Mary Finley has a big weight on her shoulders.
As director of Tulsa Volunteer Central, she coordinates the use of hundreds of volunteers each year whose backgrounds need to be checked.
At $15 a head, it's an expensive venture. And screening might be the only thing that stands between a criminal and a vulnerable person.
But when American Background Checks opened in Tulsa last year, Finley found an answer.
ABC, a leading national employment screener, and Volunteer Central have signed a cooperative agreement that calls for Volunteer Central to get a basic, national criminal background check done for $3 for each potential volunteer.
ABC said it will return a percentage of that money to Volunteer Central participants, who will also benefit from ABC's educational training programs.
Because of the cost, Finley said, some nonprofit organizations limit background checks to people they are suspicious about. But that could lead to complaints about discrimination, she said.
We've tried for years to have the fee reduced, with no luck at all, said Finley, whose organization works with a $275,000 budget. It's really cost-prohibitive for programs like Meals On Wheels, that have 1,000 volunteers to do backgrounds for $15 a pop.
I was delighted when (ABC) opened in town. - Agencies can hardly afford not to do it, Finley said.
Incorporated in 2004, ABC offers a variety of screening services and is a licensed private investigator. It also has a close working relationship with clients such as American Red Cross, Big Brother/ Big Sister, Make-A-Wish Foundation, Camp Fire USA and the Catholic Charities Diocese of Tulsa.
When its office opened here, ABC identified nonprofits as an employment market that badly needs help, said the company's president, Julie Hakman.
Our idea was, at this point, we have the technology to be as competitive as the big guys, but we can find a niche they can't get to, said Hakman, a former retail executive from California. We've got a system that is pretty sophisticated and allows us to work with our clients.
ABC signed up with the Red Cross just days before Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, she said. Several days later, Red Cross officials needed ABC to screen volunteers heading to Louisiana.
We worked 24/7 to do background checks on them, Hakman said.
Since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the employment screening industry has mushroomed, Hakman said. Only a few hundred firms did the work before the terrorist attack, but that amount has gone up to 3,000 to 4,000, she estimated.
Statistics the company has put on its Web site speak to the importance of screening, Hakman said. …