3 Top Tips for Faith-based Volunteer Background Screening

Posted Thursday, September 14th, 2017 by Sterling Volunteers Staff

The majority of nonprofit organizations around the country background screen at least some of their volunteers, and more and more nonprofits are starting to screen every day. One of the sectors we are seeing realize most rapidly the need to screen volunteers? Faith-based organizations. That’s right – the faith-based community’s utilization of background checks as a way of providing peace of mind to their organization and the community they serve has been steadily growing the past few years.

Faith-based organizations tend to serve – and recruit volunteers from – close-knit groups where trust and word of mouth can sometimes be relied upon as a voucher for a volunteer candidate’s dependability and character. Knowing a volunteer candidate personally or having a current volunteer that recommends someone they know to your organization is a fantastic way to recruit, but it shouldn’t replace a thorough background check.

As the faith-based community continues to embrace the security that comes with screening volunteer candidates, they’ve also brought questions about how the process functions, what databases are searched, and a myriad of other topics on this important issue. If your faith-based organization has recently begun to screen volunteers – that’s fantastic! We would like to share 3 important tips that will help you make sure you’re getting everything out of your volunteer screening.

  1. The Department of Justice Sex Registry is SO Important – Faith-based groups do a lot of amazing work with children and they want to keep them protected, which is why the number 1 concern for these organizations is predators. It’s important to know the difference between using a stale public database and the Department of Justice Sex Offender Registry when screening for sex offenders. Stale databases can yield false results because sometimes they haven’t been updated for 90 days – and a lot can happen in that time. So make sure your background screening package includes a Department of Justice Sex Offender Registry search.
  1. Address History Search is Essential – Faith-based volunteers and staff tend to move around a lot due to the nature of the sector, which makes an address history search standard best practice when screening a candidate. With an address search the Social Security Number is run against names and address histories. This search should not only rely on databases but also comb through county courthouses as an extra layer of security. That way patterns or inconsistencies in a candidate’s past can be brought to light and your organization can make better, more informed decisions.
  1. Reference Checks are Your Friend – Our partners have reported back to us that they often discover a great deal of information about a volunteer candidate from running a reference check aside from the formal criminal background check. A background check tells a great deal about someone, but it cannot communicate a person’s character or how well they function under stress. As we discussed earlier, the faith-based community tends to be a very close-knit group and they also tend to travel between organization branches, so references are a vital opportunity to verify that they are who they say they are.

Volunteer Managers in faith-based communities – how do you feel about our tips? We’d love to hear from you. Connect with us on TwitterFacebook and LinkedIn to share!

Would you like to speak to a volunteer background screening advisor regarding your own screening program? Contact us at info@verifiedvolunteers.com.