Background Checks and Faith-Based Organizations
When people think of background checks, they think of truck drivers and federal agents, but the fact is any organization could benefit from protecting themselves and their patrons.
Whether running a church youth program or a charity, religious or faith-based organizations need to know their volunteers can always safely represent them.
How Invasive Is Background Screening?
Since volunteers are, well, volunteering, it sometimes makes organizers nervous to run a background check. It can feel ungrateful, as if the organization were insulting someone who is offering their limited free time to volunteer.
However, background checks don’t have to inconvenience the volunteer. [AF1] A “background check” box on the application will provide the required consent, and the rest happens on your end. To make things even easier, PATCH and Childline are both free for volunteer purposes.
The key to adding a successful background check component to an organization is staying consistent with what counts as a “deal breaker.”
Volunteers who are removed for something uncovered in their background check – or who aren’t allowed to join at all – may seek to contest the ruling. It is their right to review and possibly respond to anything that shows up on a background screen. Should a volunteer need to come before a church leadership committee, it’s vital that all volunteers and employees be under the same scrutiny and standards.
If a previous volunteer was allowed to participate despite a criminal charge, and another volunteer is denied or removed for a similar charge, it could open up the organization to legal repercussions.
Decide in advance what is and isn’t acceptable. Once the standards have been defined, they can then be communicated with staff and volunteer coordinators.
Keeping It Confidential
Author Douglas Adams said, “Nothing travels faster than the speed of light, with the possible exception of bad news,” and that applies double to close-knit organizations.
However, anything found in a background check must be kept confidential. Gossip can quickly grow out of control and cause untold damage to someone’s life, especially in a group as insular and familiar as a church organization. If something like this is not kept confidential, the organization could face legal penalties.
All of this advice has one goal in mind: to manage the liability of the church and to protect the organization against potential legal action. “Confidentiality” and “consistency” are the most important watch words, but there is a third facet to consider: the FCRA.
The Federal Credit Reporting Act guarantees some rights to the subject of a credit check. If the information found in the report hurts the employee (or volunteer), they have a right to be told that’s the reason. The subject also gets to learn their credit score – it can’t be withheld – and to see the information uncovered in their check.
Background Screening Companies
When it comes time to screen volunteers, it’s wise to avoid any do-it-yourself methods and instead go with a professional service. The process will be far more in-depth and trustworthy than what a few errant Google searches would turn up.
Services like Application Verification do fast, paperless background checks that include county, multi-state, and federal criminal searches. They also offer education validation and I-9 validation, among a half dozen other background checks.
Protect Your Members and Your Organization
Of course, volunteers are the lifeblood of any church, religious charity, or other faith-based organization.
However, there’s no reason a volunteer shouldn’t be under the same scrutiny as an employee, especially considering how often they interact with children, the elderly, and the community in general.
Don’t wait to find out – ensure the safety of your church and your patrons with background checks. Contact Application Verification to know more.
James F. Cobble Jr, Leadership Journal (2002), retrieved from:
ePATCH State of Pennsylvania, n.d. security background checks for volunteers
Douglas Adams (1992), Mostly Harmless, Pennsylvania State University Performance Audit Report
Keep Kids Safe, n.d, Child Abuse History Clearance, retrieved from:
[AF1]The PATCH and Childline are both free for volunteer purposes. Please mention this as another way the background checks don’t have to be a pain.