Volunteer Background Checks – Do You Have a Bad Apple?

Written by Kandi Chapman, President, MBI Worldwide Background Checks

‘Tis the season for giving, and lots of folks do that by volunteering their time.  

Whether it’s seasonal volunteers or year round helpers, it’s a good idea to screen the men and women giving their time to your organization.
I cannot stress enough to non-profit groups that work with children, the elderly or people with disabilities should pay particular attention to their background screening process.

Trust me, the benefits of looking into the criminal backgrounds of volunteers are plentiful.  Doing so can help protect vulnerable groups your organization may work with, including the above-mentioned populations. Knowing if someone has a history of abuse can avoid a myriad of problems.  Not only is it important to keep the people you’re serving safe, but also the other volunteers and staff members within your organization. 

Here are 3 valid reasons WHY you should be running volunteer background checks.


 – Your organization will be more protected from claims of negligence.
If the unthinkable were to happen and someone becomes victimized by an unscreened volunteer and it turns out that person had a criminal history, your group could be held liable.  The expense of a background check far outweighs the fees of defending yourself or the potential settlement cost your group could face in a courtroom.

 – Innocent until proven guilty?  Yes!  But it’s absolutely legal to run a background check on a volunteer.
The 1998 Volunteers for Children Act affects any business or organization that “provides care, treatment, education, training, instruction, supervision or recreation for children, the elderly or individuals with disabilities… whether public, private, for-profit, non-profit or voluntary. “  That legislation protects the vulnerable and puts those who are negligent in the hot seat.

 – Reputation, Reputation, Reputation!
Another potential expense in not conducting thorough background screening is the damage your group’s reputation can incur. An improper incident can lead to a public relations nightmare.  Screening volunteers can prevent years of potential damage and keep your group in good standing in the community.  The improper actions of one volunteer could lead to the demise of your group.

Simply put, it’s not worth the risk.   Screen all volunteers.  It’ll put everyone’s mind at ease knowing background histories have been examined.