Survey Finds Americans Want Broader Background Checks and Training for Volunteers
As nonprofits, schools and houses of worship increasingly rely on volunteers to keep their doors open amid labor shortages and rising costs, Americans have high expectations when it comes to volunteer background checks and training. In its new Risk Radar Report – State of Volunteerism in America 1, Church Mutual Insurance Company, S.I. (a stock insurer)2, an insurer of nonprofits, schools and houses of worship, found more than half of survey respondents (52%) who regularly attend or frequent an organization that uses volunteers, expect those volunteers to have undergone criminal background checks. However, only one-in-three (33%) volunteers surveyed said that they had a criminal background check as part of the screening process for their position.
“Volunteers are essential to the everyday operations of today’s nonprofits, schools and houses of worship – and their roles will become even more critical as economic pressures persist,” said Rich Poirier, president and CEO of Church Mutual. “A well-managed volunteer program helps an organization ensure its members, participants, volunteers and the organization itself remain safe, organized and efficient.”
“The reality is that most volunteers do not receive essential background checks and basic safety training as part of the onboarding process,” Poirier explained. “There is a sharp disconnect between the desire for rigorous criminal, employment and sex offender screening, and the volunteers who are actually being scrutinized in these areas. Additionally, expectations for basic first aid and CPR training, as well as dealing with more complex issues like potential armed intruder situations – which should be top of mind – don’t align with the current volunteer screening and training experience.”
Expectations vs. Reality
The table below highlights what Americans expect in terms of volunteer screening and training, contrasted with the actual screening and training volunteers reported experiencing.
Eric Spacek, Church Mutual’s assistant vice president - Risk Control adds, “More than two-thirds of those we surveyed attend or frequent an organization that regularly uses volunteers. This highlights the importance of hiring responsible and trustworthy volunteers – and training them properly. There are some basic steps that all organizations should take to ensure those helping them carry out their mission have been thoroughly vetted and prepared.”
Spacek advises all organizations to:
- Establish a volunteer coordinator: Managing and organizing volunteers can be a difficult task. Appoint a coordinator who can focus their efforts on the many aspects of managing volunteer labor.
- Create an onboarding protocol: It’s important that a process is established covering all basic training (general orientation, first aid and CPR, etc.) to protect participants, volunteers and the organization.
- Conduct background checks: All volunteers working with children, and those who are entrusted with access to your organization's money or financial information, should undergo background checks.
- Request documentation: Protect your organization by requesting the following documentation as part of your onboarding process – a formal volunteer application that permits a background check; and a signed indemnity and release form from all volunteers.
“Church Mutual offers a range of free resources that nonprofits, schools and houses of worship can use to help improve their screening and training process,” noted Spacek. “These are especially important for positions involving children, the elderly, vulnerable populations, money or transportation.” He also said volunteer data should be re-examined on an annual basis to verify employment or volunteer participation eligibility.
1Church Mutual Insurance Company, S.I. conducted an online survey through SMS Research Advisors, The Church Mutual Risk Radar Report – State of Volunteerism in America, in June 2022, with a nationally representative sample of 1,049 adults aged 18+.
2Church Mutual is a stock insurer whose policyholders are members of the parent mutual holding company formed on 1/1/20. S.I. = a stock insurer.
The preceding press release was provided by a company unaffiliated with NonProfit PRO. The views expressed within do not directly reflect the thoughts or opinions of the staff of NonProfit PRO.