There's one common denominator between volunteer and event-planning organizations around the country: their reliance on people for success.
However, these organizations can't hire just anyone who’s interested. Federal regulations require that each volunteer clear a criminal background check to protect youth, employees and the public from potentially dangerous individuals.
Although this is a familiar practice for HR departments with mature hiring practices, it often poses a costly and laborious problem for volunteer and event planning organizations.
Here's why: Organizations that fund the screenings often pay between $10 and $20 per applicant. This may not sound like much, but multiplied by hundreds or thousands of applicants, this fee can place a strain on budgets for large events and further squeeze volunteer groups that already run on a shoestring.
Some organizations try to save money by having each volunteer pay for his own screening, but often end up paying hidden costs. Their overburdened administrators will likely spend countless hours collecting payments, managing paperwork, entering piles of data and ensuring consistency across all applications.
Despite the painful short-term costs, failing to perform proper background checks can have profound long-term effects. If an organization ignores its due diligence with a background check and hires someone with a problem that could have easily been identified, that organization may be liable for negligent hiring and retention practices, which can have stiff legal penalties.
For example, the average jury award for negligent hiring is $800,000 — a hefty fine that would financially devastate most small companies. Plus, any resulting media exposure could be equally destructive to organizations that count on public goodwill.
Another constraint is time. Most volunteer organizations need every individual they can get and typically want them trained and available quickly. This is equally true for event-planning organizations that are ramping up for a specific event and need to ensure adequate staffing.
A Simple, Superior Alternative
Fortunately, organizations that need customized screening tools can rely on a key component from LexisNexis Screening Solutions, called Specialty Screening.
This customizable, online screening tool enables prospective employees, event staff, coaches, mentors and volunteers to visit a customized Web site to request — and pay for (if desired) — their own background check. Once complete, the results are delivered to the hiring organization for review.
For example, the NCAA uses this tool for its summer coaching program. They set up the screening criteria to decide whether it's a go or no-go — depending on whether they find any results that would inhibit that person from serving or being "hired."
The Specialty Screening resource solves several key problems for these organizations. By allowing applicants to pay for their own background check, organizations eliminate the need to process numerous payments and follow-up on any payment problems. Plus, it helps groups avoid the hassle of data entry, coordinating permission forms and fund transfers — all of which takes valuable time and focus away from planning their upcoming events.
"Because each site is applicant-driven, organizations can get the information about each individual without having to have the manpower available to do the data entry," explains Brent Zajac, Specialty Screening Specialist for LexisNexis. "Plus, they are assured that all information reported is in compliance with the Fair Reporting Act."
Specialty Screening is equally convenient for applicants. The customized site is accessible from anywhere via the web, enabling applicants to access and complete the request form from the comfort of their own homes, library or copy center.
Custom, Co-Branded Screening
Another feature of the Specialty Screening tool is its ability to be customized. Each company can tailor the custom Web site log-in login page with their logo, business information and specific event details. Business information can also be included throughout the site, if desired, and can be changed whenever necessary.
For example, an organization that has multiple locations throughout the country may want one central site where everyone goes for screening. This tool would also specify which background checks are required for each job function — ensuring that the same checks are being done for a potential janitor in California as are being done for a potential janitor in Ohio. This consistency goes a long way toward effective hiring practices and avoiding even the hint of discrimination.
"No one in the background screening industry offers a product like Specialty Screening," says Zajac. "Clients have asked for customized background screening sites that can be co-branded with their own logos; they have also wanted a way for applicants to enter their own data. In the past, it would have been too costly for us to do this kind of customization on a client by client basis. With our new Specialty Screening product, however, customization can be accomplished quickly and easily by any client with our online wizard."
While this feature has tremendous value for event and volunteer organizations, it also appeals to a wide range of large organizations that are trying to simplify the process of performing their own background checks, gain some back-end features, and ensure compliance with the Fair Reporting Act.
"Specialty Screening sites can feature information-gathering capabilities that help organizations with administrative tasks, such as collecting shirt sizes and assessing special skills — like being bilingual — that may affect the individual's placement among a pool of applicants. This is especially important to small organizations that don't have a wealth of labor resources to manage these details," adds Zajac.
The Power of Customization
As one might expect, setting up a Specialty Screening site is simple.
"Organizations simply go to the site and customize this resource for themselves," explains Zajac. "They can co-brand the site with their logo, if desired, and quickly select the types of checks they want done for each job title. It's really simple, and can be done in less than an hour, as long as they know what they want."
With all its time- and labor-saving benefits, this resource has become highly attractive to smaller companies that are interested in increased simplicity and convenience. But they're not alone. Many larger companies are also interested in having a co-branded site that offers the customized features they want — while ensuring the consistent application of the screening policies across their entire organization.
In addition to national and country criminal checks, companies of all sizes can rely on Specialty Screening tools for verification of identities, education, credentials and even physician licenses.
"Once organizations see what this resource can do, they see the big picture and realize this tool goes way beyond just volunteer and event planners," says Zajac. "Companies of virtually any size can use this tool."
"The bottom line is that Specialty Screening helps create safer work environments," he says. "It allows organizations to show due diligence in their hiring and retention processes — while doing everything they can to create a safe work environment and protect employees, colleagues and children."
What Customers Are Saying
When organizations consider the speed, simplicity, convenience, cost savings and labor savings made possible by Specialty Screening solutions, they are quick to tout its benefits. Here are a few comments from a few satisfied customers:
- "We have 33 percent faster turnaround time, and results are more accurate... If you're looking for a good program to help pre-screen your applicants, give LexisNexis Screening Solutions a look."
—Thomas Boyd, VP Surveillance and Investigation, MGM Grand
- "The most important thing is that this product is a great tool to protect the general public by keeping potential high-risk individuals out of events involving children or events that carry high security risks. We can add a layer of security that for the most part isn't there today."
—Kim M. Kerr, Deputy Director of Security Support for the Salt Lake Organizing Committee for the 2002 Winter Olympics
- "Using the Specialty Screening site by LexisNexis Screening Solutions has made the process of performing background screening checks on our volunteers so much easier and less intrusive. I believe that the easier it is for people to perform a background check, the more background checks will be done and the safer young people will be."
—Rev. Allan K. Brooks, Children, Youth and Young Adult Coordinator for the Greater New Jersey Annual Conference, United Methodist Church