Volunteer Screening Trends and Best Practices Report 2017: What Does it Say?

Verified Volunteers, an organization that offers background screening services, has published its latest report on volunteer screening trends and best practices: Volunteer Screening Trends & Best Practices Report: 2017. This report gives insights for any organization that uses volunteers, and offers some good tips and suggestions for ensuring your volunteer program is up to par. Overall, the report highlights how the use of volunteers is on the rise, and that nonprofits of all types are shaping their policies and budgets to create effective volunteer management programs. Religious organizations should pay careful attention to these trends.

While we suggest you read the full report, here are some insights on what these trends may mean for your organization.

More Organizations are Using Volunteers.

More and more, organizations are relying on volunteers to accomplish their missions. The number of organizations with more than 50 volunteers rose from 55% in 2015 to 76% in 2016. For religious organizations, the jump was even more significant. Churches and ministries with more than 50 volunteers rose from 33% in 2015 to 66% in 2016. As the report notes, with more and more volunteers joining the ranks, organizations must develop proper screening, training, and tracking of volunteers.

Take away: Volunteer staffing has risen. The more volunteers your ministry is managing, the better and more robust your volunteer screening and training programs need to be. Ensure that the organization’s budget realistically accounts for these increases.

Organizations are Serving More Kids, Elderly People, and Disabled Individuals.

Organizations are serving more vulnerable populations—defined by the survey as children, the elderly, or disabled people. As organizations serve populations uniquely susceptible to abuse, their risk of liability may increase. Unfortunately, an organization’s own people, including unpaid volunteers, can sometimes be perpetrators of abuse against those it serves. One way organizations can help protect against this risk is through robust volunteer screening programs.

Take away: While all organizations should be screening and training volunteers, if your ministry serves kids, the elderly, or disabled individuals, you need a more robust volunteer management program. The more volunteers you have, the less your leaders know people individually and the less they are able to continually monitor their interactions with these groups. Proper screening and training can help better protect your members and those you serve.

Volunteer Screening is on the Rise.

To this end, more organizations plan to do background checks for volunteers in the future. Not only are more organizations requiring volunteers to fill out applications (96% in 2015 as opposed to 86% in 2014), but those applications are receiving more scrutiny. Interestingly, while many organizations report that staffing is replacing screening as their biggest cost, half of religious organization say that screening volunteers is their biggest cost. Costs are always a concern for a nonprofit organization that relies on donations for its budget. The report has some helpful suggestions on how to develop a volunteer oversight program with a realistic budget that can be justified to the Board or other governing body.

Take away: Religious organizations should continue to invest in volunteer screening. As the report notes, some organizations have found success in allowing prospective volunteers to donate to cover some of the costs of their background check. For these organizations, costs were controlled and the volunteers were able to directly contribute to the bottom line in more ways than one.

Formal Volunteer Training Continues to Grow.

Onboarding of volunteers through formal training is on the rise overall. However, religious organization have the lowest percentage of formal training programs, compared to education, health, social & human services, and youth development organizations. While volunteer training programs may seem like a lot of work, they pay off. Correct training of volunteers can help mitigate legal risks to the organization by ensuring that the volunteers know how to do the job correctly—helping keep members safe and avoiding harm to the organization as a whole. In combination with adequate screening, training volunteers properly (particularly when working with vulnerable populations like children) is essential to managing an organization’s risk of legal liability.

Take away: Religious organizations lag behind the rest of the nonprofit sector in implementation of formal volunteer training programs. Churches and ministries must take volunteer training seriously. Improperly trained volunteers can be a liability that can cost the organization in the long-run.

For More Tips and Resources, Check out the Full Report.

Volunteer Screening Trends & Best Practices Report: 2017 is a worthwhile read for any organization that uses volunteers. Not only does the report provide a snapshot of trends for the sector, but it also includes many helpful links and suggestions for mitigating risks inherent in employing volunteers, calculating the return on investment of a volunteer program, and screening volunteers.

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