When we come to this time of year, there are a lot of organizations looking to provide volunteer opportunities to well intended individuals. In a sense, they are “hiring” these volunteers. Many organizations feel that there is no need to run background checks on these people.
What needs to be remembered is that volunteers represent an organization just like employees do. They represent the brand…they represent the ideals. We vet employees because we want to know if there is anything in their past that we should be aware of, or help us in the decision to not move forward with them. Allowing the wrong volunteers to work for your organizations can lead to theft, embezzlement, abuse and other PR nightmares that just aren’t needed.
When you are bringing on volunteers, be formal about your vetting process. Run background checks. These may not be to the extent of what you would do for a formal employee background check, but it still behooves you to run that background check, particularly if the person is working around children or people with disabilities. With these, the most important things to look at are criminal history and sex offender records.
Also, find out about past volunteer activity and what groups they have volunteered with. Since this person will represent your brand, if they have an understanding of what being a volunteer entails, they will more than likely fit into your program. This can also lead to reference checks, another good tool that can be utilized as part of a background check.
Lastly, you should find out what attracted them to the opportunity. Like employment positions, you want to have people that are not only cleared via a background check, but are going to be dedicated to your cause.
Bringing on volunteers might not carry the same type of intense vetting process as hiring an employee, but the process should have the same feel. Having a consistent background check process for any volunteer organization will go a long way to helping you find the types of people you are looking for to represent your organization.