Verified Volunteers: A Background Check Option

Good volunteers can be hard to find, but once you’ve finally found someone who seems like the right fit for your nonprofit or organization, how do you make sure they are the type of person you want working with your organization—particularly with children? Background checks are vital in the process of ensuring that your entire team of volunteers is safe to serve … but, unfortunately, some background check efforts can under-perform. Some may simply skim information off the top of what is actually a very involved process, and thus miss infractions which would make any volunteer in question a no-go. Other providers may cost more than what a small organization can afford. Others still may take more time and manpower than you have to offer.

Fortunately, there are some easy-to-use options out there. In this post, we focus on Verified Volunteers, an online service with a mission to help nonprofits and volunteer programs. One initial benefit it offers is that they save time for your organization by allowing the volunteer to log in and initiate the background check themselves. Besides being a good initial test for the interest level of any volunteer, this also gives you the option to have the volunteer pay for all, some, or none of the cost of the background check (based on preferences set up by you, the organization, and choices you want to give the volunteer).

Why is a thorough, completely up-to-date background check important? First, you don’t want anyone to be harmed—let alone by a helping organization. And scandals are exhausting, expensive, and can ultimately damage the reputation of any organization beyond repair, so it is also in the organization’s best interest to make sure that each volunteer is as professional and appropriate as he or she appears. Unfortunately, not all background-checking services hit the mark … for example, do your background checks come back instantaneously, or in a matter of minutes? Do they cost only a few dollars? Do they meet the following factors:

  • Running against the only database of sex offenders that’s updated in real time (the Dru Sjodin)
  • Getting information from primary sources in addition to databases, and reporting it based on the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).
  • Checking with city and/or state courthouses where the volunteer lives, works, and spends time

If not, then they may not be complete enough to help you. In a cautionary tale, as Verified Volunteers relates, “a city volunteer program in the western United States identified a volunteer applicant with a long history of arrests and convictions, including possession of a controlled substance, harassment, and driving with a revoked license. This individual might have gotten through the screening process had the city been using a screening vendor that simply ran a search through a Nationwide or ‘Multi-State’ stale database — sources that miss many criminal records in jurisdictions that either do not report at all or do not report in a timely manner.”1 Fortunately, Verified Volunteers is a service that does check in at local jurisdictions based on the work and residence history of the potential volunteer, and screens arrest records as well as convictions. To keep all information as up-to-date as possible, it also automatically updates all information every month for the first year.

Finally, ease of use can come as a bit of a relief to overworked volunteers and organizations alike. Having an intuitive and easy-to-use online format can save time and sweat, and volunteers can additionally use their completed background checks to send to any number of other organizations, which is a huge added benefit for them. For ministries, nonprofits, and volunteer organizations who are already using volunteers to help lighten the load … resources like Verified Volunteers can help make that load even a little lighter.


1 Verified Volunteers, Volunteer Criminal History | Fact Sheet, PDF, 2017.

Because of the generality of the information on this site, it may not apply to a given place, time, or set of facts. It is not intended to be legal advice, and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations