Estimated Read Time: 5 Minutes
Ho! Ho! Ho! The holidays are here! The season of giving; when everyone wants to go into their community and find ways they can, well…give. For some, that maybe be giving money or gifts, but for many, it means giving their time and going out to volunteer. Which means your organization could be flooded with people wanting to come out and volunteer for the holiday season. You’ll need to be equipped with information that will have you ready to handle the surge of volunteers. So without further ado, let’s dive into it! Here are 5 things your organization needs to know about volunteer screening.
1. Who Pays for Volunteer Background Checks?
It doesn’t matter! Let me elaborate.
The volunteer or the organization can pay for the background check. Having your volunteers pay for their own background checks isn’t crazy or unheard of. You can soften the news of telling volunteers to pay for their own background check by letting them know that the expense is tax deductible. Paying for a background check for volunteer work is just as much a donation and your volunteers will know that they will at least get some of that money back at tax time. But keep in mind that for some volunteers, adding a monetary obligation to a time commitment could keep them from wanting to volunteer.
On the flip side, if your organization decides to pick up the tab you could expect a higher volume of volunteers. But more volunteers means more background checks and more background checks means your organization is spending more money. While cost can be a large factor in the decision to conduct background checks, the value that it adds through mission support and liability coverage makes the expense well worth it. Ultimately, it comes down to the needs and circumstances of your organization. So make the decision that’s best for your organization’s needs.
2. Volunteer Screening & Employment Screening ARE the Same
“What! How are they the same? Employees and volunteers aren’t the same at all!” While that might be true, the process for how you screen volunteers and how you screen employees are the same. The legal requirements for running background checks on volunteers are the same as for potential employees.
This comes as a shock for many because volunteers are not employees. But the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) regulations for the use of background checks applies to volunteers as well. If your organization isn’t currently following FCRA requirements when running background checks on volunteers, it is imperative that changes so that you can stay compliant with the FCRA.
3. Google and Facebook are Not Substitutes for a Volunteer Background Check
There are a plethora of reasons why it’s a bad idea to use Google or Facebook 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 were to find out you took this method to screen them. But the overall reason why it’s a bad idea to do this is because it can get your organization into some serious trouble!
Earlier, we mentioned that volunteer screening and employment screening are the same. So the rules that govern employment screening are the same rules that you have to follow when conducting background checks on your volunteers. It may seem like there are benefits to using Facebook or Google as a hiring tool, but the reward may not out-weigh the risk. The main issue is that protected information can’t be unseen. If a potential volunteer were to be denied an opportunity to volunteer with your organization after the organization saw sensitive information on Facebook or Google, it would be a hard time refuting a discrimination claim regardless of whether or not that information impacted the decision.
4. Who Should You Conduct Sex Offender Registry Searches On?
If I were to ask you, “Who should you run a sex offender registry search on?” you’d probably respond saying, “anyone who works with children.” While this is definitely true, what about other vulnerable groups like the elderly? Or, consider this situation where it was uncovered that multiple sex offenders were working at a women's shelter because no-one conducted pre-screening of any kind.
Victims of sex offenders aren’t just children - they can be anyone. As such, any type of volunteer position where the volunteer would interact with others - especially in unsupervised settings - should include a screening process with a sex offender registry search.
5. How to Manage Risk in Your Volunteer Driver Program
There’s always going to be risk when putting someone behind the wheel. But you want to make sure that you’re ready for anything. So the first step in mitigating risk is to identify common risks associated with roles that involve driving. There will always be additional risks that are specific to your organization. For these, you’ll need to spend time establishing what they are. However, most risks fit within the four bullet points listed below:
- Accidents while driving in traffic
- Accidents caused by weather
- Diminished driving skills in the elderly
- Non-traffic accidents
Other ways to cut down on risk are by providing safety training for your volunteers that will be driving and maintaining a high level of accountability in following those safety standards.
Lastly, it is important that you select your volunteers for driving roles based on risk avoidance. The key is establishing a selection process that identifies individuals that have red flags based on the risks you’ve identified related to the driving responsibilities for your organization.
HO! HO! HOpefully your organization is ready and prepared to take on the holiday season. Knowing how to handle volunteers and all that goes along with them will ensure your organization’s success with volunteers this holiday season. So good luck and happy holidays!
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