Tips on Leveraging Key Alliances and Mitigating Risk for Volunteer Programs Amid a Pandemic

Posted Thursday, October 15th, 2020 by Kimberly Chochon, Vice President of Partnerships

Coach teaching kids soccer

Let’s acknowledge that creating a safe environment for your volunteers and members is important – whether in the middle of a pandemic or not. For nonprofit and service organizations, factoring in risk mitigation and compliance can help to better manage volunteer program implementation – particularly amid the challenges of COVID-19.

While adverse impacts reverberate throughout mission driven entities, it has us thinking about how we can keep the service sector and volunteerism intact during the coronavirus. There is one thing we know for sure and that is protecting your most valuable assets – your people – is the most vital part of risk management. Navigating the current landscape has been a key driver for many organizations, especially youth-sports focused, to reassess areas of risk within their operations and make sure their assets, reputation, and people are safeguarded.

PlayerSpace and Sterling Volunteers form strategic partnership

Leveraging key alliances can be instrumental to helping face extraordinary challenges. That’s why we are extremely proud of Sterling Volunteers’ new strategic partnership with PlayerSpace, which focuses on mitigating risk for youth sports program management across the US. The partnership comes at a crucial time – with PlayerSpace at the forefront of sports program management technology for youth program facilities and similar organizations across the country, and a division of Daxko, a leader in membership management platforms powering more than 10,000 health and wellness facilities worldwide – when organizations will be empowered to enable a compliant and safe environment for their volunteers and members.

Read on for three important tips on how you can mitigate significant risk to your organization:

Tip 1 – Build trust through volunteer screening

When properly screening volunteers is missed, you run the risk of endangering other participants in your organization. Safety is on the line and without a quality screening program and correct documentation in place, your assets, reputation, and people are all at risk.

We see unfortunate events happening across the nation and occurring more frequently in our local communities. In fact, according to a Department of Justice (DOJ) survey1, one-third of U.S. adults has an arrest or conviction record. Sterling Volunteers’ annual research report, 2020 Industry Insights: How Volunteer & Organization Perspectives Align, also indicates that 42% of organizations are not screening all volunteers and only 14% believe short-term volunteers should be screened. The data shows many organizations are open to tremendous risk, and while we’d like to think those dedicated to serving others have a squeaky-clean image – you’ll want to take a closer look. Sometimes even the most trusted people end up being the ones who commit crimes.

Volunteer screening is a critical first step to help minimize risk to your organization. Conducting compliance-focused background checks can help identify individual potential volunteers with a previous criminal record.

Tip 2 – Assess and minimize risks to your organization

The liability that accompanies a single infraction can be difficult to tackle. Additionally, the cost to your organization when onboarding a bad volunteer is not only from a monetary and reputation standpoint, but it hinders an organization and its volunteers from thriving while serving to fulfill a mission.

Honesty is one of the most important qualities to look for in new volunteers. Sterling Volunteers’ Counting the Cost of a Bad Volunteer whitepaper validates this notion as shown in the following excerpt, “They’re often seen as the face of your organization, and while many volunteers have this quality, the reality is that some don’t. This makes it crucial to properly screen all the volunteers because if you don’t, it might cost your organization irreparable damage that can threaten donation dollars and repel future volunteers.”

Here’s what you can do to help mitigate risk for your organization:

  • Prioritize trust and safety throughout your organization

    With the necessary transition to remote working during COVID-19, safety should remain a priority for nonprofits and their volunteer members. Whether onsite or remote, you’ll want to ensure your volunteers are included in your harassment and discrimination policies. Also, as more in-person services resume, consider coordinating COVID-19 Health Testing for staff and volunteers.
  • Be aware of applicable laws within your jurisdiction

    Familiarize yourself with volunteer protection laws. Plus, take some time to understand the limitations of specific national and state background data sources, and screening regulations under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).
  • Know that rules and regulations are constantly changing

    Utilize a trusted screening provider to allow your organization to efficiently monitor and track volunteer screening with attention to compliance amid ever-changing regulations.
  • Ensure your insurance covers both staff and volunteers

    Cutting corners on volunteer screening won’t necessarily save your budget and could end up costing you more in the long run. Quality screening can help save money in terms of insurance premiums, fraud, theft, and more — which makes a difference to your bottom line. By vetting staff and volunteers with quality background checks, the correct certifications, and applicable documentation, you will reinforce a secure environment.
  • Consider a collaborative technology solution

    Take advantage of key alliances that can help with saving time and money. In particular, the Sterling Volunteers and PlayerSpace integration allows nonprofits to implement an effective volunteer risk management solution.

Tip 3 – Leverage key alliances to create safe environments

Coach high five

A main goal should be to find a complete and integrated solution that focuses on helping nonprofit organizations maintain safer environments. The Sterling Volunteers and PlayerSpace integration allows for multiple security measures to be in place during the onboarding process, and thereafter while volunteers continue to serve. You can leverage the quality  background checks of Sterling Volunteers, fully integrated with the robust PlayerSpace RiskMGT application.

This aids in boosting confidence in the thoroughness of the process and keeps everyone in your organization connected to practicing safety. We have found the youth sports sector to yield some of the highest numbers of criminal records when running background checks on coaches. It is also common for volunteer coaches to have missing or expired certifications or documents necessary to complete the onboarding process, and it is the obligation of the organization to follow safety guidelines so that a questionable volunteer is not hired.

During the onboarding process, once the volunteer has completed a background check, PlayerSpace adds another layer of security within their RiskMGT application that enables an organization to collect additional required documentation, monitor, and report on both volunteers and staff. Through the creation of standard workflows, all volunteers and staff are fully vetted before assignment, reinforcing safety and compliance for all who participate within an organization.

Monitoring volunteers from when they are first vetted, and throughout their service with an organization, helps maintain a higher level of safety. Along with PlayerSpace RiskMGT, Sterling Volunteers runs free monthly updates with validation on the Nationwide Criminal History search, and the database Sex Offender search – validated on the DOJ National Sex Offender Public Website search for a full year, giving nonprofits peace of mind. Together, we are helping prevent those volunteers with bad intent from serving.

Let us know how we can help. Our solutions can enhance your screening program, so you create a safe volunteer and work environment with quality compliance-focused services that help mitigate risk. The PlayerSpace and Sterling Volunteers partnership demonstrates a shared commitment to youth serving organizations that will empower more organizations to streamline their membership and volunteer management processes while providing a safe environment for future generations.

About PlayerSpace

Founded in 2006, PlayerSpace began with one simple mission: to use technology to help people play sports more often, in more places, and with more enjoyment. Since that time, the company has expanded its sports program management solutions to include volunteer management, camp management, program marketing, and more to a growing number of member-based nonprofits.

About Daxko

Daxko delivers comprehensive technology and payment solutions and experienced services to the member-based health and wellness market. Most recently, the company expanded its portfolio to offer digital marketing services and full-service billing to health clubs, boutique fitness studios, campus recreation facilities, integrated wellness centers, YMCAs, and JCCs. Since 1998, Daxko has grown to serve customers spanning 58 countries, 10,000 facilities, and over 20 million members.

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Source: 1 Department of Justice survey; Wall Street Journal-How Many Americans have a Police Record; Brennan Center for Justice; Sentencing Project: Americans with Criminal Records

The information contained herein is for informational purposes only. Sterling is not a law firm, and none of the information contained in this notice is intended as legal advice. Clients are encouraged to consult with their legal counsel about the impacts of any requirements. This, and other important information can be found on the Sterling website at