see what risks they are leaving their organization exposed to without a more comprehensive program in place.

2. Perception doesn’t always match reality

This is a topic that always resonates, especially as more organizations start to explore screening program options. Lots of organizations believe “nationwide” or “multistate” database types of searches to be accurate, up-to-date, and complete. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Nor is it the case for fingerprinting. There are huge holes in these types of searches and anyone relying on one of these alone is likely missing important information about their volunteers.

3. When it comes to screening, more is more

This simply means that each type of search has holes in it. They need to be layered so that you fill in as many gaps as possible. So, running an NSOPW Sex Offender search? Great, but don’t stop there. Run county/state courthouse searches, nationwide database searches, alias and maiden name searches (just to name a few) on top of that. The more searches are conducted for each volunteer applicant, the more information you will pick up about them.

Rescreening plays in here as well. Once you screen a volunteer, do not assume that means they are clear of criminal history forever. You need to rescreen them (we recommend annually) to ensure you have the latest information about their potential criminal history.

4. Outsourcing gets better results

It is no longer the norm, but some organizations are still running background checks internally. Take it from me, background checks are complicated. They involve going to several different sources to run lots of different checks. They are time-consuming, involved tedious paperwork, and take volunteer managers away from the work they are experts at – helping volunteers work towards furthering the mission of your organization. The 18.2% of organizations that still screen in-house should rethink this approach. (By the way, if you are screening in-house to save money, you might be surprised to hear that outsourcing typically ends up saving you more all things considered.)

5. The FCRA applies to volunteers

The FCRA (Fair Credit Reporting Act) is a tricky one – and another reason outsourcing screening is recommended. There are a number of forms and rules associated with this legislation and, if they are not followed to a T, you could get hit with a devastating lawsuit.

6. Screening affects your insurance premiums

If you are not following best practices in background screening you could get hit with higher insurance premiums. Again, while you may think cutting corners on screening will save you some dollars, it could end up costing you more in the long run.

7. Save money and increase your ROVI

So, all this talk about money and budgets. What you need to know is that screening helps to save you money in terms of insurance premiums, fraud, theft and more. Plus, volunteers are so dedicated to your cause that they are usually willing to help cover all or part of the cost of their background check.


There is a lot to say about each of these “things” – too much to dive into in a single blog post. Listen to the webinar, 7 Things You Need to Know About Volunteer Background Checks in 2016 to hear the deeper discussion on background screening in 2016. And make sure to get your free copy of Verified Volunteer’s Volunteer Screening Trends & Best Practices Report 2016. There are tons of great insights, tips and best practices around volunteer screening and volunteer management that you won’t want to miss.

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