Volunteer background checks

Volunteer Background Checks – Should Employers Consider?

By March 16, 2020 No Comments

How important are volunteer background checks for employers?

Whether you are a non-profit or a for-profit organization, do you consider volunteer background checks? Do you know that a significant portion of the US workforce is sustained entirely by volunteers? In fact, as per the labor department, this includes a whopping 60 million people that choose to volunteer their time, energy and skills, on a yearly basis. That is a massive number by any standard!

Now consider that volunteers often take on leading roles with community-based organizations, like schools, non-profits, soup kitchens, churches, senior homes, medical camps, and more. This means that a large percentage of them may also be working with a vulnerable population – including children, seniors, and the differently-abled – as part of their volunteering duties.

volunteer background checks

These are solid reasons for employers to insist on a background check before the final recruitment. And yet, employers often skip this critical step, especially for volunteers, due to 2 primary constraints: time and cost. Read on to understand how you can overcome these limitations with a few simple tricks.

Strategically choose your screenings

Employers are often surprised to discover that the background screening process can be completely customized to suit their needs. So, there is no reason for an employer to conduct every possible check on a part-time volunteer. Instead, only choose the most basic ones, to save both time and money. These include:

  1. Verifying a volunteer’s identity

As an employer, you may wonder why a volunteer may feel the need to lie about his or her identity. Well, the reasons are fundamentally similar to those of candidates applying for paid jobs – their identity could reveal dubious details that may make you reconsider their recruitment!

For this very reason, it is critical to run a basic “identity verification”, to confirm information during the volunteer background checks, like their name, date of birth, social security number, etc. This is a relatively low-cost check, with instantaneous results.

  • Checking for a criminal past

A “criminal background check” may first seem like overkill on a harmless volunteer. But how else will you verify that your volunteer is indeed harmless? The stellar news is that the default check covers sex offenses and crimes registered with the national database.

Again, this can be an online search with immediate results. For more critical volunteering roles that deal with vulnerable populations, you can also consider detailed criminal checks (right down to federal, state, and county levels), results of which can be available within a week.

  • Checking for drug abuse

This basic check with relatively quick results (2-3 days) can help you confirm that your seemingly stable volunteer is not a regular user of hard drugs, including cocaine, marijuana, opiates, and more. This is worth the small hassle of getting a urine sample, for the standard urinalysis drug screening test.


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Include optional tests on need basis

In addition to the above basic checks, you may also consider optional checks that are vocation-specific. This includes:

  • Verifying their driving license through an MVR test. This will also uncover any traffic violations and suspensions.
  • Verifying their credit history through a detailed credit report. This instant test is critical if your volunteer takes on treasury-related roles with a non-profit’s finances.
  • Verifying professional background. This includes verifying any claimed certifications, and professional experience. Again, if the volunteer has been recruited in a niche area that requires this background, this test becomes essential.

Don’t forget to rescreen, every year

As a smart employer, you are sure to renew your insurance on a yearly basis in order to mitigate risk. The same reasoning applies to “regular” volunteers. Ensure that you run the basic checks on a yearly basis, so you can rest easy on the volunteer’s continued authenticity.

Also, like with pre-employment screenings for paid jobs, professional background checks for volunteers also requires their prior consent in adherence with state-specific FCRA rules and regulations. 


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