Why Some Nonprofits Resist Background Screening

Posted Thursday, February 16th, 2017 by Sterling Volunteers Staff

Non Profits Resist Background Screening

If you asked a Volunteer Manager, “Do you want to keep yourself, your volunteers and your organization more secure?” you would probably guess the universal answer would be a resounding “Yes!” Who doesn’t want peace of mind that the volunteer they are investing time, money, trust and responsibility into is a safe bet? That’s where a quality volunteer background screening program comes in. Not only does screening volunteers provide peace of mind, it also helps make the hiring decision easier and more reassuring. But believe it or not, some nonprofit organizations are still resistant to screening their volunteers despite the damage an unscreened staffer can do to the integrity and reputation of an organization.

Let’s look at some of the common reservations people have about screening volunteers and how these issues can be resolved.

Resistance to change:

Some people simply do not like change. In fact, a lot of people don’t. Whenever there is an important change in an organization there will always some sort of resistance from staff, and this is especially true for nonprofits that have been around for a long time. Volunteer Managers get comfortable with the same ole’ same ole’, the volunteers work hard and seem trustworthy, so the need to evolve and begin screening current or incoming volunteers seems pointless. Overcome fear by keeping everyone in the loop as you begin the transition to routine background screening and assure volunteers they will receive proper training pre- and post- -implementation. Free yourself from worrying about the integrity of applicants so that you can focus on the more important questions regarding potential volunteers.

Bumpy start:

Some organizations took the leap towards keeping their organization and volunteers safer but landed in the shallow end of the pool; they found a background screening company (that probably didn’t specialize in nonprofit screening), maybe the first one that popped up in an internet search. Things started off rocky with the company and it just went downhill from there, so they dropped the dud of a background screener putting their charitable mission at risk. Now, they are back to screening in-house, or not at all. Relax: all you need is a partner that specializes in background screening for the nonprofit sector and understands your needs and concerns. Sterling Volunteers works closely with numerous organizations across all sectors of nonprofit work.

Budget, budget, and budget:

Have you finally seen the light and decided to begin screening your volunteers in order to safeguard your nonprofit…but your budget for the year is already running low? If your organization cannot afford to immediately implement background screening procedures, get a head start on next year’s budget and make starting background checks on current and potential volunteers a top priority. If your nonprofit is strapped for cash, also consider asking the volunteers to pay for their own background checks. They love the work they do for your organization and would more than likely be open to the idea of contributing to their own screening.


Let’s leap frog off that last point – some Volunteer Managers think that background screening is too expensive when they review their often small budgets, and for a procedure that may be perceived as solely bureaucratic in nature. But in fact, routine background checks save your organization money. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, every $1 invested in background screening results in a return on investment of $5 to $16. Background screening decreases your nonprofit’s liability, protects its reputation, increases volunteer retention, and protects you from fraud. Oh, and Sterling Volunteers works with its clients to make screening volunteers affordable.

“We are seeing more and more organizations realizing that screening volunteers – regardless of whether they work with vulnerable populations or in a back office – is no longer a nice to have. It’s paramount if you want to rest assured that your people and your organization stay safe. Once you know you can trust the folks volunteering for you, you can spend the bulk of your time and energy focusing on what matters most – achieving your mission.”

– Katie Zwetzig, Sterling Volunteers

Did you overcome reservations towards beginning background screening procedures for your nonprofit? Share with us on Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, and share your comments below.