Americans want broader background checks and training than volunteers receive

Americans want broader background checks and training than volunteers receive

August 16, 20224 min read

Nonprofits, schools and houses of worship take note: research from Church Mutual® finds disconnect with reality

MERRILL, Wis. – As nonprofits, schools and houses of worship increasingly rely on volunteers to keep their doors open amid labor shortages and rising costs, Americans have high expectations when it comes to volunteer background checks and training. In its new Risk Radar Report – State of Volunteerism in America 1, Church Mutual Insurance Company, S.I. (a stock insurer)2, an insurer of nonprofits, schools and houses of worship, found more than half of survey respondents (52%) who regularly attend or frequent an organization that uses volunteers, expect those volunteers to have undergone criminal background checks. However, only one-in-three (33%) volunteers surveyed said that they had a criminal background check as part of the screening process for their position. 

“Volunteers are essential to the everyday operations of today’s nonprofits, schools and houses of worship – and their roles will become even more critical as economic pressures persist,” said Rich Poirier, president and CEO of Church Mutual. “A well-managed volunteer program helps an organization ensure its members, participants, volunteers and the organization itself remain safe, organized and efficient.”

“The reality is that most volunteers do not receive essential background checks and basic safety training as part of the onboarding process,” Poirier explained. “There is a sharp disconnect between the desire for rigorous criminal, employment and sex offender screening, and the volunteers who are actually being scrutinized in these areas. Additionally, expectations for basic first aid and CPR training, as well as dealing with more complex issues like potential armed intruder situations – which should be top of mind – don’t align with the current volunteer screening and training experience.”

Expectations vs. Reality

The table below highlights what Americans expect in terms of volunteer screening and training, contrasted with the actual screening and training volunteers reported experiencing.

Eric Spacek, Church Mutual’s assistant vice president - Risk Control adds, “More than two-thirds of those we surveyed attend or frequent an organization that regularly uses volunteers. This highlights the importance of hiring responsible and trustworthy volunteers – and training them properly. There are some basic steps that all organizations should take to ensure those helping them carry out their mission have been thoroughly vetted and prepared.”

Spacek advises all organizations to:

  • Establish a volunteer coordinator: Managing and organizing volunteers can be a difficult task. Appoint a coordinator who can focus their efforts on the many aspects of managing volunteer labor.
  • Create an onboarding protocol: It’s important that a process is established covering all basic training (general orientation, first aid and CPR, etc.) to protect participants, volunteers and the organization.
  • Conduct background checks: All volunteers working with children, and those who are entrusted with access to your organization's money or financial information, should undergo background checks.
  • Request documentation: Protect your organization by requesting the following documentation as part of your onboarding process – a formal volunteer application that permits a background check; and a signed indemnity and release form from all volunteers).

“Church Mutual offers a range of free resources that nonprofits, schools and houses of worship can use to help improve their screening and training process,” noted Spacek. “These are especially important for positions involving children, the elderly, vulnerable populations, money or transportation.” He also said volunteer data should be re-examined on an annual basis to verify employment or volunteer participation eligibility.

For more information about Church Mutual’s volunteer and safety management, visit:

About Risk Radar Report
State of Volunteerism in America is the latest in Church Mutual’s Risk Radar initiative that uses proprietary, primary research to gather key, forward-looking insights for nonprofits, schools and houses of worship, helping them maximize opportunities and minimize risk. Risk Radar Report – State of Volunteerism in America surveyed approximately 1,049 Americans (18+).

About Church Mutual
Church Mutual Insurance Company, S.I., founded in 1897, offers specialized insurance for religious organizations of all denominations, public and private K-12 schools, colleges and universities, senior living facilities, secular and non-secular camps and conference centers, and nonprofit and human services organizations throughout the United States. Church Mutual markets most lines of commercial property and liability insurance, including multi-peril, workers' compensation and commercial auto insurance. In addition to insurance, Church Mutual provides a spectrum of value-added solutions that benefit its customers. Church Mutual holds the following honors:

• A.M. Best Company "A" (excellent) rating.
• Wisconsin 75 Top Private Company by Deloitte US, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021.
• Wisconsin 75 Distinguished Performer: Innovation by Deloitte US 2019.
• 2021 Gallup Culture Transformation Award recipient.
• 2022 Social Equity and Community Empowerment Property and Casualty Company Award recipient from the American Property Casualty Insurance Association.
• 2020 Women and Diversity Award recipient from the American Property Casualty Insurance Association.
• Elite 50 Internship Award recipient from Rising Insurance Star Executives.
• Futuremakers Partner by Wisconsin Technical College System.
• Celent Model Insurer for innovation and emerging technologies.
• Award in Innovation for entrepreneurialism and innovation by National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies.
• 2018-2019 Employer of the Year by Northcentral Technical College.

# # #
1Church Mutual Insurance Company, S.I. conducted an online survey through SMS Research Advisors, The Church Mutual Risk Radar Report – State of Volunteerism in America, in June 2022, with a nationally representative sample of 1,049 adults aged 18+.

2Church Mutual is a stock insurer whose policyholders are members of the parent mutual holding company formed on 1/1/20. S.I. = a stock insurer.

Connect with:
  • Eric Spacek, J.D.
    Eric Spacek, J.D. Assistant Vice President - Risk Control

    Eric Offers Insight into Risk Management and Crisis Response Protocols for Houses of Worship and Other Facilities.

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