Everything You Need to Know About Volunteer Screening

 Estimated Read Time: 7 Minutes
  • The volunteer or the organization can pay for the background check. Having your volunteers pay for their own background check isn’t crazy or unheard of.
  • The legal requirements for running background checks on volunteers are the same as for potential employees
    There are a plethora of reasons why it’s a bad idea to use social media as a screening tool.
  • You could have missing information, inaccurate information, discrimination, and it’s not going to go over well with your volunteers if they find out you took this method to screen them

Boy, can volunteer screening be a lot to deal with. There’s so many things to consider! Is volunteer screening the same as employee screening? Can you use Facebook or any social media outlet to perform the screening? And who has to pay for these screenings? Simply reading this could be enough to stress you out. In this blog we’ll answer all of those questions, and much more! So consider this blog your stress ball, because things are about to get a lot easier!

It’s Actually the Same as Employee Screening

This has to be the most asked question I hear about volunteer screening, “Is it the same as employee screening? Or do I have to do a whole other process?” Well good news…it’s the exact same!

Legally, the requirements for running background checks on volunteers are the exact same as for potential employees. This might be surprising for many because there’s a big difference between volunteers and employees. But the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) regulations for the use of background checks also applies to volunteers. Organizations that are not following FCRA requirements when running background checks on volunteers needs to make that change immediately so that you’re staying compliant with FCRA laws.

You Still Can’t Use Social Media

There are many reasons to why you shouldn’t be using social media as a screening tool. You run the risk of having missing information, inaccurate information, possible discrimination, and you can best believe that it’s not going to go over well with your volunteers if they were to ever find out that you took this method to screen them. But the main reason why it’s such a bad idea is because it can land your organization into some serious hot water.

Before we mentioned that employment screening and volunteer screening are the same. So those same governing rules for employment screening are the same when conducting background checks on your volunteers. It may seem like there are at least some benefits to using social media as a screening tool, but the reward doesn’t out-weigh the risk. The primary issue is that protected information can’t be unseen. If a potential volunteer were to be rejected an opportunity to volunteer with an organization after the organization had seen sensitive information on social media, then it would be very difficult to refute a discrimination claim. Regardless of whether or not that information impacted the decision.

“This Is Hard, Why Should I Even Screen Volunteers?”

Screening volunteers is continuously becoming more common, but many organizations are still not doing it, and a lot are still not sure why they should even be doing it. Over the past decade our company has seen a number of cases that highlight why organizations should be screening volunteers, but what it truly comes down to is safety.

Volunteers are phenomenal! We truly need more people to step up and volunteer, but it’s imperative that your organization know who their volunteers really are. Volunteers are needed for countless tasks like, serving food, helping the elderly, and even sometimes dealing with children. If your organization has volunteers that work with children, it is in your best judgement to find out as much as you can about that volunteer. You definitely don’t want to bring in a volunteer to represent your organization that might have a checkered past.

Free eBook:

Volunteer Screening
The Companion Guide

The topic of Volunteer Screening is a tricky labyrinth to navigate these days. Let us help with the directions.

You Don’t Have to Pay for Volunteer Screening

You can either have the volunteer pay for the background check, or your organization can pay for it. Both are acceptable. The surprising thing is that it isn’t crazy or unheard of to have your volunteers pay for their own background checks. You can soften the news of telling your volunteers to pay for their own background check by letting them know that the cost for paying for their background check is tax deductible. Paying for a background check as a volunteer is just like paying a donation, and knowing that you’ll get some of that money back at tax time will make the idea of paying for the background check a little better. But make sure that you keep in the back of your mind that making your volunteers pay for their own background checks could prevent some volunteers from wanting to volunteer for your organization.

On the other hand, if your organization does choose to pay for the background check, you could see a higher volume of volunteers. But when you have a higher volume of volunteers it does mean more background checks, and more background checks means more money being spent by your organization. Cost can be a huge factor in the decision to conduct background checks, but the value that it adds through mission support and liability coverage makes it all worth it. In the end, what it comes down to is the needs and circumstances of your organization. So just be sure to make the best decision for your organization’s needs.

Ready to Get Started? Here’s How You Create a Volunteer Policy

So where the heck do you even start when creating a policy for the standards that you want upheld for your volunteers? How about starting with a decision matrix? So what’s a decision matrix you ask? I’m happy you asked! A decision matrix is a form that is usually used within a company policy. It’s a form with a list of offenses that a company reviews to standardize which offenses are acceptable or not. When an organization is filling out the decision matrix, you base your decision on unique requirements of the organization and all applicable federal, state, and municipal regulations. Once your organization has created their decision matrix, you can then start to create a policy for your volunteers to follow. Once a policy is in place, your organization will know exactly how to handle and understand what to do with the information you receive when screening your volunteers.

Don’t have a decision matrix? Check out an example below, and for the full decision matrix please click below to download.

Viva Volunteers!

Interested in learning even more about volunteer screening? Or how about how to interview volunteers? Write descriptions for volunteer opportunities or what the heck you’re supposed to do for the distribution for your volunteer opportunities?  Well check out our upcoming event where you’ll get all of those questions answered and much more!

Join me on May 4th for the Viva Volunteers Workshop at The Museum at Prairiefire in Overland Park, KS. Viva Volunteers is a half day event that’s free to everyone interested in learning how to build a recruiting and onboarding strategy to source volunteers for your organization.

We’ve gone all-out to find volunteer experts from some of the best organizations in the area. The event will have 4 sessions covering the following topics:

  • How to Write Volunteer Opportunity Descriptions
  • Effective Methods and Strategies to Attract Volunteers to Your Organization
  • How to Interview Volunteers to Enhance the Overall Quality of Your Volunteers
  • The Right Way to Screen Volunteers and Ensure a Safe Environment

All sessions incorporate the latest and greatest in building a cohesive strategy to increase the quantity and the quality of your organization’s volunteers. And of course we’re going to have some of the best speakers from the best organizations in the area!

Closing Thoughts

We’d love to know what you think, or answer any questions you may have. Please leave a comment below to tell us your thoughts. To learn more, or if you have any questions, please email me at rsanders@validityscreening.com. For more great blogs and content please subscribe to our blogs here.