How to Conduct Background Checks on Volunteers

Appropriate Precautions

Non-profit organizations do so much good, but the work requires dedication and time.  Perennial problems for non-profits include funding and manpower.  For this reason, when a person steps up to volunteer, an organization wants to say yes. However, volunteers require background checks, especially in the world of non-profits.

Reasons for Background Checks


A background check looks at a person’s criminal history and other factors that impact their ability to do a good job.  For non-profits who deal with children, the elderly, or other vulnerable populations, this can be essential legal protection as well.  These are done in the interest of public safety by not giving dangerous people access to vulnerable groups.  It provides peace of mind to customers and beneficiaries who can know that everyone involved has been cleared.

Other potential volunteers feel better about signing up if they know what kind of person they are working alongside.  The worst-case scenario neglecting a thorough background check is the shutdown of the organization.  Aside from the jobs that could be lost through such a catastrophe, this also denies those who need it access to the services of the non-profit.

Legal Issues

The laws related to background checks and volunteers for non-profits vary.  In some cases, the law does require a background check.  This is usually for groups that are directly tied to the state, for example, schools or public nursing homes.  Some background check laws protect children.  Several national laws affect non-profit organizations.  While it is a good idea to conduct background checks anyway, find out how each state’s regulations differ.

The Process

The non-profit or a professional service usually obtain background checks.  A non-profit has the right to request criminal history and other related information from the FBI and other municipal authorities.  Most groups, though, choose to use a service that handles these things every day.  They can set up a plan and receive a specific recommendation for each application submitted.

In any case, the check should show employment and criminal history, motor vehicle violations, credit history, court actions, military, immigration, and drug test results, and even social media red flags will be noted.  Going through all of this should give the non-profit a chance to make an informed decision.

Non-Profit Insurance

However, not every background check will catch every potential offender.  Of course, those who pass a background check may break bad at some point.  It is vital to have great non-profit insurance to cover legal fees and even interruptions during a shutdown or lawsuit.  This is one final layer of protection to work in tandem with a solid background check process.

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