Background Checks for Nonprofits: A Complete Guide

Protect Your Mission and Your Workplace

Your mission is at the heart of your organization. Accomplishing that mission means securing the staff and volunteers to make it happen. Across the globe, non-profits recognize the need to be more diligent in their hiring and volunteer programs. One incident of fraud or abuse could be enough to put your reputation and your future at risk. ProVerify can help. Our solutions are designed with non-profit organizations and agencies in mind.

  • Our fast, efficient screening solutions help you create a safe workplace.
  • ProVerify offers a full suite of solutions for background screening and drug testing.
  • Our solutions can aid you in operating an efficient, organization-wide screening program.

We know not all nonprofits and service organizations are alike—in mission or structure—so a “one size fits all” volunteer background check won’t work.

ProVerify helps nonprofit organizations gain confidence in the volunteers working with those they serve by delivering thorough, reliable background checks. By enabling volunteers to order, manage, and share their background checks via a secure online platform, a community of vetted volunteers is created, which helps nonprofit organizations save time and money.

Our extensive expertise in screening and compliance best practices helps clients recruit the best volunteers to maintain a safe environment and positive reputation.

ProVerify’s volunteer background screening platform tailored specifically for the volunteer service sector and the first online community to mobilize repeat, vetted volunteers.

Other Benefits include:

What is recommended?

Criminal background check for volunteers are typically meant to verify whether or not a volunteer is being truthful about their criminal record. Criminal record searches and reference checks are the most common background checks, though we highly recommend combining these common checks with other searches.

Background checks for nonprofits must be conducted in compliance with relevant local, state, and federal laws.  Finding the right employees and volunteers for a nonprofit can be difficult and we can help!

Here at ProVerify, we conduct background checks for nonprofit volunteers, board members, and an array of managerial positions across the country. We know how to complete compliant background checks for nonprofits.

Why Do Nonprofit Organizations Run Background Checks?

Many nonprofits rely on a combination of employees and volunteers to meet their organization’s needs.

With many people serving your organization and its charitable goals, you must conduct thorough background checks on each of your prospective employees and volunteers.

There are several reasons why nonprofit organizations run background checks as detailed below.

Some nonprofit organizations only request criminal background checks from their state or county governments for prospective employees or applicants.

However, these records may be incomplete and not show convictions people have received in other jurisdictions. Only obtaining criminal history information for prospective employees and applicants will also not show other important details that are relevant to the success of your organization.

Different types of verifications might be necessary for candidates for different types of positions. When you strategically use verifications and comprehensive background checks for nonprofits, you can lessen the chance that you will make a bad hiring decision.

Volunteers help nonprofit organizations to meet their labor needs within limited budgets. While volunteers play a vital role, not everyone who asks to volunteer is suitable.

Failing to conduct appropriate background checks for volunteers can jeopardize the safety of your organization and those whom you serve.

Non-profits should complete pre-employment screenings of any perspective volunteer before you allow them to work at your organization.

If you fail to properly screen volunteers, serious consequences can result.

You should never assume that your nonprofit will not be sued because of its 501(c)(3) status. Having a charitable purpose will not protect you if a volunteer or employee commits a criminal offense.

If you do not properly complete volunteer background checks, your organization may be sued for a negligent hiring claim. Employers are expected to exercise reasonable care when they onboard team members who could pose a potential threat to others.

Working with a dependable background screening provider like ProVerify can help reduce your risk! We complete thorough pre-employment background checks for volunteers, employees, and nonprofit board members.

Laws and regulations that govern background checks and verifications continually change.

Likewise, the best practices for completing proper background checks for nonprofits also change with technological advancements. Working with a competent provider of background checks like ProVerify allows you to choose from a list of services such as verifications and screening packages.

It will also allow you to have peace of mind that your background screening process complies with all relevant regulations and laws even when they change.


By completing thorough background checks on every candidate, nonprofit organizations can enjoy greater success.

