The usual approach to hiring is checking references and, for most nonprofits, doing a criminal background check. Background checks are very popular, but they are not a cure-all.
That’s fine, but Melanie Lockwood Herman, executive director of the Nonprofit Management Risk Center, points out that a clean criminal record is not necessarily predictive of future activity and a clean record does not in itself render an applicant safe to work with children and other vulnerable populations.
Therefore, a better approach to the hiring process involves five considerations:
- The mission and programs of the organization. Does the service model require or prohibit one-on-one interaction between adults and children?
- The vulnerability of clients and consumers served by the nonprofit. What prior behavior, conduct or experience would render an applicant ineligible to work with the organization’s clientele?
- The specific role the organization is trying to fill. It is a mistake to use the same screening criteria for all positions.
- The availability and cost of various screening methods and tools. Explore options once the decision is made that certain background checks are required. They include having staff do the work and hiring a third-party provider.
- Whether certain screening tools are required because of licensing or other regulatory/funder requirements. If an organization is licensed or publicly funded, there could be specific requirements regarding background checks. Be certain to understand those specifics.