Volunteer organizations exist for helping others. With that mindset, whether a community based organization, a religious organization or a nationally recognized non-profit, the common belief used to be that there was no need to background check people who were so willing to contribute their time and energies. After many unfortunate incidences in several non-profit and other volunteer based organizations involving volunteers over the years, it is understood that even the most “well meaning” individuals should be background checked.
Churches, for example, are an attraction for sex offenders. Churches are very trusting. There is no better place for a sex offender to get involved with children and young people than a church. Consider that when a family with an infant visits a church for the first time, they put their child in the hands of a stranger. Would you walk into Wal-Mart and hand your child off to the greeter while you shopped? There is no other environment where people can obtain access to so many children so quickly and often times, people don’t seem to be concerned. Churches also need volunteers to help with Sunday School, youth group, Vacation Bible School, etc. Many offenders have grown up in a faith community, and will use this as an advantage to gain access to children. The mindset of “well, if they are a Christian, then they must be fine” has finally started to go by the wayside. Faith communities have raised their antennas and have begun conducting background checks regularly on volunteers, new and old. The background screenings typically contain a sex offender search, as well as other searches which provide information about past criminal history. Former President Ronald Reagan said it best…”Trust, but verify.”
For volunteer organizations, their volunteers are the ambassadors and should be worthy of trust and people who come in contact with them should rest assured that due diligence has been conducted. For churches and other community organizations, if a person is not background checked and something occurs that could have been prevented, it puts the safety of the entire community at risk, as well as potentially causing long term damage to the organizations reputation.
Background screening is a key component in protecting any business or organization, no matter how large or how small. Just as there is a great risk for a company to not conduct a thorough background check on a potential employee, there is an even greater risk of reputation and long term damage for an organization that depends on volunteers if a background is not checked. Community based organizations need to realize these risks, and do what they can to protect themselves and the communities they serve.