Finding great employees and volunteers can help to reduce turnover and your need to conduct repeated background checks and training sessions.

Background checks also can help you to reduce your exposure to liability and losses from fraud or theft.

What Shows up on a Nonprofit Background Check?

What might appear on a nonprofit background check will vary, depending on the position sought by the candidate or volunteer.

Nonprofit organizations might request different things on background checks for nonprofit board members vs. volunteers, for example.

Some of the most common types of information that nonprofits request include criminal history information, sex offender search information, past employment verification, and education history verification.

Nonprofits who require criminal history on background checks might see the following types of information for a particular candidate who has a criminal record:

  • Charge
  • Date of case filing
  • Disposition of case
  • Disposition date
  • Offense level (misdemeanor or felony)
  • Sentence information

Verification of past employment claimed by an applicant is important for nonprofits. This helps to ensure that you hire applicants who are qualified for their positions and also helps to make sure that your candidates are trustworthy.

Employment verification will allow you to check whether a candidate has falsely misrepresented his/her employment history and experience.

If you are hiring people for executive or managerial roles, the positions may likely require that candidates have specific degrees or credentials.

Education verification can help you to make sure that you hire people who are qualified for their positions and will assist you in confirming whether a prospective employee has the claimed degrees and credentials.

How to Run a Nonprofit Background Check for Employment or Volunteer Positions

  • Nonprofit organizations should complete background checks for prospective employees and volunteers. However, performing these types of checks correctly is crucial.While some sites advertise free background checks for nonprofits, the information that they provide may be out-of-date, incomplete, and riddled with inaccuracies. Instead, nonprofits should work with reputable, experienced providers like ProVerify to ensure that they use best practices for volunteer background checks.
  • Informal checks of candidates by performing Google and social media searches have become increasingly popular. However, you should avoid using these types of searches to make hiring decisions because of the risks involved.These types of searches can open your organization up to breaches of privacy or discrimination claims. Using social media search information for hiring decisions is also illegal in some states. It is best to avoid these types of searches and instead rely on a reliable background check provider like ProVerify.
  • Some nonprofit organizations check records through their states’ criminal record repositories.

This type of information may not be complete and will not include all the information that might be needed. Criminal history information from a state might not reflect convictions and arrests that happened in other states and jurisdictions. It also will not include information about a candidate’s educational or employment history.

When you work with ProVerify, you benefit from a broad array of affordable options. You can choose the types of information that you need instead of having to pay for extraneous information.

How Far Back do Nonprofit Background Checks Go?

Restrictions under the FCRA restrict how far back some types of information on a background check can go.

Some other types of information, including an applicant’s employment history or educational records, do not have to follow this time limitation.

For those types of details, a background check can include educational and employment history during a candidate’s entire life.

What are the Legal Regulations Around Nonprofit Background Checks?

When nonprofits complete background checks, they must comply with all the regulations and laws that apply. Making sure that your organization complies with the relevant rules helps to avoid potential penalties, fines, litigation, and time losses.

The Federal Trade Commission is tasked with enforcing the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act or FCRA. It includes numerous regulations that govern the hiring practices that employers across the U.S. use.

This law was enacted to protect the privacy, fairness, and accuracy of consumer information that is reported by consumer reporting agencies, including pre-employment background checks. The FCRA establishes standards for how employers gather, disseminate, and use information about consumers.

The FCRA mandates that employers obtain authorization from job candidates before they complete background checks. This law also establishes stringent protocols for how adverse information should be handled when an employer decides not to hire an applicant because of the results of a background screening.

The FTC has also created guidance about how the FCRA applies to volunteers. In 2011, the agency indicated that nonprofits should treat volunteers like employees in the application of the FCRA. Securing background checks for purposes of employment is liberally construed to include the use of background checks to determine the fitness of prospective volunteers.

Working with ProVerify can help you to be confident that your volunteer background checks will fully comply with the FCRA. We can help you to remain in compliance throughout the hiring process.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or EEOC enforces several federal anti-discrimination laws, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC has guidelines for the consideration of criminal records in hiring decisions.

