Volunteers are vital to many organizations, from hospitals and recreation agencies to animal rescue groups and museums. Good volunteers can be hard to find as the work often comes with a lack of recognition or thanks. But, that doesn’t mean an organization should happily accept whatever help is offered.
Nonprofits have the same obligation to provide safety for their workers and clients as for-profit companies. In addition, nonprofits have a board of directors to answer to, a donor base to protect, and a reputation to uphold. It’s far better to deal with a volunteer’s failed background check than to put an organization that contributes much good in jeopardy.
Informing Potential Volunteers of Background Checks
You will be best able to deal with a volunteer who fails a background check if that volunteer was fully informed of the requirement of a background check at any informational session or orientation. Position your background check policy for volunteers by emphasizing the importance of their role within the organization and that background checks for all help to make their volunteer environment and experience safer for them as well.
By letting potential volunteers know about the background check right from the start, you are building the mutual respect needed to bring them in as a vital part of your organization.
Common Disqualifying Criteria
- False Credentials: It’s unfortunately quite common for people to exaggerate or outright lie about their qualifications and experience. Some might misrepresent their education history, while others might increase the amount of responsibility they held in a role or the number of years they held a position.
- Criminal History: This is a crucial part of any background check because it helps ensure the safety of the peers and any vulnerable populations they might be working with should they become a volunteer for your organization. But not all criminal records need to disqualify someone. If a person has past traffic violations but is looking to volunteer as a park gardener, the charge may not directly affect the type of work needed. However, if the volunteer candidate has a sex offender record and is looking to coach a children's soccer team, the organization needs to know.
- Poor Credit History: Credit checks are not always part of a background check. However, unless the volunteer is going to have financial responsibilities for some aspect of their work, this might not matter much.
- Failed Drug Test: This is a quite common reason for failing a background check. Talking to the potential candidate might reveal a prescription drug. But even legal drugs such as alcohol or marijuana could be negative if the volunteer will be working, for instance, at a YMCA camp with children.
- Poor References: People usually provide a reference from past supervisors or peers with whom they feel they would get a good review. But sometimes, a reference can cite a lack of teamwork skills or a poor attitude.
When a Volunteer Fails a Background Check
It can be quite disappointing when a needed volunteer fails their background check. The first thing to do is to double-check the accuracy of the data. Was there a typo or data entry issue? If everything seems correct, you can take steps before rejecting what appears to be a qualified volunteer.
- Check your organization’s policy. There may be a set procedure to follow.
- Talk to the prospective volunteer to allow them to address any discrepancies or results. This is also the time to inform the volunteer of your policy for failed background checks.
- Make your decision based on the facts. Once the candidate has reviewed the volunteer background check and has had adequate time to respond, it becomes time to make a decision.
Having a trustworthy volunteer background check partner is essential for building a long-term program with volunteers who will represent your organization in the way it deserves. Check out Background Investigation Bureau (BIB) and NRPA's Recommended Guidelines for Screening Volunteers. Learn more about BIB and NRPA's partnership and how NRPA members can receive exclusive pricing HERE.