aspects of risk management are clear-cut. But background checks for
your volunteers — and the possibility of bringing someone on board who
is considered “risky” — can sometimes be a grey area.
Mela Shah, volunteer program assistant and hotline specialist,
Minnesota Literacy Council (St. Paul, MN), “Consistency is key! If
you're running background checks on one type of volunteer, you should do
it for all of those volunteers,” she says.
So how do you know if
background checks on volunteers should be required? Shah offers this
guideline: “In my opinion background checks are not necessary for all
programs/volunteer positions. It really depends on what your
organization's policy is. If you're working with children or vulnerable
populations, then yes, absolutely do background checks. If your program
isn't working with children or vulnerable populations, talk to a manager
or HR person and decide as an organization if you're going to run
background checks on volunteers. The most important thing is to be
consistent,” she reiterates.
If you do decide to run a background
check on your volunteers, also be consistent regarding what information
is considered grounds for not hiring a volunteer. “Talk to a manager or
HR person about hiring policies. You may be able to tweak some of those
policies into a document about hiring volunteers,” Shah suggests.
Mela Shah, Volunteer Program Assistant and Hotline Specialist,
Minnesota Literacy Council, St. Paul, MN. Phone (651) 645-2277, ext.
241. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Website: www.mnliteracy.org
No-Cost Background Checks
you feel background checks should be done on your volunteers but don't
have much of a budget, Mela Shah, volunteer program assistant and
hotline specialist, Minnesota Literacy Council (St. Paul, MN), suggests
checking into these two free options:
- National Sex Offender Registry. (www.nsopw.gov)
- Public Criminal History database. Most states provide this as a free service. For example: Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (www.bca.state.mn.us/bca.asp)