Background Checks For Nonprofit Volunteers | Track It Forward

How To Instill Volunteer Background Checks In Your Nonprofit

Last updated by Kasey Murphy on 03/13/2021

There are clearly some organizations that need to have volunteer background checks for obvious reasons. If your organization is one that works with any sort of clientele, especially if that clientele may be fragile - you will want to make sure that volunteers are not convicted of any serious crimes. 

But some organizations other than nursing homes, animal shelters, and those dealing with sensitive clients like sex trafficking or mentally ill are still questioning the need for volunteer background checks. In the end, it really is up to your organization. One of the most important things to note is what exactly you want to be looking for in a volunteer background check. 

Some of the bigger things may be DUI, DWI, and certain felonies. But, it is important to note if you are going to be doing a volunteer background check, you should remain non-judgmental to volunteers who may have smaller things on their record that are not deal-breakers for your organization. 

Running a volunteer background check may allow you to gain a sense of security when it comes to who is volunteering with your organization, but be sure that the people reviewing the volunteer background checks are aware of some sort of confidentiality clause if there is to be a minor instance that is brought up. 

The other things to consider with volunteer background checks are if you are going to have them be state-wide background checks or national, and who will be paying for the volunteer background check. 

We will be going through all of these things to consider and how to instill volunteer background checks into your volunteer program! 

Different Things To Consider Before Requiring Volunteer Background Checks
01. Why am I requiring background checks? You may get asked this question a lot, so be sure to have concrete answers! 
They could be as simple as legal reasons or because you want to protect clients. 

02. Should you be doing a state-wide or national? 
If your organization feels they are very vulnerable for a criminal or someone to take advantage of them, you may want to broaden to national. It is completely up to you and the service you use. 

03. What specifics do you want to check?
 You can check criminal records, expunged felonies, misdemeanors, driving records, and more! But be sure to only gather what you need. 

04. Where do I get the background checks done? 
There are many different services. It is important you consider price, options to upgrade / get more information, and quick turnaround time!

05. Who pays for the background checks? It is not uncommon for organizations to ask volunteers to pay for their own background checks. But, sometimes you can find a deal with a site since you are a nonprofit.
06. How do you tell new volunteers to get it done? 
Some volunteers may take it the wrong way, so be sure to be transparent and mention the requirement of background checks very early on in the recruitment process.

When Should An Organization Have Require Volunteer Background Checks? 

Your organization can require volunteer background checks whenever they want! A few reasons that volunteers may be screened could be to identify potential problems that may occur with them volunteering in a certain environment. 

The main reasons that volunteer background checks are requested are for the following:

  • Volunteers work with vulnerable and sensitive individuals/populations - This can be children, elderly, those with disabilities, and animal 

  • For legal reasons - nonprofits need to be protected from any sort of legality issues when providing volunteers to perform an event/service - some services require background checks! 

  • Provide a safe volunteer experience for everyone - if your volunteers are vulnerable or spend a lot of time together, having a volunteer background check system in place will ensure that the volunteers are in a safe environment.

There is no law that requires volunteers to be given a background check, but nonprofits can make it mandatory for their volunteer program. For more legal information on providing volunteer background checks, visit this page. 

What Are Different Things You Should Look For In A Volunteer Background Check? 

There are a couple of different things that volunteer background checks may include, and each of these may differ depending on the state you live in and the service you are using. Some states do not allow certain information to be given out in a background check for specific purposes like volunteering. 

Here are some things you can request or may receive when you run a volunteer background check - this may be considered a Level 2 background check in some organizations. 

  • Felony Convictions

  • Misdemeanor Convictions

  • Pending Criminal Cases

  • Civil Judgements

  • Arrests That REsulted In Conviction

  • Arrests That Did Not Result In Conviction

  • Expunged or Sealed Convictions

  • Sex Offender Database 

  • Traffic / Motor Vehicle 

  • Prison Record

  • Domestic Terrorist Watch List

It is important for you to consider which of these things you would like to know about your volunteers. Some of them you have to request and may have to pay more for. If you are not too concerned about misdemeanor convictions and they are not a deal-breaker, it may be of benefit to your organization not to include these in your volunteer background check. 

