Conducting volunteer background checks is just as important as any other background check process in an organization or for-profit business environment. Screening volunteers before bringing them into your organization is critical to maintaining a safe environment and a positive reputation. However, since volunteers are not employees, there are unique considerations to managing the process. Below are some tips to help your organization get started.

Are Volunteer Background Checks conducted in the same manner as Pre-Employment Background checks?

Yes, volunteer background checks are conducted in the same manner as pre-employment background checks. A 2011 report released by the FTC, provides guidance on how to conduct volunteer background checks. The report indicates that an organization’s lawful purpose to conduct a background check on a volunteer falls under the same scope as that of an employee. Since the report’s release, the FTC’s interpretation has become an industry best practice. Organizations now conduct volunteer checks following the same FCRA procedures required for an employment background check.

This means that similar to a pre-employment background check, the organization must provide the volunteer with:

  1.     An FCRA-compliant authorization form
  2.     An FCRA-compliant disclosure form(s)
  3.     The FCRA Summary of Rights

How are disputes handled for volunteer roles?

If the organization determines that it will not bring a volunteer into its organization due to the results of the background check, the organization should follow the adverse action process. Moreover, the volunteer has the right to dispute any perceived inaccuracies reported on their background check. The background check provider is responsible for assisting the volunteer candidate by reinvestigating the disputed information.

Am I Required to Conduct Background Checks on Volunteers?

Depending on the state laws and industry requirements that apply to your organization, you may be legally required to perform background checks on volunteers. Many states have laws in place that require organizations to conduct background checks on volunteers for activities the state regulates. Laws may also specify that volunteer background checks must incorporate specific searches. For example, the healthcare industry typically requires criminal history and sex offender registry searches on volunteers that will have direct access to minors or vulnerable adults.

If your organization is not a regulated entity, your local organization may still operate under the umbrella of a national organization. In this situation, it is possible that the national organization has a background check policy that local entities are required to follow.

If Not Required, Why Do Organizations Conduct Background Checks on Volunteers?

Absent a legal or industry requirement, organizations still consider volunteer background check policies an important aspect of their onboarding processes. A thorough volunteer background check policy may help protect organizations from a number of potential risks, along with:

  • Ensuring a safer work environment
  • Mitigating potential lawsuits 
  • Ensuring the right applicant is selected for the volunteer position

If an incident involving a volunteer does occur, an organization that put a volunteer background check policy in place may be in a better position to prove that it made an effort to avoid such an incident. Organizations that incorporate volunteer background checks into their onboarding process minimize the uncertainty in who they are bringing into their organization.

For more information on setting up background checks for your volunteer program, contact our sales and account services team here

Disclaimer: This blog is for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice.

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