Case Study: REACH

Case Study: REACH

Key Highlight

To increase the number of volunteer applicants REACH utilized a very unique feature of the Sterling Volunteers platform which allows volunteers to share their background checks with other organizations both within and outside of the Sterling Volunteers community. Many volunteers give time to more than one organization each year, and with unlimited sharing they don’t have to undergo repeat screenings or pay more than once for their check. It’s a win-win for both the volunteer and REACH.

Organization Background

REACH (Reading Enriches All Children) is a 501(c)(3) volunteer organization that supports the literacy needs of homeless and at-risk children living in shelters throughout the South Hampton Roads community in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Through its Shelter Read-Aloud and Growing Readers programs, REACH distributed 17,172 books free of charge to children in 2015 alone.


REACH does big things on a very, very small budget (just under $129,000 in 2015). The organization has only two full-time employees and a small office that’s overflowing with new and donated books. With limited resources,Leslie Clarridge, REACH’s Volunteer & Program Coordinator, is responsible for recruiting and managing over 200 local read-aloud volunteers. The volunteer application and onboarding process had been a time-consuming, manual, and paper-based system for many years.

For volunteer background checks, REACH had been sending volunteer information to the Virginia Department of Social Services—a formality that took nearly nine weeks on average to complete. This was a huge detriment to their program as volunteers either lost interest or went elsewhere in the meantime. “By the time their background check from the Commonwealth came back, their excitement to volunteer dwindled significantly,” said Ms. Clarridge. “They’ve waited an entire school semester trying to get a background check done.”


In 2014, after reviewing Sterling Volunteers’ services, REACH proposed changing its volunteer background check process to its Board of Directors. The Board, which includes several local attorneys, reviewed the proposal carefully and found that the Sterling Volunteers Advanced Level background check was “leaps and bounds better” than what the organization had been employing and very attractive with its affordable price point and online process. Since making the change, Ms. Clarridge has processed well over 200 volunteer background checks via the easy online Sterling Volunteers platform.


According to Ms. Clarridge, the switch to Sterling Volunteers has been a personal “life saver” by drastically reducing the amount of time she spends on volunteer background checks, giving her the capacity to focus on other important tasks. It has also reduced the volunteer wait time for a background check from two months down to two days, on average—which has been a huge help in keeping volunteers motivated and getting them onboarded as soon as possible. Best of all, REACH is able to complete a comprehensive Advanced Level background check on each volunteer that covers the entire country as well as the Sex Offender Registry database. Prior to working with Sterling Volunteers, they received limited data from only the Commonwealth which was not always up to date.

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