What is a background check?
A background check is a screening procedure, often requested by employers or organizations that work with volunteers. The organization carrying out the background check will typically search public and private records for a candidate’s criminal history, as well as verify the identity and personal character of the applicant. Church volunteer background checks are especially important for those seeking positions of trust; for instance, those working with youth groups. In the U.S., employers and organizations must be granted consent from applicants to perform the criminal background check.
Are background checks required for church volunteers?
It is the legal responsibility of youth-serving charities or organizations to protect children against harm or misconduct. Therefore, it’s imperative that the church performs criminal background checks on employees and volunteers.
Why should my church volunteer program perform background checks?
Do you work with church nursery volunteers? Do you provide meals to under served children and adults in your community? Whether your volunteer activities are carried out in church or elsewhere, it’s essential to create a safe environment for children, community and church members, and other volunteers. Here are a few more reasons to perform criminal background checks on volunteers:
- Offer peace of mind to parents and community members.
- Safeguard your ministry against liability.
- Take a proactive approach to safety and avoid negligence.
- Establish clear expectations for your volunteer program.
What are the best volunteer background check services?
There are many background check services out there, provided by both government-run organizations and private companies. We recommend Verified Volunteers, a background screening service catered towards volunteer managers, nonprofits, and service organizations.
Once volunteers are screened and vetted using Verified Volunteers, they are ready to connect with multiple service organizations. Did you know that Galaxy Digital’s volunteer management software can help you manage the background check process? Verified Volunteers is built into the Connect platform, so information is stored and readily accessible for volunteer managers.
What are the most important church volunteer background check requirements?
Your volunteer background check should cover at least the following items:
- Social Security Number Verification
- National Criminal Search
- Sex Offender Registries Search
If your volunteers are regularly working with children, you may require additional screening, like a church volunteer reference letter. A reference will give you the peace of mind that you’re recruiting the right volunteer for the job. Here are some additional background check requirements to consider:
- Write screening policy: Have a written screening policy in place. The screening policy should include your purpose for performing the background check, your disqualification criteria, and other compliance information. Check out this Verified Volunteers sample screening policy.
- Draft a background check consent form: Volunteers must sign a consent form before you begin the background check process. Your goal with receiving written consent is to (1) inform candidates of your investigation into their backgrounds and (2) protect your church against invasion-of-privacy claims.
- Create volunteer job descriptions: Provide a written job description for each volunteer role to establish boundaries and duties. Volunteers should confirm that they understand their role within your program.
- Include an application form: At a minimum, obtain the candidate’s full name, address, phone number, and email address. For positions that require an additional level of security, like your church nursery volunteers, you may request references. A volunteer management system can help you obtain and securely store this information online, so that you can easily track and reference it when necessary.
- Coordinate volunteer training: For more involved volunteer roles, like child care or elderly home care, your volunteers will require adequate training in areas like safety, sensitivity, and appropriate behaviors. Volunteers working with children should also receive Child Safety Training. For volunteer activities you consider “less risky,” like serving at a soup kitchen or reviving the church garden, for example, training should be brief and specific, and can be included as part of their volunteer orientation. Be sure that all volunteers understand your church’s norms, values, and rules.
- Provide volunteer oversight: Dedicate your attention to volunteer activities and provide feedback where necessary.
How should I manage my volunteer background check process?
Implement a standard procedure so that all volunteer candidates receive the appropriate level of vetting. The background check should be the first step before on-boarding new volunteers. Once you establish a candidate’s interest, you should request background check consent. Note that some volunteer management systems allow you to hide volunteer opportunity details until the background check is confirmed. This is a useful feature for ensuring additional security.
Your volunteer safety process may look something like this:
- Volunteers find an opportunity. A background check is required to view further details about the opportunity.
- Provide volunteers with:
a. Your church screening policy
b. A role-specific job description
c. Background check consent form
d. Additional materials like application forms where necessary.
Note: Volunteers must sign legal documents to confirm understanding.
- Review background checks as quickly as possible. Reach out to volunteers promptly if you need more information. Do not begin the next step until background check is confirmed clear.4
- Begin volunteer training. During your training, make sure you firmly establish rules and regulations for appropriate behavior.
- Let your volunteers volunteer! You’ll have more trust in your volunteers with your safeguarding system in place.
- Perform regular volunteer oversight. Supervise volunteer activities with a member of staff or an established volunteer you trust.
- Listen to your community. While background checks serve as a defense against ill-intentioned individuals, you should always listen to complaints about inappropriate or unsafe behavior, take these allegations seriously, and act immediately. Your primary responsibility is the safety of your community.
- Thank the wonderful volunteers who help make your church a safe, welcoming environment for others!
Your church volunteer program works to make your community a safer, happier place. So it’s important to protect all members participating in your service programs. Your church volunteer background check procedure will help you better select the right volunteers for each role, and safeguard your ministry against harm and negligence.