Your Go-To Guide to Volunteer Background Checks

Rosterfy has pulled together a go-to guide for best practice when it comes to volunteer background checks.

Whether you’re a small charity or a large event, running background checks for volunteers is an important part of managing your volunteers and is integral to keeping communities safe.  

Why conduct volunteer background checks?

More often than not volunteers are the ‘face’ of your organization. As an extension of your brand, you want to ensure that the volunteers that you’re working with are a true representation of your organization's vision and mission. There are many reasons to conduct a background check on prospective volunteers, including:

  • Mitigating risk and protecting the community and your volunteers
  • Ensure that you are meeting regulations as dictated by law
  • Improve the volunteer experience
  • Maintain an organization's reputation

What are the types of volunteer background checks organizations can conduct?

Depending on who your organization works with, you may like to conduct one or multiple of the following background checks for volunteers.

  • Criminal Background Checks for Volunteers. The most common background check is to check for a history of criminal activity. This can be achieved with a police check.
  • Sex Offenders Checks for Volunteers. For nonprofits or organizations that work with minors, it is really important to ensure that the volunteers that you are placing within the community are there with pure intentions. 
  • Working with Children’s Check for Volunteers. Depending on your country of residence it is often mandatory for any volunteers who are working with children to hold a valid WWCC. 
  • Identity Check for Volunteers. To prevent identity fraud or the false representation of someone, organizations can choose to screen the identity of volunteers to ensure that they are who they say they are. 
  • Drug & Health Screening for Volunteers. In today’s climate, a new screening requirement is health screenings. With more and more organizations requesting proof of COVID vaccinations, volunteers will need to be prepared to submit documentation that confirms that they have been vaccinated and are safe to work within the communities. 
  • Vehicle Licence Check for Volunteers. For organizations that require their volunteers to fulfill roles that require a valid driver's licence, it is imperative that you check and confirm licence details. 
  • Employment and/or Education Qualifications Check for Volunteers. Volunteers in the form of internships may require an organization to conduct a background check on employment or education qualifications to ensure that their previous experience aligns with the role on offer, 
  • Social Media Checks for Volunteers. In today’s digital age, a great way to really get to know the volunteers you are working with is through a social media check. This may help to distinguish any red flags with regard to behaviour that isn’t aligned with your organization. 

Are you required to run volunteer background checks?

While each country has different laws around volunteer background checks, it is likely that screening in the form of volunteer background checks is necessary and should be implemented as part of your volunteer recruitment process.

Are volunteers adverse to screening?

Many organizations have this misguided belief that volunteers dislike screening. This is simply not true. 

What volunteers dislike are messy and confusing forms that take a considerable amount of time and effort to complete. Organizations that clearly explain why they need to verify volunteers through background checks actually yield great volunteer retention and engagement results. Volunteers respond positively to the professionalism and commitment that organizations demonstrate when it comes to looking after their volunteers and the communities in which they serve.

Best Practices for Volunteer Background Checks

  • Be friendly! Volunteer background checks shouldn’t be something that’s scary. These are measures being put in place to protect your volunteers as well as the community so remember to keep a light, friendly tone when conducting checks. 
  • Transparency. Be clear with your volunteers from the outset that you will be conducting background checks and how this will be implemented. 
  • Provide guidance. Let your volunteers know how and which volunteer background checks will be included during the screening process and what will happen if they do not pass. 
  • Provide updates. Be sure to provide regular updates as to the status of their background checks so that they’re not left waiting in uncertainty.

How to deliver volunteer background checks?

The best way to implement screening using background checks is through a volunteer management solution. Not only are these registered and approved by law but they also help to simplify the process for screening by providing a digitized solution that is quick and easy. 

We’ve pulled together a list of great volunteer background check services for you to take a look at!

    • Rosterfy. Rosterfy provides an end to end solution to volunteer management and has the capabilities to plug in with a number of great background check providers. 
    • Sterling Volunteers. Sterling Volunteers provides volunteer screening and background checks for nonprofits and service organizations and helps mobilize vetted volunteers.
    • Background Checks for Volunteers. Provides high-quality background checks to charity and nonprofit organizations, empowering them with the answers and tools needed for a safer volunteer community.
    • GoodHire. GoodHire allows organizations to easily screen volunteers via fast and reliable background checks that ensure compliance with the law. 

Should nonprofits do background checks?

Nonprofits in particular should prioritise background checks. Given their close association with youth, sick, elderly and disadvantaged, it is crucial that the volunteers that your organization is placing in the community are safe to be there. 

Tight on budget? Many organizations offer free background checks for non profits. Do your research and select the right volunteer background check company to suit your needs. 

What would cause you to fail a background check?

The reason for a background check is to ensure that volunteers meet specific requirements that see them as eligible and fit to serve as volunteers with your organization. 

If for some reason a volunteer fails a background check there are a few things that you can do to ensure that your volunteers are informed and don’t leave on bad terms. 

  1. Be kind and provide detail! Similar to our points for briefing volunteers of your background screening processes it is important to remain professional and kind when letting volunteers know that they have failed a background check. You should never be accusatory - let your volunteers know the facts of why they have been unsuccessful or what they need to do in order to be successful (i.e secure a WWCC or renew drivers license). 
  2. Highlight additional opportunities. Remembering that not all background checks are for criminal activity, there is the opportunity to highlight additional opportunities to volunteers. If for instance a volunteer had originally applied to volunteer for a particular role that worked with children but they failed to provide a valid Working with Children’s Check, why not direct them to additional roles that don’t require this license. 
  3. Say thank you! Even if a volunteer has been unsuccessful with their background check it is important to thank them for their time and to wish them well. 

When it comes to screening, volunteer background checks are an important part of all volunteer management programs.

If you’d like to learn more about how Rosterfy can help you implement volunteer background checks into your organization, please don’t hesitate to get in touch

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