If you’re part of a nonprofit organization, you know that when it comes to finances, manpower, or even simple office space, nonprofits are stretched pretty thin. So, it can be tempting to skip an important operational step: volunteer screening.

The fact is, you need people, and you need them immediately.  Volunteers are the face of your organization, the people willing to sweat for you, the individuals who serve from the good of their hearts; without them, your organization simply can’t make a substantial impact.

But, volunteer screening, as uncomfortable and time-consuming as it can be, is a step that is too important to skip.

Let’s take a look at some compelling reasons why:

Volunteer Screening Safeguards Your Organization

Trak-1, a background screening company, reports, “95% of all companies are victims of theft, and yet only 10% ever discover it.” If you are onboarding people to your organization – paid or not – it’s common sense to ensure that they have a history of trustworthiness and reliability. Trak-1 also found that “40% of individuals with criminal records committed an offense in a state other than where they were applying to volunteer,” which means that a state-only screening would not have protected the organization; prudently combining a state background check with a federal screening would have likely helped. Your organization strives to operate like a well-oiled machine. Any well-oiled machine needs to trust its personnel and protect its assets. For a nonprofit, that includes thoroughly screening volunteers.

Volunteer Screening Preserves Your Public Image

In most cases, volunteers are a nonprofit’s face in the community. They are the individuals interacting with beneficiaries and putting in the elbow grease. Often times, they even appear on the local or national news. That means that you need to put in your due diligence to make sure your volunteers are well suited for the position they serve. Multiple unfortunate stories have made the news, broadcasting stories of criminal volunteers perpetrating misdeeds upon their beneficiaries; such crimes could have been prevented by extra time screening volunteers before putting them to work. Instead, not only did these organizations have to attempt to heal injured beneficiaries, they also had to deal with a public relations nightmare.

Effective volunteer screening also means that you’ll place volunteers in positions best suited for them. For example, a volunteer with excellent interpersonal skills, a track record of public speaking success, and a squeaky clean background check might be the perfect person to work with your organization’s teens and later speak to the media about it. It’s a win-win-win for all involved!

Volunteer Screening Raises Red Flags – and Gives the Green Light

Effective volunteer screening should include many layers. Among them should be an application, an interview, references, and sex offender and criminal background checks. Within these layers, multiple opportunities exist for “red flags” to appear. Maybe something on the candidate’s resume doesn’t align with something he said in his interview. Or, maybe one of her references sounded lukewarm. Numerous databases are available to conduct criminal background checks at the county, state, and national levels, which, when used in conjunction with each other, are most effective in ringing alarm bells. If you employ a thorough, methodical, and diligent screening process, it will be most likely to identify false claims or disqualifying traits within the candidate’s application process. Furthermore, you’ll be able to examine your volunteers from multiple angles, getting a good sense of their strengths and talents. As a result, you will be able to place them in positions where they can serve your organization most effectively.


Implementing a methodical volunteer screening process can be a dizzying, tricky task. However, many useful web sites exist, which offer guidance for nonprofits wishing to explore this topic in more detail. For more information, consult the sources below. As always, a nonprofit should consult legal counsel before putting a screening program into action.

            Verified Volunteers


            Energize Inc.

Learn more about how MobileServe can help you with your volunteering needs by clicking the link below!

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