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
At $15 a head, it's an expensive venture. And screening might be
the only thing that stands between a criminal and a vulnerable
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
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
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. …