A nonprofit background check for supervisory board members is not only prudent in the name of good hiring practice, but also in the name of protecting the nonprofit from toxic leadership that can rot the organization from within. Luckily, a private investigator can provide the intelligence needed for full transparency.
When it comes to nonprofits organizations, knowing who to put in charge is paramount to the organization’s mission. When executives or professionals who serve in a supervisory capacity misbehave, it can have devastating consequences for the organization. From litigation to bad public relations, misconduct has the potential to damage the name of a nonprofit organization for years. That’s why it’s so imperative to run comprehensive, thorough nonprofit background checks on supervisory board members and executives.
United Way recently came under fire in the news after allegations surfaced regarding a hostile work environment. An anonymous letter allegedly authored by former employees of Untied way cited instances of racism, harassment, and nepotism on the part of leadership and failure to act on those abuses by leadership. This ended with a Untied Way board member stepping down after she intimidated one of the alleged authors of the letter.
However isolated individual instances of this type of misconduct may seem, the phenomenon of identifying and curing toxic workplace cultures is becoming more urgent. Corporations and nonprofits alike across the country are starting to take a more comprehensive look at how the internal operations of their entity can manifest in harmful ways. Lack of oversight and accountability are two ways in which toxic work environments flourish. That’s why many charitable organizations are opting for nonprofit background checks on their proposed leadership to ensure that the true mission of the nonprofit remains intact.
Private investigators are ideal professionals to conduct nonprofit background checks. They can review the relevant items on a subject’s background check that might interfere with their ability to supervise a nonprofit, such as criminal history, work history, and litigation history. Private investigators have diverse experience in evaluating human behavior and performing a risk assessment regarding their capacity in a supervisory role. Private investigators are able to place such relevant items in context. For example, a long address history might indicate a history of transience, which can translate to lack of dependability and lack of accountability. However, if the subject was forced to move again and again by virtue of their employment, that is important context that is needed in the investigation summary.
There are obvious items that would appear on a background check for a nonprofit board member that would pique interest, such as criminal history and work history. However, a background check does not have to be limited to what’s on paper in a nonprofit background check. Private investigators are adept in reviewing facts found, but they are also adept in searching for what’s outside the databases. Private investigators can locate and speak with former employers, former supervisors, and former supervisees who have worked with the prospective board member. By getting to the human sources during fact-fining in a nonprofit background check, private investigators can illuminate the professional and personal impact of that person on others. This creates a more transparent picture of how a prospective board member may impact the nonprofit.
An internal investigation of United Way’s internal operations downplayed the allegations proffered by those who authored the letter. However, given the misconduct from board members following the allegations, United Way might invest more in nonprofit background checks going forward. If your organization is experiencing pervasive issues with misconduct, including racism, harassment, and discrimination, call Lauth Investigations International today for a free quote on our corporate culture audit program and learn how you can improve your organization from within.
If you follow the mission and directives of nonprofit organizations, you’ve likely heard of United Way Worldwide. According to their website, the nonprofit “advances the common good in communities across the world. Our focus is on education, income and health—the building blocks for a good quality of life.” However noble their mission statement, United Way has been in the news recently as former employees have come forward with reports of a hostile work environment, prompting an internal investigation.
The United Way investigation began when former employers decided to take a stand against a toxic corporate culture. The allegations of a toxic, hostile work environment came in the form of a letter that was signed by an anonymous group of former United Way of Summit and Media, citing pervasive problems such as racism, sexual harassment, and nepotism. While the word “anonymous” raises eyebrows in conjunction with whistle-blowing, it bears pointing out that these former employees claim they will be subject to retaliation. The letter was sent to United Way board members on July 31, prompting board chairman Mark Krohn to announce the onset of an internal investigation.
Harassment and bullying are just one of the allegations made by the former employees who signed this letter, and this has led to one United Way board member already resigning. One of the first dominoes to fall in the United Way investigation was former board member Elizabeth Bartz, who was in charge of running government affairs in Akron, Ohio. Leadership from the United Way of Summit and Media began investigating Bartz after there were allegations that she had verbally abused employees on social media. Bartz used Facebook Messenger to send a private message to another former employee, calling them a “toothless piranha” and accusing them of attempting “to ruin UW” with their allegations of bullying in harassment—ironically by engaging in bullying and harassment. This led to Bartz’s resignation.
Bartz’s reaction to the anonymous letter might actually validate these anonymous claims by former United Way employees. However, according to an article by the Beacon Journal, these anonymous former employees are feeling ignored after an investigator reported that the allegations in the letter “were mostly unsubstantiated.” A former employee who claimed to speak for the group told the Beacon Journal, “It’s clear it’s not an objective report…We can’t keep talking if we’re not going to be valued and our experiences are going to be diminished. It’s pretty disheartening when someone says they were sexually harassed and they are told it was ‘he said/she said.”
The frustration and feeling of defeat expressed by these anonymous employees are the effects of poor corporate culture in motion. Like a piece of antique furniture with termites, poor corporate culture can rot a company from within. Looking at the list of grievances these former employees are citing—racism, sexual harassment, nepotism—these are all enormous and complex problems that are not created in a vacuum. The corporate culture of the workplace must be an environment where these issues are able to thrive in order to develop a pattern of behavior. When employees make claims about these types of internal issues, it is in the best interest of the corporation to submit to an independent corporate culture audit.
If your corporation or organization is experiencing repeated instances of internal difficulty, it might be time for a corporate culture audit. A corporate culture audit is a program that examines the internal policies of a corporation or organization, how those policies are enforced, how they effect the employees, and how those employees relate to each other as a result. If the corporate culture in a company is good, that positivity is baked into the internal operations, employees feel valued by their organization, and therefore will remain engaged and invested in maintaining productivity. Pervasive, repeated internal problems may not stem from a single factor, but the entire corporate culture of the workplace. Think of a corporate culture audit like a medical check-up for a business or organization. Lauth’s investigators evaluate the culture from leadership down, identifying the major factors in disruption, and advise leadership on how to improve their business from within. For more information on our corporate culture audit program, click here.