Top 5 Reasons Why Nonprofits Should Conduct Background Verification

March 2017

As an executive with a nonprofit organization, you likely have mastered the pursuit of your mission on a tight budget. Nonprofits vary widely in their goals, strategies and sources of funding, but they share one common denominator: a mandate for spending transparency and accountability.

Although you may rely on volunteers to meet some portion of your labor needs, background verification screenings play a critical role in the ongoing success of your organization. Here are the five top reasons that nonprofit background checks should get a permanent line item in your planned disbursement.

1. Criminal Histories Aren’t Always Enough

For some nonprofits, a criminal background check constitutes the extent of screening for any new team member. However, criminal histories are just one tool nonprofits can use to prevent bad hires.

Within your organization, different positions may necessitate the use of different screening devices. By incorporating strategic use of comprehensive screenings along with other tools like position-specific job applications and reference checks, you minimize the risk of bringing on an unsuitable team member.

In addition, using some online search tools for a criminal history  can put your organization at risk for claims of discrimination or privacy breaches. By having a team member who has not received thorough training conduct such a search, you take a chance of discovering information that is ineligible for consideration. When you work with screening professionals, you eliminate this risk.

2. Volunteers Can Cause Harm

Many nonprofits use volunteers to stretch budgets as far as possible in accomplishing important goals. Unfortunately, not all volunteers are subject to nonprofit background checks, which can put an organization at serious risk.

Although you may want to create a welcoming environment that promotes volunteerism in your organization, it’s important to understand the havoc that can be wrought by one individual, even a well-meaning volunteer.

Anyone representing your organization should be subject to a background check as part of the on-boarding process. Failing to properly screen can result in dire consequences, including violent criminal behavior.

3. Nonprofits Need Protection Against Liability

Don’t assume that your organization is protected against liability claims simply because it has nonprofit status. If one of your employees or volunteers commits a crime or exhibits other bad behavior — even off the job — you may be sued for damages.

By failing to properly screen, you may have liability for negligent hiring. Courts have ruled repeatedly that employers must use reasonable care in bringing on team members who may constitute a threat to members of the public.

When you work with a qualified provider of nonprofit background checks, you take an important step in understanding the potential risks of working with an individual prospective volunteer or employee. You also create evidence that you have exercised reasonable care in your hiring and volunteer operations.

4. Regulations and Tools Constantly Change

Tools and best practices in background verification screenings continually evolve, providing your organization with access to ever-changing information and opportunities. For example, over the past decade, costs for thorough screenings have decreased as speed and level of detail have improved.

When you work with a private background screening firm, you can choose among options that best fit the needs of your organization, including employment verification and customization of screening criteria.

In addition, laws that affect background screenings constantly change at the local, state and federal level, which can create headaches for nonprofit managers. The so-called “ban the box” legislation — the nationwide movement to avoid initial questions to applicants about criminal history — serves as one recent example.

Social media also has created a rapidly changing landscape for background screenings, exposing nonprofits to legal problems if team members view protected information. By working with an experienced screening firm, you ensure that your organization complies with all laws and regulations.

5. Screenings Help Nonprofits Succeed

As in for-profit companies, the bottom line rules by necessity for nonprofits. Nonprofit background checks can help bolster the success of your organization in a variety of ways, including lower costs created by employees who stay longer — reducing the need for repeated screenings and training. 

Background screens also help you minimize losses due to fraud, theft and potential violence, along with the litigation that often accompanies such negative events. In addition, your organization may benefit from lower insurance costs as you take advantage of discounts for certain types of screenings.

Global Verification Network assists nonprofits with a comprehensive range of screening services, including verification of employment and education credentials along with criminal history. To find out more about our services for nonprofits, please  contact Global Verification Network.




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