Best Practices for Nonprofit and Social Services Volunteer Screening

Volunteer organizations and nonprofits run on the help of those who are willing to give some of their time to help others or help a cause out. But while their generosity is appreciated, these volunteers still need to be screened before they begin helping out.

More and more organizations are screening their volunteer corps, including those who work with children, the elderly, and the disabled. Failing to screen someone means they are putting the entire organization at risk of being hit with costly and controversial legal claims and liabilities, not to mention possibly putting those they serve in harm’s way.

Best Practices for Screening Volunteers

If your organization fails to screen its volunteers, you could be looking at a number of legal problems. If someone is hurt in some way at the hands of a volunteer who wasn’t screened thoroughly, be it physically, emotionally, or verbally, a claim could be tied back to you.

To avoid major legal problems and costly claims, nonprofits can opt for insurance to provide the right coverage for settlements and legal representation. The first nonprofit insurance choice to cover volunteers should be highlighted by a comprehensive approach. From D&O coverage to transportation protection, nonprofits should look for insurance that covers every point of their operation.

But besides obtaining effective insurance protection, nonprofits should be putting to use best practices in their daily operations of serving those around them. Here are some ways to screen volunteers more thoroughly and avoid liabilities:

  • Background Checks: Criminal record searches aren’t one-size-fits-all and nonprofits should understand the difference between the different types of searches. This will help them make better decisions when it comes to how volunteers are screened. Some nonprofits might only choose to use nationwide database searches or somewhat incomplete screening methods. This leaves the door open to potential limitations of these searches and the organization may not realize that some information is either missing or inaccurate. Organizations should rely more heavily on their county or state courthouse.
  • Multiple Searches: Criminal records can reside within multiple data sources, so it’s important to conduct multiple searches in order to get the clearest picture of your potential volunteers’ backgrounds. On top of local courthouses, nonprofits can use national databases.
  • Protect Your Organization as a Whole: While the most important asset of your nonprofit is protecting the integrity of whom or what you’re serving, there should still be a significant amount of focus on protecting your organization altogether. From accounting services to running the IT portion of your nonprofit to anyone who comes in contact with donated items should be looked at as a potential liability. Make sure to be just as thorough on your screening on those who work in IT and administration in order to keep away from risks in those areas.

Volunteer screening on all scales can be a tremendous value to a nonprofit looking to keep all liabilities away. Nonprofits can help themselves by achieving more and spending less by protecting their volunteers and their customers together.

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