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volunteerVolunteer background screening – in one form or another – has become standard practice for the majority of volunteer programs throughout the country. Some organizations screen each and every volunteer who walks through their door. Others still screen just a portion of their volunteers – usually the ones working with vulnerable populations like children, the elderly or the disabled.


But even the organizations that screen their entire volunteer pool – and with the most comprehensive background check packages around – could still be at risk.

Why? Because even if you’re running the highest quality criminal background checks available, there still may be a gap in your volunteer screening program. It’s possible that your volunteer could be submitting someone else’s name or social security number in order to run their background check. Going beyond the background check to validate the identification of each volunteer provides you with confidence that you know who you’re working with.

How can you validate a volunteer’s identification? In addition to the recommended comprehensive screens, there are validation products available. These advanced photo technologies can verify that an ID used as part of the screening process is a legitimate government-issued ID.

Here are six simple but important recommendations to consider when incorporating identity validation tools into your current screening program:

1. Employ the right technologies

More and more, volunteers are using mobile technology to order their background check. Giving them the ability to validate their IDs using their mobile devices or their tablet makes it simpler and faster.

2. Ensure security is safe and compliant

Information security and compliance are vital. Use a secure, third party technology for the identity validation component of your screening program. The storage of photo ID images and other Personally Identifiable Information (PII) should be avoided – unless encrypted in a highly secure environment.

3. Check the PII on the ID

Ideally, PII should be automatically extracted from the volunteer’s ID and used as the basis for the background check. There are instances where volunteers may be given the ability to modify the extracted PII before the start of the background check. Such cases would include a move, marriage, divorce, or if data was incorrectly pulled from the ID. When this occurs, manual verification of changed data should follow.

4. When the ID cannot be validated, present in person

When IDs can’t be validated, it could mean the photo wasn’t clear enough to be validated or it could mean the ID was a fake. Protect your organization and volunteers in that circumstance and have the volunteer present their ID for validation in-person. Taking into consideration their ID and other relevant factors, you can make the call whether to continue the onboarding process.


5. When your volunteer doesn’t have the technology, meet face to face

In cases where your volunteer doesn’t have a government-issued ID or access to a mobile device, have the volunteer submit their background check order using information they manually input. Once you have a completed background check in-hand, have the volunteer come into your organization in-person. Check their ID on-site. Again, taking into consideration their ID and background check results, it is up to your organization to determine if you’d like to proceed with that volunteer.

6. Employ one partner – start to finish

To ensure a more seamless experience, and to leave less room for error, identity validation tools and technologies should ideally be managed by the same screening partner who runs your background check packages. Find a screening partner that can help you validate and screen your volunteers from beginning to end. If you do – and you follow the recommendations above – you’ll run a safer and more secure volunteer program and reduce your risk and liability in the event something should go wrong.



Want to learn more? Watch the webinar: Volunteer Background Screening: What Are You Missing?

About the author: Katie Zwetzig is executive director of Verified Volunteers, the first organization with a background check platform tailored to the specific needs of the service sector. Verified Volunteers helps organizations better fulfill their missions by reducing the time and costs associated with volunteer screening. Katie feels strongly that nonprofits and volunteerism are at the heart of a strong community. She is a dedicated volunteer, sitting on many boards and committees in Northern Colorado.


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