Volunteer Background Checks: Reducing Volunteer Turnover

Sadie . March 18, 2024

As a non-profit organization, finding and retaining dedicated volunteers is crucial for achieving our mission and positively impacting our community. However, we often need help with volunteer turnover, which can disrupt our operations and hinder our ability to deliver services effectively. One effective solution to reduce volunteer turnover is implementing volunteer background checks. This article will discuss the importance of volunteer background checks, their impact on organizations, and how they can help reduce turnover.

The importance of volunteer background checks

Volunteers play an important role in many organizations, and their contributions are invaluable. However, it is essential to remember that not everyone who volunteers has the best intentions. By conducting comprehensive background checks on potential volunteers, organizations can reduce the risk of welcoming individuals who may pose harm to the organization or the individuals it serves.

Volunteer background checks help ensure the safety and security of everyone involved. They provide organizations with a better understanding of a volunteer’s character, integrity, and reliability. Screening potential volunteers allows organizations to make informed decisions about who they accept into their programs, ensuring a safer environment for everyone involved.

Volunteer turnover and its impact on organizations

Volunteer turnover can be a significant challenge for organizations. When volunteers leave, it not only affects the continuity of services but also places a strain on the remaining volunteers and staff members. High turnover rates can lead to burnout, decreased morale, and increased stress levels among those left behind.

Furthermore, frequent volunteer turnover can also negatively impact an organization’s reputation. If word gets out that volunteers are leaving in droves, it may deter others from getting involved. This can decrease volunteer applications and ultimately hinder an organization’s ability to fulfill its mission.

How volunteer background checks can reduce turnover

Volunteer background checks can significantly reduce turnover by enhancing the reliability and overall quality of the volunteers engaged in an organization’s activities. Here’s how:

  • Screening for Suitability: Background checks help ensure that volunteers possess the necessary skills, qualifications, and temperament. By verifying credentials and assessing past experiences, organizations can match volunteers with positions that align with their abilities and interests. This reduces the likelihood of volunteers feeling mismatched or unfulfilled, which can lead to turnover.
  • Risk Mitigation: Conducting background checks helps identify any potential red flags, like criminal records or history of misconduct, that could pose risks to the organization, its clients, or other volunteers. By proactively addressing these concerns, organizations can prevent future issues that might lead to volunteer turnover due to legal liabilities or reputational damage.
  • Building Trust and Confidence: Volunteers, especially those engaged in sensitive or impactful roles, need to trust that their fellow volunteers and the organization uphold high standards of integrity and professionalism. Background checks demonstrate a commitment to safety and accountability, fostering a culture of trust among volunteers. This, in turn, can lead to greater satisfaction and longer-term engagement, reducing turnover.
  • Enhancing Volunteer Retention: Volunteers are more likely to remain committed to an organization where they feel valued and respected. Organizations are committed to creating a supportive and secure volunteer environment by prioritizing safety and due diligence through background checks. This can enhance volunteer satisfaction and loyalty, ultimately reducing turnover rates.
  • Improving Team Dynamics: Background checks can uncover shared interests, experiences, or skills among volunteers, facilitating stronger team dynamics and collaboration. When volunteers feel connected to their peers and share common goals, they are likelier to stay engaged and invested in the organization’s mission, leading to lower turnover rates.
  • Legal Compliance: Depending on the organization’s nature and activities, legal or regulatory mandates may require background checks for volunteers, particularly those involved with vulnerable groups like children or the elderly. Adhering to these regulations reduces legal risks and demonstrates the organization’s dedication to ethical practices and effective governance, which can further decrease turnover.

Overall, volunteer background checks are crucial in mitigating risks, enhancing trust, and fostering a positive organizational culture, all of which contribute to lower turnover rates and sustained volunteer engagement.

Types of volunteer background checks

There are several types of background checks that organizations may use for volunteers. These checks can vary based on the organization’s policies, legal requirements, and the nature of the volunteer role. Some common types of background checks for volunteers include:

Criminal Background Check: This is perhaps the most common type of background check. It involves searching local, state, and federal criminal databases to identify any past criminal activity. The scope of this check can vary from a basic search for convictions to a more comprehensive check, including arrest records and pending charges.

Sex Offender Registry Check: This check involves searching databases of registered sex offenders to determine if the volunteer is listed. It helps organizations ensure the safety of vulnerable populations, particularly children and individuals with special needs.

