5 Things You Need to Know About Volunteer Background Checks in 2017

We recently hosted 5 Things You Need to Know About Volunteer Background Checks in 2017, a webinar where we discussed the leading trends developing in background screening for nonprofits. I hosted the session, along with Christina Brown, Vice President of Client Experience, and special guest Doss Church, CEO of Galaxy Digital. Christina and Doss did a terrific job of providing professional insight into the volunteer screening and volunteer management industries. You can watch the entire webinar here.

If you did not catch the webinar yet, don’t worry. We’ve got you covered with the below list – a quick glimpse of what we discussed including a number of key findings and insights from our recent research into volunteer screening trends and best practices.*

  1. The American public expects to be screened
    • 95% of Americans believe in mandatory background screening. However, only 47% of nonprofit organizations are screening all of their volunteers! When asked why they have not woven mandatory background screening policies into their volunteer programs, these organizations often admit that they fear that mandating background screens for all would deter potential volunteer candidates and add to the bottom line of the organization. In fact, most candidates are not discouraged by background screening and are often even willing to pay for part of or all of the cost of a background check.
  2. Identity theft is more pervasive than ever
    • Identity theft is happening more each year and Social Security Numbers alone are no longer enough to verify that your volunteer is who they say they are. Identity validation should be used in conjunction with background screening. How? There are new screening products, which employ smart phone apps that can scan an ID and upload it for verification. Information from the uploaded scan is then used to auto populate a background check order. It is highly suggested that organizations verify each volunteers’ identity onsite as well, by requesting government-issued photo identification upon meeting them or during orientation.
  3. Compliance is ever changing
    • Changes in screening legislation are taking place all across the country. Some states now require all nonprofit organizations to screen potential volunteers, often using state police checks, fingerprint checks, or a nationwide database. This is a fantastic step towards keeping vulnerable populations safe, but often proves misleading for organizations. They believe that, if the state is mandating a specific type of check, it must be high quality and extremely robust and comprehensive. Unfortunately, states typically require the bare minimum searches and not in-depth, complete checks. In these instances, supplement the required checks with additional searches completed by a reputable screening provider. Each state is different, so check your organization’s state laws for updates and changes. Also, your background screening provider should be keeping you updated on laws that may affect you and your organization.
  4. Data and metrics are powerful tools
    • To put it simply, data helps you better understand your clients and the communities they serve. And, it’s great to share with clients because it helps them better manage their nonprofit organization and get volunteers involved. Some helpful terminology! The two main categories of data are “hard” and “soft.” Hard data is contact information like what you would commonly find on a volunteer application: an email, name or zip code. Soft data is specialized information about a volunteer that they provide such as causes they are particularly interested in working in like special needs or advocacy or skills. Compiled together, data shows the when, where and why of volunteering in the communities you serve.
  5. Volunteer management systems are valuable tools
    • A good volunteer management system (VMS) is an invaluable tool that will expand the bandwidth of your staff. Not only does it allow you to track volunteers but through a robust VMS you can create events, send electronic invitations, and note the special skills of volunteers. A good VMS can help recruiting by saving time on data input and storage and automate thank-you notes to volunteers. There are dozens of VMS partners to choose from; any decent one will help you recruit, engage, track, and share the impact of your organization.

*While we can suggest best practices, always seek the guidance of your legal counsel as you plan your volunteer screening program and practices.

For even more insight into the ever-changing landscape of volunteer background screening, don’t forget to listen to the webinar here. Have questions about the webinar or a suggestion for what to discuss in future webinars? Connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, and share your comments below.

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