Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Nonprofit Screening Practices

From the National Survey of Nonprofit Volunteer Screening Practices

There are a number of people engaged in the nonprofit sector including nonprofits' board of directors, executives, staff members and volunteers. Yet, few are thoroughly screened before taking their positions. This significantly increases the risk of corporate fraud, criminal acts of abuse, neglect and exploitation against the populations they serve and other less serious infractions. A recent National Survey of Nonprofit Volunteer Screening Practices conducted by the National Center for Victims of Crimes explores this issue of background screening on volunteers. Through other research and anecdotal information, the information gathered in this survey is also indicative of the background screening practices for both nonprofit employees. The National Survey of Nonprofit Volunteer Screening Practices found that "the vast majority of organizations that participated in the survey indicated that they conduct some form of screening on incoming volunteers, but not all organizations that screen do so thoroughly and 12 percent of organizations reported not screening volunteers at all." The majority of organizations represented in the survey at minimum conduct an interview of volunteers while fewer organizations check references and fewer still engage in full background checks.

While many organizations said they engage in some form of volunteer background checks, 1 in 4 organizations working with vulnerable clients do not conduct reference or criminal background checks. This leaves millions of children, seniors, individuals with disabilities, and others vulnerable to potential victimization each year.

Why don't nonprofits screen? Nonprofit leaders cite a variety of reasons for not performing extensive background screening including; not thinking screening is useful, thinking it costs too much, not wishing to offend potential volunteers and others felt the wait time for results were too long. While nonprofit leaders think they do not have time or money to invest in background screening, the reality is not investing in this process could be far more costly in the long term-both to vulnerable clients and to the organization itself.

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