Background Checks

Background checks are a necessity for many organisations but, when the cost of checks starts to eat away at finances needed for the core functions of an organisation things need to change. Either charities could be given an exemption from having to pay a proposed fee or the fee could be reduced to a token amount.

It would appear from article in the NZHerald that many organisations (and the people they assist) will suffer …

Charities and volunteer groups are warning the Government they will have to cut back on their services if a proposed charge on criminal checks goes ahead.

Non-profit organisations such as the Cancer Society, Age Concern, the Blind Foundation and others have asked to be exempted from a proposed $5 to $7 charge for police vetting, which is currently provided at no cost.

They say organisations which provide a public good, depend solely on donations and have a large proportion of volunteer staff should not have to cough up for the service.

A parliamentary select committee began hearing submissions last week on the law change which would allow the Government to charge for police services. Ministers have promised that vetting will be the only service to incur a charge.

Some cash-strapped groups estimated new costs of $5000 to $10,000 a year if they needed to pay for criminal checks.

The Blind Foundation said it looked after a large number of children, and under a law change last year it was required to vet all its staff. It estimated a new bill of at least $2500 a year.

The Police Association agreed with the groups. Its members supported moves to reduce the strain on the frozen police budget but believed cost recovery should be limited to private commercial interests.

The bill would give powers to the minister to make exemptions but it’s not yet clear how these will be used.

Police Minister Michael Woodhouse could not be reached yesterday, but his predecessor, Anne Tolley, emphasised that the proposed charge was much lower than the $50 to $60 paid for criminal checks in parts of Australia.

The Teachers Council, which is legally required to vet teachers and makes 40,000 checks a year, also opposed the bill.

Acting director Rob McIntosh said vetting was one of the police’s core functions and it should not be considered an additional service such as dealing with lost and found property or running the Police Museum.

He said police vetting of teachers was one of the key tools for protecting children and young people.

Criminal checks

• Between 450,000 and 500,000 criminal checks a year

• Estimated cost to police of $2.2 million

• Some organisations, such as those that work with children, legally required to vet staff

• Government wants to charge $5 to $7 for checks.

From NZHerald Monday 16 Feb 2015

Does your organisation do police background checks, what impact will a proposed fee have on your organisation?

No room at the inn (for seniors)

Having spent a morning with a group of “seniors” (their word not mine) talking about ways they can help charities other than giving money on an ad-hoc basis, I got to thinking about how organisations tap into what could be a very valuable source of support.

The group I met was made up of people who have supported various causes for a number of years, but who now felt they could do a lot more than they were doing financially. After a quick round the room chat about causes these people support, or would like to support, it became very clear that although in their later years these people still have a lot of “giving” in them.

We talked about things they are passionate about, skills they may have that could be offered to organisations:

Retired accountants  – these people could offer some advice to a charity’s board on accounting issues.

Retired lawyers  – what organisation doesn’t need legal advice.

Sales people  – maybe these could offer advice in communicating with donors.

Tailors / Seamstresses – restyling of donated clothes.

Although these people have skills that you would think would be welcomed by any charity, the issue was – how do we let charities know we are here and willing to help.

A couple of the people in the room talked about how they’d contacted organisations they had been long standing supporters of offering further assistance, but they had got the impression they weren’t needed. They spoke of how willing they were to roll up their sleeve and help – but all the organisations kept mentioning was their age and how important their financial contributions are. Sure, there’s nothing wrong with letting people know their money is needed, but to suggest to people that their other skills weren’t needed – to me is hogwash.

I’m sure there are valuable ways people like this group can help, and I’m determined to find a way to get them involved.

Don’t write people off because of their age, age is only a number, the skills these and many others have are useful – we need to find ways to help people help us.

Does your organisation offer people of an older generation the opportunity to volunteer, to act as advisors based on their experience?

Encourage Supporters to Give Time

In philanthropy, we talk a lot about giving money, but giving time can sometimes be more satisfying & more valuable, such as volunteering. (As soon as I saw this on Twitter, I had to grab and use it – thanks Michael Chatman). 



Not everyone has money to spare, nor should we expect it of all supporters – there’s more ways people can help any organisation, perhaps supporters can be asked to give an hour of their time a week; others may have product or services they can give. 

Simone McCallum puts it well in her post “Lets Keep Our World Turning” – and she’s so right, organisations need people to help out, people to roll up their sleeves and chip in. 

There’s already many volunteer hours given each year, but with some wise thinking and planning the size of the volunteer sector will continue to grow. People see giving of their time as sometimes easier than giving money – and this shouldn’t be discouraged. 

Next time you’re planning a campaign don’t be solely fixated on cash donations; although it is acknowledged that this is needed – so too are skills and time that volunteers can give to your organisation. 

If you’re wanting to help in the community take time to look at how your skills and time can be put to good use; there’s organisations in every community that needs people to help them out. 

If you’re not sure where to start check local volunteer networks, likewise if you’re a community group needing help ask – in New Zealand there’s Volunteering New Zealand who can offer help, advice to community groups for all things volunteering. 

It’s time to start thinking how we can all take part as volunteers, how we can make a difference offering our skills. 

Next time you’re asked to support a community group and can’t give cash, will you instead offer time? 

Next time your organisation is planning its appeal, will you also take the opportunity to build your volunteer base?