WE HELP NONPROFITS COPE WITH UNCERTAINTY.
Our mission is to help nonprofit leaders become risk aware. We help leaders identify and appreciate critical risks and take action. We offer RISK HELP™, Web tools, in-person and virtual training, and custom consulting solutions. We provide reliable counsel on risk issues ranging from employment practices, to risk oversight and governance, enterprise risk management, fraud prevention, financial risk management, and youth protection. The Center has a 20-year history of advising best-in-class nonprofits and delivering practical resources to help nonprofits pursue their missions. The Nonprofit Risk Management Center is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization led by a volunteer Board of Directors.
After work one night, I headed to my oil painting class. You’ve probably seen the Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci, The Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh, or Water Lilies by Claude Monet. I expected to create a more humble masterpiece during my first class, but I learned that it generally isn’t possible to complete an oil painting in one sitting. The paint is to be applied in layers, and it’s important to allow time for the first layer to dry before applying the second layer. So tonight I’ll return to my landscape-in-progress and try to add a few trees to the foreground.
While reviewing a client’s draft policy on background checks this morning, it occurred to me that like an oil painting, a comprehensive risk management policy also has layers. In this case, the policy begins with a statement about the organization’s intent and continues with references to best practices in youth protection. The policy then outlines automatic disqualifiers for eligibility and continues with a description of the review process for background reports that fall outside the parameters for automatic disqualification.
A one-dimensional screening policy relying solely on a background check is ill-advised. And a generic, one-size-fits-all policy is unlikely to have the texture and brushstrokes your mission deserves. Like so many policies adopted to increase safety in a nonprofit, the tone, requirements and expectations must be custom-fit to suit the organization and the specific role or position.
Here are some things to consider when developing the layers of your screening or background check policy:
- Does the policy disqualify applicants whose backgrounds make them unsuited for service roles in the nonprofit while also permitting discretionary review?
- Does the policy link the required intensity of screening to the risks represented by specific positions?
- Does the policy incorporate multiple screening tools which can be layered based on the nature of the position?
- Is the process legally compliant? (Ex: does our practice of searching social media sites for information on candidates reveal personal information that can’t be used in making hiring decisions?)
- Have we taken steps to ensure that the policy is understood by all personnel involved in screening applicants?
- Do we encourage staff and applicants to step forward with questions or concerns about the policy?
- Does the policy adequately protect an applicant’s privacy and other legal rights?
Unlike my first oil painting, which at some point I will have to deem “finished,” any risk management policy in your nonprofit should be subject to periodic scrutiny. Is it helping advance your mission or getting in the way? Is it easy to understand or likely to confuse? Is the policy having the intended effect… such as creating a path for the efficient, legal and consistent handling of the results of criminal history background checks? If it’s not working, it’s time to put that policy back up on the easel and start sketching.
Employee or Volunteer: What’s the Difference?
Nonprofit organizations frequently depend on the service and commitment of volunteers as well as the labor of employees. The skills and talents of both types of workers bring nonprofit missions to life. At first glance, the simple difference between these two types of workers is that employees get paid and volunteers don’t. Yet many nonprofit leaders have discovered that there is more to distinguishing between employees and volunteers than whether an individual receives a regular paycheck. This article explores two subtopics under the umbrella issue of employee versus volunteer status: whether employees may also volunteer, and the consequences of compensating volunteers.
When Employees Also Volunteer
May your nonprofit’s paid employees also serve as unpaid volunteers? Each year the Center receives numerous calls and email messages from leaders who tell us that their dedicated, paid staff are eager to volunteer in the evenings and on weekends. In some cases these willing staff volunteer to work “off the clock,” while in other instances they sign up or formally apply for volunteer roles, such as volunteer ticket takers, coaches or special event staff, or as volunteer mentors in the nonprofit’s mentoring program. But we also receive calls from employees who want to know whether they can be forced to “volunteer” and on occasion from employees who are indignant after having been told that they cannot volunteer their services in the agency where they are employed. more…
Risk Management Webinars: Affordable and Convenient
Webinars offer high-quality, affordable and convenient training delivered to your desktop. Participate in “live” programs or listen to recorded programs at your convenience. You’ll receive expert instruction and helpful handout materials. All Center webinars are recorded and archived so you can listen and watch on the Web when it’s convenient to do so. After signing up for a webinar you’ll receive a confirmation email with a link where you can download the handout materials and view the archived recording as many times as you wish.