Employment Verification: While volunteers may not have traditional employment histories with the organization, verifying past employment can provide insights into the individual’s reliability and trustworthiness. This may involve contacting previous employers to confirm job titles, dates of employment, and performance.

Reference Checks: References provided by the volunteer are contacted to verify the individual’s character, reliability, and suitability for the volunteer role. Typically, references include former supervisors, colleagues, or individuals who can attest to the volunteer’s character and skills.

Education Verification: If the volunteer’s role requires specific qualifications or education, organizations may verify the individual’s educational background. This can involve confirming degrees, certifications, and attendance at educational institutions.

Driving record Check: Volunteers who will be driving as part of their role may undergo a driving record check to assess their driving history, including any traffic violations, accidents, or license suspensions. This helps ensure the safety of passengers and the community.

Credit History Check: While less common for volunteer roles, organizations may conduct credit history checks for volunteers who will handle finances or have access to sensitive financial information. This helps assess the individual’s financial responsibility and integrity.

Social Media and Internet Checks: Some organizations may conduct searches of the volunteer’s social media accounts and online presence to gather additional insights into their character, behavior, and suitability for the role. However, this must be done with caution to avoid privacy concerns.

Drug Screening: In roles where volunteers may have access to controlled substances or operate heavy machinery, organizations may require drug screening to ensure the individual is not under the influence of drugs or alcohol while volunteering.

Volunteer-specific Checks: Additional checks may be conducted Depending on the organization’s nature and the volunteer role. For example, volunteers working with children may undergo child abuse registry checks or fingerprinting.

It’s essential for organizations to carefully consider which background checks are necessary based on the nature of the volunteer role, the population served, and relevant legal requirements. Additionally, volunteers should be informed about the types of background checks being conducted and their rights regarding privacy and confidentiality.

Implementing volunteer background checks in your organization

Implementing volunteer background checks into your organization’s onboarding process may appear challenging initially, but with thoughtful planning and execution, it can become a smooth and seamless procedure. Here are some steps to consider:

  • Establish a screening policy: Develop a comprehensive screening policy that outlines the types of background checks you will conduct and the criteria for disqualification based on the results.
  • Ensure legal compliance: Familiarize yourself with local, state, and federal laws governing volunteer background checks. Make sure to adhere to all legal mandates and uphold the privacy and confidentiality of the obtained information.
  • Communicate with volunteers: Be transparent with prospective volunteers about the background check process and its purpose. Clearly explain the steps involved and address any concerns they may have. This open communication fosters trust and encourages volunteers to participate willingly.

Overcoming challenges in implementing volunteer background checks

While volunteer background checks offer numerous benefits, their implementation can face challenges. Here are some common challenges and ways to overcome them:

  • Cost: Conducting background checks can incur expenses. To address this, seek grants or funding opportunities specifically designated for volunteer screening. Additionally, consider partnering with other organizations to share the cost of background checks.
  • Time constraints: Background checks can be time-consuming, especially if there is a large pool of volunteers. To streamline the process, consider using online screening platforms that automate and expedite the process, allowing you to screen a more significant number of volunteers efficiently.
  • Volunteer resistance: Some volunteers may be reluctant to undergo background checks due to privacy concerns or misconceptions. Address these concerns by explaining the importance of background checks, emphasizing the organization’s commitment to privacy, and assuring volunteers that the information obtained will be handled with the utmost confidentiality.

Conclusion: The positive impact of volunteer background checks on organizations

Implementing volunteer background checks is a proactive and crucial step toward reducing volunteer turnover and creating a safer and more effective organization. By ensuring the suitability of volunteers, creating a safe environment, and building trust, background checks can significantly reduce turnover rates, improve the continuity of our services, and enhance the overall effectiveness of our organization. So, let’s prioritize volunteer background checks and create a thriving volunteer community that contributes to our mission with dedication and commitment.

Are you ready to empower your organization with dedicated volunteers committed to your mission? Start by prioritizing volunteer background checks today. By implementing comprehensive screening policies and partnering with reputable agencies like Vertical Identity, you can ensure your volunteer team’s safety, reliability, and integrity.

Let’s create a thriving volunteer community that positively impacts our organization and the communities we serve. Visit Vertical Identity‘s website now to learn more about their screening solutions and take the first step towards reducing turnover and maximizing the impact of your volunteers.


With our simple 3-step process, you’ll be quickly and affordably screening in minutes!