A group of volunteers

12 Steps to Hiring Safely: Top Tips for Vetting and Onboarding Volunteers

By Emily Arndt on December 13, 2023

‘Tis the season when many need more volunteers. With 2023 winding down and 2024 quickly approaching, now is the perfect time for your house of worship to reassess your volunteer hiring standards and protocols.

Amy Mauck Krohmer was secretary for the West End United Methodist Church in Roanoke, Virginia. Unbeknownst to church officials, she had been stealing money to the tune of $195,000 over the course of her service. Was a background check conducted? No, not in this case. If one had been conducted, church officials would have found that she was charged and convicted for embezzling from a prior organization.

This case was likely entirely preventable, and should be cause for every organization to pause and check their volunteer hiring standards and procedures to help prevent risks like embezzlement and theft. One-in-four Americans volunteer. This means that in 2023, roughly 83 million Americans gave time to non-profits and other volunteer organizations.

The holiday season is also a time of giving, so it may not surprise you to learn that volunteerism increases by about 50% during this time, particularly for religious organizations. This means an additional 41.5 million Americans will be volunteering with organizations through the remainder of 2023 and into 2024.

Theft, abuse and volunteer injury to themselves or others are all concerns when volunteers are involved. Despite the risks, many organizations do not conduct background checks on their volunteers. One primary danger of not conducting checks is that people lie on their applications. One study found that of 1.6 million background screens performed during a three-year period, 86,000 people with undisclosed criminal records had applied for paid or volunteer work in the non-profit sector. The audit also found that every 43 hours, at least one convicted sex offender tries to apply for a volunteer position at a nonprofit.

Having unscreened and untrained volunteers around parishioners, staff and other volunteers—from child to adult—poses serious risks, such as property damage or criminal activity. Unfortunately, there are many examples we could point to where a closer look at a volunteer or even a brief training may have prevented a tragic event.

Fortunately, there are many tangible steps you can take to help prevent the types of risk we’ve discussed and more. From our own Glatfelter resources and external resources, we’ve gathered actionable steps you can take to help keep your religious organization staff, volunteers and flock safe from volunteer-imposed risks (these are listed in no particular order):

  1. Conduct background checks on all volunteers, especially those who work with children, financial data or money. Some states are passing laws that require criminal background checks for all volunteers working with vulnerable populations. Background checks can include the following and may vary by state and volunteer position:
    • State and County Court Record searches
    • Department of Justice National Sex Offender Public Website (NSOPW) search
    • State Child Abuse Clearance Check
    • Federal Criminal History Records/FBI check
    • Driving record check
    • Drug tests
    • Credit check
    • Reference check

Note: before conducting background checks, be sure to get authorization from the volunteer, per the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).

Good news for Glatfelter clients: you have special access to discounted background screenings from IntelliCorp, a provider of comprehensive background screening and employment screening solutions for small and mid-sized businesses and nonprofit organizations.

Before you establish your background check procedures, consult Galaxy Digital’s complete blog below on managing your church’s volunteer background checks.


  1. Determine a follow-up background check/evaluation schedule. Certain checks may need to be repeated after a certain number of years.
  2. Create a standardized onboarding process that includes safety training, armed intruder response training and/or CPR/first aid training.
  3. Hire a volunteer coordinator so there is a specific person devoted to conducting background checks and volunteer management activities.
  4. Create volunteer position “profiles” to not only map out what skills are needed for each position, but what tasks they’ll perform and what risks those tasks might pose. The profiles can include what training they’ll require, what credentials they should hold and how extensive each background check needs to be.
  5. Create an application form that includes the volunteer’s contact information, as well as references. Underage volunteers’ applications should include a parental consent section.
  6. Revisit volunteer onboarding processes and procedures periodically to ensure you’re keeping up with the latest standards and trends.
  7. Verify that volunteers who drive as part of their work have an acceptable driving record and adequate auto insurance
  8. Ensure your volunteers are supervised and monitored appropriately.
  9. Craft a sexual abuse and misconduct prevention policy and procedure using Glatfelter’s sample as a guide.
  10. Order this 22-minute video on Preventing Child Abuse in Your Organization from Glatfelter using the Risk Control Order Form.
  11. Ask your agent about adding Glatfelter’s Volunteer Accident Insurance to your policy, which covers accidental death, accidental dismemberment, primary accident medical expenses and a paralysis benefit.

Volunteers produce thousands of work hours for religious organizations and provide an untold number of benefits to the country. You’ll help keep your flock safe if you follow these steps.

What other steps have you taken to help mitigate volunteer risk in your organization? Please tell us in the comments below!

Emily Arndt

Em, a proud cat mom to Margot and Teddy, enjoys learning guitar, the beach, writing, and working on her sarcasm.


The information contained in this blog post is intended for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace expert advice in connection with the topics presented. Glatfelter specifically disclaims any liability for any act or omission by any person or entity in connection with the preparation, use or implementation of plans, principles, concepts or information contained in this publication.

Glatfelter does not make any representation or warranty, expressed or implied, with respect to the results obtained by the use, adherence or implementation of the material contained in this publication. The implementation of the plans, principles, concepts or materials contained in this publication is not a guarantee that you will achieve a certain desired result. It is strongly recommended that you consult with a professional advisor, architect or other expert prior to the implementation of plans, principles, concepts or materials contained in this publication.

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