volunteer background checks

5 Things to Avoid With Volunteer Background Checks

volunteer background checks Most days I feel like Bill Murray’s character in the movie Groundhog Day (if you just said who, here is a link Groundhog Day).  I feel like I am saying or emailing the same thing over and over again.  Especially when it is answering questions about volunteer background checks.

“How much does a volunteer background check cost?” is almost always how the conversation begins.  I take a deep breath and start the education process, hoping I have an eager student.  If the second question is still price, then I realize they are only after the cheapest product and safety and security is not their top concern.

I swallow hard but tell them our focus is on quality.  We are not going to lower our standards just to compete on a price that is just a few dollars cheaper.  Doing background screening correctly requires us to draw a line in the sand and allowing a few clients to walk away.  I will not place a child at risk to make a few bucks.

A couple times a month the conversation starts with a question about how far back our searches go.  Now I know I have an attentive student.  They have obviously been burned by a cheap background check.  This is always an eager student.

So I thought I would recap one of my daily conversations and give you the 5 things to avoid with volunteer background checks:

  1. Assuming volunteer background checks expose our organization to less risk.  A volunteer who only enters our organization periodically creates as much risk to our staff, children, and populations we serve as does an employee.  We know from years of research that a sex offender will take unbelievable risk to satisfy their sick desires.  Recent case law has displayed a growing trend of holding organizations accountable under Predatory in the Primary or Negligent Hiring Doctrine when a volunteer harms a child.  Yes, negligent hiring in a volunteer case.  Southport, Indiana Little League was successfully sued (Southport Little League V. Vaughan) under negligent hiring for allowing a convicted sex offender to coach and he molested 2 young boys.
  2. Cost should not be the most important factor.  I cannot say this enough (even though it feels like I do).  Cheap or free background checks are NEVER a safe option.  First, there is no such thing as free.     Sex offender registries are tools.  Just yesterday we found a convicted sex offender who was not on the registry.  Secondly, there is no such thing as a quality $10 background check.
  3. A “national criminal database” search is all we need.  Never!  These databases are tools.  Nothing more.  They work well within a larger screening package of checks and balances.   But this search cannot stand alone.
  4. Background screening industry giants will be our best partner.  Not necessarily.  Many of the big dogs in the background screening industry adhere to the same low quality volunteer background checks standards of peddling a database search or only requiring a county criminal search in states with limited data in the database.  Changing the way a large organization does business is like making a u-turn in an ocean liner.  These low quality screening standards are deeply entrenched.
  5. Not asking enough questions of your potential background screening partner.  We should conduct due diligence on potential background screening partners to determine if their quality standards, technology, security, and customer service are acceptable.

Truthfully, most volunteer organizations are at a disadvantage when selecting a background screening partner and screening program because:

  • The screening industry understands volunteer organizations are often cash-strapped.  Many firms prey upon this by offering cheap products even though they know they are not suitable for protecting organizations; and
  • Volunteer organizations have no idea what questions they should be asking potential screening partners.  Why would you?

Let me help you out.  Download our whitepaper 10 Things to Know Before Hiring a Background Screening Firm and you will be well on your way to understanding the background screening industry.  You will also be armed with 10 questions that all quality screening firms will be able to answer.

Who Should Be Exempted From Background Checks for Volunteers?

background checks for volunteersAbsolutely nobody. Not a single person should be exempt from your background checks for volunteers.

“But, the volunteer is a police officer” or insert many other professionals and this is statement I hear frequently.  Sometimes it is a statement made weakly, that more closely resembles a question.  They are looking for validation for their weakly held position.  I still have time to educate.

However, all too often it is a bold statement.  A confirmation that they have adopted this policy and that is the end of the discussion.

Let me state confidently that there is no profession immune from criminals.  Yesterday, the Huffington Post ran an article:  Joshua Carrier, Former Colo. Springs Cop, Faces 189 Counts of Felony Child Sex Assault

Did you catch that number?  189 counts.  More than 22 young victims.  And the list will grow as the investigation continues.

Did you look at his photo?  Scary?  No way.  Very normal looking.  Don’t fool yourself and think you can screen these predators out with a look or intuition.

Did I mention he was a School Resource Officer, wrestling coach, coach for the Police Athletic League and Youth Advisor with the Explorer’s Scout Program.

People who harm children seek access to children.

Positions of power and authority are extremely attractive to people who are interested in abusing.  I know this first hand as a former detective.  I have investigated and arrested way too many police officers.

Research has shown that the 3 most attractive professions to an abuser are:

  1. Law Enforcement
  2. Military
  3. Clergy

Let me digress for a second and say I love police officers.  Literally.  My wife was an officer for 20 years.  My dad was an Indiana State Police Officer for 35 years.  My grandfather was a police officer.  My younger brother is a police officer.  One of my cousin’s is a police officer.  If history holds true, one of my kids will become a police officer.

However, when someone feels they are above the process this should be a red flag.  It could be a sense of entitlement or worse, it could be they have something to hide.

When we allow someone to bypass our policies we:

  • Expose our organization to risk of harm;
  • Expose our organization to potential legal claims of unfair treatment

So we should not allow a police officer, judge, doctor, lawyer or anybody else to bypass our background checks for volunteers policy.  Our response:  we treat everybody the same and cannot make exceptions to the policy.  Public safety professionals should respect this.

One of my good buddies called recently and said he just went through our background check process so he could consult with a school district.  Oh, I forgot to mention he is a retired FBI agent and former member of the FBI’s elite worldwide hostage negotiations team?

He had no problem with the background check.  Although he was a little miffed I was going to make a buck off of him.


3 Advantages of Paperless Volunteer Background Checks

volunteer background checks Do you like data entry?  Have any remorse for killing all the trees?

No, this is not an environmental responsibility article.  This is about making your volunteer background checks process cheaper, more secure and faster.

How much of a burden on your staff is it to collect hundreds or thousands of volunteer authorization forms?  How would you like to save the trees and have the volunteers (or employees) process themselves?

The technology is here and has been for more than 2 years.  So check out the 3 advantages of paperless volunteer background checks:

  1. Saves Money.  If your organization processes hundreds or thousands of volunteer background checks, how much time is invested in collecting the forms, inputting the data into an online system and securing the sensitive authorization forms?  A lot .  And you may not even realize how much labor you spend on the “paper-based” process.
  2. Security.  Have you ever had a potential volunteer question your data security procedure?  I speak with hundreds of potential volunteers a year who are concerned with identity theft and are resistant to putting their name, DOB and SSN on a piece of paper.  They may also have security questions about our online system.  After explaining in layman terms how our online system is SSAE 16 Certified and PCI compliant, most fears are erased.  What I cannot assure them is the security of the authorization form.  How it is handled by the organization.  How it is filed or secured.  Who has access to the data?  The majority of identity theft is not from data breaches but from inside an organization.
  3. Speed.  What volunteer organization is not seeking qualified applicants?  Do we want to further burden potential volunteers by requiring them to drive to our office during normal business hours, drop off an authorization form and wait for it to be processed?  Why?  We should have already interviewed them and at this point in the process all you need is a suitable background check.  Allow the volunteer to complete the online application from home, from work or even their mobile device whenever it is convenient.  Since this can be done 24 hours a day, 7 days a week your applicants do not need to wait until tomorrow, they can do it at 11PM or 4AM.

So let’s reduce your risk, save you some money (and a few trees) and speed your process.  Any complaints from that?

Contact Safe Hiring Solutions today and get an ATS link for your volunteer background checks.

Why would you not want to go paperless?  Hate trees?