The Basics of Nonprofit Background Checks

nonprofit background checks
Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash

Here we outline how nonprofit background checks work. With basic information on the different types of background checks available and how background checks are paid for. Let’s dive right in!

What is a background check?

A background check verifies an individual’s past activities, such as employment, criminal record, credit history, and other personal details. A background check aims to gather information that can help assess an individual’s suitability for a particular job or position. For nonprofits, background checks are particularly important because they can help identify any red flags that may indicate potential risks to the organization.

Why are background checks important for nonprofits?

Nonprofits are often entrusted with sensitive information, finances, and the well-being of vulnerable populations. Therefore, ensuring that the individuals who work or volunteer for the organization are trustworthy and reliable is crucial. A background check can help confirm an individual’s identity, verify their work history, and identify any criminal or civil records that may indicate a history of violence, theft, or fraud. By conducting background checks, nonprofits can minimize their risk of hiring individuals who may pose a threat to the organization, its clients, or the community.

What are the types of background checks available?

Nonprofits can conduct several types of background checks to screen their employees and volunteers. Here are some of the most common types of background checks:

  • Criminal background check: A criminal background check is a process of searching an individual’s criminal history to identify any past convictions or arrests. Criminal background checks can help identify individuals with a history of violent or criminal behavior.
  • Employment history check: An employment history check is a process of verifying an individual’s past employment, including their job title, dates of employment, and reason for leaving.
  • Credit check: A credit check reviews an individual’s credit history to assess their financial responsibility. Credit checks can help identify individuals with a history of financial instability.
  • Reference check: A reference check is a process of contacting an individual’s previous employers or colleagues to gather information about their work performance, skills, and personal character.

How do nonprofits conduct background checks?

Nonprofits can conduct background checks in several ways, depending on budget, resources, and specific needs. Here are some of the most common ways nonprofits can conduct background checks:

Online background check services: There are several online background check services that nonprofits can use. These services allow nonprofits to search various databases for criminal records, employment history, and education verification. Online background check services are generally affordable and easy to use, making them popular for small nonprofits. Learn more about POINT’s partnership and integration with Checkr. Checkr is the nation’s leader in background checks providing checks for companies like Uber and Instacart.

Professional background check companies: Nonprofits can hire professional background check companies to conduct thorough background checks on employees and volunteers. These companies have access to more extensive databases and resources than online background check services. Making them ideal for large nonprofits or those that require more comprehensive background checks. 

Self-disclosure forms: Nonprofits can also ask employees and volunteers to fill out self-disclosure forms that ask about their criminal history, employment history, and other personal details. Self-disclosure forms can help gather information without incurring the cost of hiring a professional background check company or using an online service. However, it is important to note that self-disclosure forms are not foolproof, as individuals may choose to withhold or misrepresent information.

What are the legal considerations for conducting nonprofit background checks?

While background checks are essential, nonprofits must comply with state and federal laws that regulate the use of background checks. Here are some legal considerations that nonprofits should be aware of when conducting background checks:

  • Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA): The FCRA is a federal law that regulates the collection, dissemination, and use of consumer information, including credit reports and criminal history. Nonprofits that use a third-party provider to conduct background checks must comply with the FCRA’s requirement. This includes obtaining written consent from the individual, providing a pre-adverse action notice if adverse action is taken based on the report, and providing an adverse action notice if employment is denied based on the report.
  • Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC): The EEOC is a federal agency that enforces laws prohibiting employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, and disability. Nonprofits must ensure that their background check policies do not disproportionately exclude individuals from protected classes and that the use of criminal history is job-related and consistent with business necessity.
  • State and local laws: Nonprofits must comply with state and local laws that regulate the use of background checks, which can vary by jurisdiction. For example, some states prohibit employers from asking about an individual’s criminal history on a job application, while others limit the types of criminal records that can be considered.

How are nonprofit background checks paid for?

The cost of background checks can vary depending on the type of check, the provider used, and the number of checks conducted. Typically there is a fee per background check run if using a company or online background check service. Nonprofits can choose to pay for background checks in different ways, including:

  • Self-funded: Nonprofits can pay for background checks out of their budget. This approach is suitable for smaller organizations that only need to conduct a few background checks per year.
  • Applicant-funded: Nonprofits can require job candidates or volunteers to pay for their own background checks.
  • Split-funded: Nonprofits can split the cost of background checks with job candidates or volunteers.
  • Grant-funded: Nonprofits can apply for grants that provide funding for background checks.
  • Donor-funded: Nonprofits can solicit donations from individuals or corporations to fund background checks. This approach is suitable for organizations that have a strong donor base and want to prioritize safety and security.

It’s important to note that certain types of background checks, such as credit checks, require written consent from the individual and may incur additional fees. Nonprofits should carefully consider the cost and benefits of each approach and ensure that they comply with all applicable laws and regulations.

Wrapping Up

Why – By conducting background checks, nonprofits can minimize risk.

What – Several types of background checks are available. These include criminal background checks, employment history checks, education verifications, credit checks, and reference checks. 

How – Depending on budget and needs, nonprofits can conduct background checks through online services, professional background check companies, or self-disclosure forms. 

Don’t Forget – It is essential to comply with state and federal laws regulating background checks, such as the Fair Credit Reporting Act and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. 

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Photo Brandy Strand
Brandy Strand
Nonprofit Partnerships Account Executive

No guilt trips, no sad stories. Just a chance to do something good.