Volunteer Screening Helps Nonprofit SHE-CAN Keep Students Safe
If you’ve ever applied or helped someone apply to college, you know how much work it is. Imagine helping 10 students get into college every year, providing the ACT prep, scholarship essay writing, and application advice for all of them.
Madison Shepard oversees a program that does that and more. As Program Manager for nonprofit SHE-CAN, she helps match low-income teenage girls from Rwanda and Cambodia with a team of US-based mentors dedicated to developing their leadership abilities. The mentor teams help their students apply to US colleges, support them throughout their four years of study, and help them make a difference when they return to their home countries.
To accomplish so much with a small team, Madison must choose efficient systems. Here, she shares her thoughts about the importance of background checks to the growing nonprofit’s mission. She also points out which features she relies on to keep up with SHE-CAN’s current needs and to enable its significant expansion plans (from 60 volunteer checks per year to 150).
Why do you run background checks for volunteer mentors?
Families entrust us with their daughters. Once a scholar arrives in the US, SHE-CAN is her emergency contact, and her mentors are her support system. Scholars often spend holidays and vacations in their mentors’ homes. It’s important that we do our due diligence in vetting the mentors to keep our students safe.
What were the most important factors you considered when you were looking for a volunteer screening provider?
We were looking for three things:
- Fast and easy service. Our mentors are busy women, and we want to minimize the amount of time they have to spend in the recruitment/onboarding process.
- Confidentiality. We wanted to be able to assure our mentors that the SHE-CAN staff has no access to their personal information, like their SSN. We like that they can provide that information directly to GoodHire. This way, we don’t have to be the “middleman” with that confidential information.
- Tracking. We’re a small team, and our program’s model is very high touch. We’re really busy, and the ability to see all the pending reports in one place is a time saver.
Why did you choose GoodHire?
I had an in-depth conversation with a GoodHire representative when we were first looking into adding a background check to our vetting process. She spent about thirty minutes explaining the whole process, the benefits of the service, as well as all the legalities relating to consent and how to collect mentors’ personal information.
GoodHire’s transparency and the representative’s thoughtful responses to my questions put me at ease, and the online platform met all our requirements: running a report is fast, easy, and confidential. And I can easily track the progress of all 60 reports in one place.
How much time do you spend running background checks on volunteers?
It takes me 1-2 minutes to enter the information and run a report. I also occasionally need to follow up to encourage a mentor to find the email from GoodHire and fill in their information. I imagine I spend 2.5-3 hours over the course of four months running the reports. It’s quick and easy.
How does GoodHire help you with your job?
Truly the hardest part of our model is that we are so high touch. There are so many moving pieces that things could fall through the cracks. We're also small and trying to scale up, hoping to move into a third country next year.
But GoodHire is so fast and easy that it doesn't take much of our time to run a report. Usually, we just enter the name and email address and it's good to go. I don't have to oversee it constantly. I can pull up the dashboard and see the status of every single report: who's clear, who's not, who do I need to follow up with, as well as giving me reminder emails or who I need to ping. I have to build my own dashboards for all other aspects of the program, so it's nice that it’s built in to GoodHire.
Has it helped you with compliance or other legal issues?
Absolutely. I wasn’t familiar with the legalities associated with running these types of checks before working with GoodHire. They make it easy to ensure that we receive consent from our mentors by providing the option to email them an e-consent form.
How important is the experience your volunteer mentors have with the background check process?
This is more critical than it may seem. Our volunteer mentors make a huge commitment to the organization. To be part of the program, mentors must commit to supporting a young woman for five years while she applies to school and completes her four-year degree program in the US. They also commit to making a donation to the organization every year to help us cover some of the scholars’ costs. During the vetting phase, many mentors are still trying to decide if they can make such a substantial commitment. If mentors have a poor experience during the vetting phase (if the background check process is too confusing, takes too long, etc.), they could decide that the program isn’t the right fit, which would leave a scholar with one less mentor.
How would you rate your experience with the GoodHire technology and team?
Our experience using GoodHire has been smooth and easy. I would absolutely recommend the services to other nonprofits, especially those who recruit volunteers to work with vulnerable youth.
I think the best systems are those that you don’t need to think about or spend much time overseeing, and that’s the best part about GoodHire. I don’t find myself worrying about the checks. Once I input a volunteer’s necessary information, I don’t need to think about it again until I receive an email notification letting me know the check is complete. The technology is smooth and efficient.