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Conducting Volunteer Background Checks & Screenings

Knowing when it's necessary and how to implement volunteer background checks

Free liability waiver templates

While the law doesn't always require volunteer background checks, many organizations implement volunteer screening into their recruitment process. Running these checks can protect your community, improve volunteer experience, uphold your organization's reputation, and mitigate risks.

An organization policy for volunteer background screening helps create a safe and engaged work environment while boosting trust and authenticity. Knowing when and how to conduct these checks can help you maximize volunteer output and ensure compliance.

Let's take a closer look at arranging background checks for volunteers quickly and efficiently.

How to Conduct a Volunteer Background Check

A nonprofit organization has several volunteer screening options. You can create a multifaceted system that allows you to ensure the safety of your organization, the people you work with, and the volunteers themselves.

Your volunteer screening system can consist of several elements.


When choosing and interviewing volunteers, volunteer leaders should be transparent about the background check requirement. Be prepared that volunteers may ask you why you have to run the background check. The simplest answer is, "we want to protect our clients."

Being straightforward about your plans for background checks can simplify volunteer selection and minimize the number of candidates who may not pass the screening.

Screening Depth

Do you need a state background check or a national background check? More often, nonprofits require lighter requirements for volunteer background checks than most employee screenings.

Note that state background checks don’t include federal courthouse records and may not include driving records.

While it's up to you to decide how extensive the check will be, opting for surface screenings could lead to unfortunate oversights, especially when working with vulnerable populations. 

FREE DOWNLOAD: Make sure your organization is protected with our volunteer liability waiver templates

Volunteer Screening Solutions

To run a background check, you will need to find a volunteer screening service provider. 

Background check prices can vary from company to company and depend on the type of check you want to arrange.

A robust volunteer management system may integrate with volunteer screening solutions. Your HR team can use the system to seamlessly collect and monitor local and national background checks. The information about these screenings is stored in the volunteer's secure web-based profile, so volunteer programs and their volunteers can review their background checks at any time.

It's not uncommon for nonprofit organizations to ask volunteers to pay for their own background checks. However, this could be a motivation-buster for people who are willing to provide services for free. That's why it may be reasonable to opt for affordable background check solutions.

What Do Background Checks for Volunteers Include?

The common background check for volunteers includes:

  • Criminal background check – Check for felony convictions, misdemeanor convictions, pending criminal cases, and arrests that resulted in a conviction. Using a volunteer's social security number, you can check criminal databases on state or national levels.
  • Sex offender database– If volunteering includes working with children, you can check National Sex Offender Public Website Registry.
  • Driving record check – If driving or operating a vehicle is one of the key volunteer responsibilities, you may want to run a motor vehicle records check. It can provide information about accidents that a volunteer was responsible for.
  • Drug tests – Drug screening can be one of the top volunteer background check requirements for people who plan to work with children or whose activities put them in a position of trust (like church volunteers who work with youth).
  • Credit check – a credit check can give you an idea of the volunteer's responsibility and financial situation. This could be an important factor for volunteers who may be handling money, like your free tax prep volunteers. 

Other parts of volunteer background screening can include ID verification, employment verification, education verification, and civil conviction checks.

Download these free Volunteer Liability Waiver templates! 

Are Volunteer Screenings a Requirement?

While state and federal laws don't require background checks, some states may require volunteers to undergo screenings if they execute specific duties. In most cases, volunteers that work in educational facilities or hospice care need to pass background screenings.

Federal laws that regulate background checks for volunteers include:


Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) regulates hiring practices for employers in the United States. This act requires employers in all types of organizations including non-profits to obtain authorization from volunteers before running a background check.

The law also describes protocols that instruct employers how to act when they decide not to work with an applicant due to the information discovered through the background check.

In 2011, the Federal Trade Commission indicated that FCRA should apply to volunteers in nonprofits the same way as it does to employees.

Volunteers for Children Act of 1998 (VCA)

VCA allows volunteer organizations to request a nationwide background check when deciding whether to accept a volunteer. However, you still need to request these files through a state agency.

The act also reduces fees for these screenings so they don't prevent volunteers from participating in childcare programs.

Your state may have additional requirements for volunteer background screening. The HR team needs to do the research to avoid compliance issues.

How to Integrate Volunteer Background Checks

To integrate volunteer background checks for your nonprofit, you need to:

  • Identify the depth of the background check you need.
  • Be transparent about upcoming screenings during volunteer recruitment
  • Choose a volunteer background check solution.
  • Design a background check policy.

A background check policy or volunteer screening policy is your guide for volunteer background checks.

Volunteer Screening Policy

This type of policy should include:

  • Purpose of volunteer screening in your organization
  • Scope of volunteer screening (do all volunteers need to undergo a background check?)
  • Guidelines for getting volunteer consent for screenings
  • List of checks that should be conducted
  • Criteria for disqualification in case one or more checks uncovers something.

In this policy, you can specify which types of volunteers undergo specific types of checks. They can vary from group to group, depending on their responsibilities. Consider including this information in your Volunteer Code of Ethics.


Don't forget your Volunteer Liability Waiver Templates!

Implementing Efficient Background Checks

Volunteer background checks are an important part of a community organization's work. Making sure your volunteers are reliable and trustworthy is essential to the success of your operations. 

Arranging a volunteer screening doesn't have to be complicated. One of the ways to do it is to choose a comprehensive volunteer management system. Get Connected volunteer management software doesn't just help you streamline volunteer management, improve communication, simplify reporting, and raise awareness. It also integrates with background check service providers. 

To learn more about Get Connected, please request a free demo at any convenient time.

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