In This Article


Background Checks for Nonprofits: A Complete Guide [2023]

nonprofit background check

Finding the right employees and volunteers for a nonprofit can be difficult.

If you hire volunteers and employees as a part of your job at a nonprofit organization, completing thorough background screenings can help to ensure that the employees and volunteers you hire are the right people for the job.

Background checks for nonprofits must be conducted in compliance with relevant local, state, and federal laws.

Here at iprospectcheck, 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.

To help you to understand nonprofit background checks, we have written this comprehensive article.

By reading the information we have compiled, you will gain valuable insights into background checks so that you can remain in compliance with all relevant laws during your pre-employment screening process.

Let’s start now.

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.

1. Criminal history screenings are not enough

Some nonprofit organizations only request criminal background information 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.

2. Find trustworthy, reliable volunteers

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.

You should complete pre-employment screenings of any prospective volunteer at your organization before you allow them to work at your organization.

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

3. Be protected from liability

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 reputable background screening provider like iprospectcheck can help you to reduce the risks that your organization might face. We complete thorough pre-employment background checks for volunteers, employees, and nonprofit board members.

4. Keep up with changes in the law

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 iprospectcheck allows you to choose from a menu of verifications and screening packages to meet your needs.

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.

5. Ensure success

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. Finally, working with a provider like iprospectcheck can help you to receive the information you need quickly to reduce the time involved in the hiring process.

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, past employment verification, education history verification, and sex offender search information.

1. Criminal history

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

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

2. Employment verification

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 or her employment history and experience. This type of information can insulate your organization from potential negligent hiring claims.

3. Education verification

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

Requesting education verification as a part of your background check can help you to confirm whether a prospective employee has the claimed degrees and credentials.

Education verification can help you to make sure that you hire people who are qualified for their positions.

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 iprospectcheck 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 iprospectcheck.

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 iprospectcheck, 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.

We have access to resources and data that can be provided to nonprofits in a timely and cost-effective way. Our accurate background checks also help your organization comply with the relevant laws and regulations.

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 iprospectcheck 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.

State laws

An increasing amount of scrutiny on the use of criminal and credit history information has occurred in numerous states over 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 iprospectcheck, we stay current with state legislation and help our clients to comply with the relevant laws when they are enacted.

iprospectcheck: Your Trusted Partner for Fast, Accurate, Compliant Nonprofit Background Checks

Nonprofit organizations help to propel the nation forward by trying to do good and to implement worthy missions.

As your background screening partner, we are well-versed in the nonprofit industry. We share your values of integrity, honesty, and transparency.

The nonprofit background checks we perform are affordable and can fit within limited budgets. Our reliable services can save you time and money while minimizing losses from bad hires.

To learn more, contact us today to request a free, no-obligation consultation.

DISCLAIMER: The resources provided here are for educational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. Consult your counsel if you have legal questions related to your specific practices and compliance with applicable laws.

Know Before You Hire

About the Author
Matthew J. Rodgers

Matthew J. Rodgers

Matthew J. Rodgers is a highly accomplished business executive with over 30 years of experience providing strategic vision and leadership to companies ranging from the fortune 500 to iprospectcheck, a company which he co-founded over a decade ago. Matthew is a valued consultant who is dedicated to helping companies create and implement efficient, cost effective and compliant employment screening programs. Matt has been a member of the Professional Background Screeners Association since 2009 . When not focused on iprospectcheck, he can be found spending time with his family, fly fishing, or occasionally running the wild rivers of the American west. A lifetime member of American Whitewater, Matt is passionate about protecting and restoring America’s whitewater rivers.