While U.S. nonprofits rely heavily on volunteer support, many volunteers are not adequately vetted, two new reports say.
One in three nonprofits do not conduct background checks on their volunteers, and more than one in 10 do no screening at all, says a report by the National Center for Victims of Crime.
And one in 20 applicants for volunteer or staff positions with nonprofits have prior criminal convictions, including convictions for sex-related crimes, drug offenses and
murder, a report by ChoicePoint says.
Among groups that do screen their volunteers, one in four do not conduct background checks, the report by the Center for Victims of Crime says, and a similar number do not call the references listed by candidates.
Of those groups that check candidates’ backgrounds, two in three do not consult fingerprint databases, which the Center for Victims of Crime says are the most reliable source for checking criminal histories.
“For nonprofits that serve vulnerable people, failure to screen volunteers may prove far more costly than background checks,” Mary Lou Leary, executive director of the
center, says in a statement.
To improve their accountability, nonprofits should thoroughly and regularly screen volunteers by having face-to-face interviews and conducting background and
reference checks, as well as fingerprint checks if possible.
Groups also should consult state databases, such as child and adult protective-services systems, in areas where candidates have lived.
It also is important to have to decide what types of histories will disqualify potential candidates, the center says.