Philanthropy beat: Company provides an efficient way to screen Twin Cities volunteers

Kathy Greiner always appreciates calls from volunteers offering to help her nonprofit repair homes for needy Twin Cities residents. She’s not thrilled, however, with the process of conducting background checks.

So this month, the executive director of Rebuilding Together will join a new service available for Minnesota nonprofits called Verified Volunteers. The Colorado-based company provides criminal background checks only for nonprofits, allowing folks such as Greiner to skip those drives to the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.

“What we liked was that the volunteers can do the paperwork online,” said Greiner. “We anticipate it will take less time, and get our volunteers out on projects sooner.”

Verified Volunteers is a division of Sterling Infosystems, a leading national firm providing employer background checks.

Here’s how it works: An interested volunteer logs into the Verfied Volunteers website and punches in his/her information. The company taps Sterling Infosystems technology to review the would-be volunteer. It screens against the major national and state criminal databases, and more, said regional director Troy Gerber.

The average cost is $15 to $20, said Gerber. The volunteer must pay online. But employers can share the cost, he said, and there are different “levels” of screening, some less expensive.

Plus, the background check acts as a “fast pass” that the volunteer can carry to any other place he or she would like to lend a hand. The background reports are good for one year.

Verified Volunteers is now in cities such as Portland, Houston and Denver, said Gerber. It has partnered with Points of Light nationally, and with HandsOn volunteer networks in some cities, he said.

The Twin Cities was a logical choice for Verified Volunteers, because it boasts one of the nation’s highest rates of volunteerism. It is signing up its first clients this month. Said Gerber: “Right now it’s drawing a lot of attention.”

 

Jean Hopfensperger 612 673-4511

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