When an applicant or volunteer has a criminal history, the EEOC states that employers should individually assess the incidents in light of the job for which the applicant has applied.

An increasing amount of scrutiny on the use of criminal and credit history information has occurred in numerous states the past decade.

Multiple states have enacted ban-the-box laws as a result. More than 150 cities and counties and 30 states have adopted ban-the-box laws.

This type of legislation is meant to prevent employers from disqualifying applicants early in the hiring process because of the stigma attached to having a criminal record.

To avoid violating these laws, organizations should not ask for criminal history information on their applications. At ProVerify, we stay current with state legislation and help our clients to comply with the relevant laws when they are enacted.

The following services are available for Non-Profit Organizations:

  • Criminal Record Investigations
  • Nationwide Background Investigations
  • Substance Abuse Screening
  • Social Security Trace
  • Motor Vehicle Records Examination
  • Education and Credential Verification
  • Employment History Verification
  • Current Employer Verification
  • Credit History Examination
  • professional Reference Checks
  • Criminal Record Investigations
  • Nationwide Background Investigations
  • Substance Abuse Screening
  • Social Security Trace
  • Motor Vehicle Records Examination
  • Education and Credential Verification
  • Employment History Verification
  • Current Employer Verification
  • Credit History Examination
  • professional Reference Checks

What You Need to Consider During Background Checks for Nonprofit Volunteers

At many nonprofits, volunteers play critical roles, from staffing special events and keeping programs running to serving as directors on boards. They are often the most effective community ambassadors, but, increasingly, nonprofits must consider the risks associated with failing to vet potential volunteers, particularly volunteers who work with children or vulnerable adults.

When appropriate background check processes are not in place, great harm can happen to those whom nonprofits are entrusted to protect. Substantial legal, financial and reputational damage can also arise from failure to conduct appropriate background checks. It is essential for every nonprofit to have volunteer background check policies and procedures; and in doing so, they should consider the following:

There is no one-size-fits-all approach for a background check.

The tools your nonprofit uses to conduct the check will vary as well. Depending on the position and qualifications of the volunteer, a nonprofit may use some or all of the following background check tools: reviewing a resume, verifying information in an application, calling references, reviewing social media history and checking for disqualifying criminal convictions.

Nonprofits should take steps to protect the privacy of individuals whose backgrounds it checks. It is important to start with a curated approach so that the nonprofit is only accessing information needed to assess whether the person is qualified and safe to volunteer. Once that information is gathered, the nonprofit should also implement steps to limit access to the information on a need-to-know basis. Failing to do so could lead to issues under privacy laws.


In addition to privacy laws, nonprofits should ensure that they follow all federal, state and local laws related to their unique operations and volunteer positions


Establish written policies and procedures outlining when and how the nonprofit will vet volunteers, then publicize those requirements. For example, if a nonprofit posts its background check requirements on its website, it may deter a problematic volunteer from applying. It can also help the nonprofit build trust in the community. That trust can be reinforced by developing other appropriate volunteer policies and procedures, such as volunteer handbooks, training for volunteers on abuse prevention, safety procedures and codes of conduct.


This may not be necessary for many nonprofits, but it is worth some consideration. Directors are some of the most important volunteers, often established professionals with deep ties to the community, and many nonprofits do not want to offend potential candidates with intrusive checks. However, a more extensive background check may be warranted for board positions where a person may have access to funds, particularly at smaller organizations where there are often fewer internal controls and more reliance on volunteer working boards.

For other boards, reviewing a resume and an interview with a potential candidate may be sufficient to assess where the potential candidate fits into the board’s compositional goals or complements the talents needed on the board. For organizations working with children, it may be imperative to convey to the community how seriously the organization takes safety by having directors participate in the same background processes as regular volunteers. Each nonprofit may have its own curated approach.

These considerations should help your organization find the right approach to background checks for volunteers, mitigate risks, and protect your organization and the people it serves.