With many options for volunteer background checks, be sure to analyze what you need and what you are looking for in a volunteer background check. Make a list showcasing what will be deal-breakers and what volunteers simply cannot have shown up in their background check. 

Should You Be Getting A National Volunteer Background Check Or State-Wide? 

There are some free or less experienced volunteer background check services that run state-wide. This is great to have, especially as you start off instilling volunteer background checks, but it is important to eventually look into national volunteer background checks, as there are many people who may have moved countries. 

National volunteer background checks will of course take more time and money, but depending on which organization you use, you may be able to strike a deal or even have volunteers pay for their background checks. 

Things You Can Ask For And Look For In A  Volunteer Background Check System
These are certain things you will need to prioritize when it comes to picking a volunteer background check service. 
bulk ordering, flexible payment, fast turnaround, support team, flexible options, mobile options, notifications, ability to dispute, ability to add context, clear confidentiality, reliable tracking methods, updates

Where Do I Get Volunteer Background Checks From? 

There are many great volunteer background check options available for organizations to use when it comes to getting there background checks done. Here are some options to consider. 

1. Sterling Volunteers

  • Provides national background checks

  • Gives the option for volunteers to split their background checks with the nonprofit

  • Quick turnaround time (1hr-1day)

  • Fraud, Criminal, and Sex Offender List in this check

  • Can be up to $30 per volunteer. 

2. Your State’s Highway Patrol or Department of Justice 

  • Only works in some states 

  • Will just be state-wide

  • Will be a criminal record history and a sex offender registration check (most likely)

  • Can work out good deals - sometimes free! 

3. Background Checks For Volunteers 

  • Customizable rates

  • Option for volunteers to pay

  • Can showcase beyond criminal and sex offender list

  • Start at $12.99

4. Checkr Background Checks

  • Can purchase a monthly amount 

  • Criminal, Drug, DMV, and more! 

  • International Checks

  • Different Packages Priced Differently 

Who Pays For The Volunteer Background Checks? 

We understand, sometimes you do not have the budget to pay for background checks for your volunteers. Where they aren’t that expensive, usually less than $20 per volunteer, this can definitely add up for an organization. 

We suggest keeping a little bit of budget open for volunteers who are struggling to pay for financial reasons, you would not want your volunteers to be unable because they could not afford a background check. 

We also suggest if you are going to be using volunteer background checks for all of your volunteers to look into an organization that can give you a bulk discount - then you can sort it out who will pay between you and the volunteer. 

If your organization has it in your budget to pay for volunteer background checks, this is a great way to show volunteers that you want them to volunteer! But, if your organization does not have the money to fund it, sort something out between you and the volunteer to talk about payment of the background check. 

How To Let Volunteers Know Of Your Background Check Policy

Volunteers should be informed about getting a background check from the beginning of their relationship with your organization. Some volunteers may see it as a obstruction of privacy and others may think it is a great precaution. 

It is important to let all volunteers know of your organization’s background check policy at volunteer info sessions, orientations, and trainings. It can even be a part of your recruitment process. 

A large role and responsibility of volunteers is to represent the organization well, so most volunteers should be aware and comply with a background check. 

If you sense that a volunteer is wary of getting a background check, ask them if they have concerns and let them know what exactly you will be looking for in the background check. You can also offer them support and let them know of the confidentiality that comes with processing background checks. 

Goodhire has a great eBook explaining some of these things in more detail, if that is something you want to explore. 

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. How do I run a background check for volunteers?
    You can sign up to be a part of a background check service who will do the background checks for you, or you can go to your local sheriff or police department and ask them how they run their background checks. 

  1. How to say volunteers require background checks?
    The easiest way to let volunteers know is to tell them the importance of their role and how they may be put in sensitive situations. You can also let them know that background checks are helping to make the volunteer environment and experience safe for everyone involved. 

  1. How often should background checks be updated for volunteers? 
    You should definitely get volunteer background checks as soon as they enter the organization, after that it is up to your organization. If you would like to update every 5 -10 years, this is pretty standard.