Typically, if someone is wanting to volunteer, you don’t want to turn them away, but what if you should? Running a background check on volunteers can save a non-profit organization, business or school a lot of money and time by simply avoiding a legal situation.

According to a study done by Trak-1, research revealed that approximately 95% of all companies are victims of some form of theft, and only 10% of those companies ever discover that it is occurring. Another alarming statistic finds that over 40% of individuals with criminal records committed an offense in a state other than where they were applying to volunteer, meaning that a state-only search would not have found their criminal records.

This is not to say that every person with a criminal record or prior offense is incapable of volunteering and doing a fantastic job at it, or that someone with no record is incapable of committing an offense. The idea is that organizations and businesses need to be aware of the risk they are exposing themselves to when they don’t screen their volunteers.

When implementing background checks on your volunteers, you need to create a plan. Having a plan creates consistency among employees and work policies. Follow these steps and you will create a safe and thriving volunteer and customer experience.

-Know Your Rights:

  • As an organization and American citizen you have a right to run a background on volunteering individuals. The volunteer also has the right to refuse a background check, and also know what is on their background check. According to the Consumer Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), “a background check for volunteers may be covered by the FCRA as well. To fall under the FCRA, a volunteer background check must be conducted by a third-party screening company.” The volunteer must give written consent to the background check before it is run.

-Create a Policy:

  • To create consistency, determine what information you will want from your volunteers, where and what type of background check you would require them to have, who will receive the results and who will review the results. This will make sure that no one falls through the cracks and that you are creating a safe environment for those you are serving. For more information of types of background checks visit:

-Implement Your Policy:

  • So many times organizations will take the time to come up with an awesome policy, but fail to implement it. Don’t let your staff slack and bypass steps and rules. Take the time to educate all your senior staff and current volunteers on your new policy, and then make sure they all follow through with it.


Don’t make the mistake of not screening your volunteers. Comment below any policy tips your business or organization has implemented. For more information read our blog on whether screening volunteers is too much or too little


By: Christa Vandenburgh