Best Practices for Community Centers and After-School Programs 

Protect Your Community Organization

Community centers face unique challenges when it comes to approving and tracking guests and volunteers. There could be hundreds of visitors and volunteers entering the center each week and they all have various reasons for being there. Whatever the reason and whoever they are, you must confirm they are not a threat to your center or anyone in your buildings.
Best Practices for Community Centers and After-School Programs 

“[We implemented Raptor Visitor Management] to protect the children that we serve. It is a system that is weeding out sex offenders,” said Jennifer Gardner, the Sussex County YMCA executive director. “So, if you are a sex offender, you will not be able to access our facilities. 

“[We implemented Raptor Visitor Management] to protect the children that we serve. It is a system that is weeding out sex offenders,” said Jennifer Gardner, the Sussex County YMCA executive director. “So, if you are a sex offender, you will not be able to access our facilities.”

Overview of Visitor and Volunteer Management for Community Centers

Visitor management systems screen a visitor’s personal information—ideally from their government-issued ID—against sex offender registries in all U.S. states and territories. The most powerful systems also screen each visitor against customized, locally-owned lists. These custom databases can include individuals with banned or restricted access, such as anyone you or law enforcement has marked as a known threat to your community. This instant screening helps you better determine if the visitor should be admitted to your buildings.

Volunteers are often the lifeblood of community centers, whether it’s teaching classes, coaching youth sports or running the front desk. Most states require any volunteers that work with children to pass a background check, but it’s a good practice for any volunteer with your organization.  Volunteer management systems can help you to streamline the entire volunteer program by eliminating manual processes that are error-prone and risky due to the presence of personal information for your volunteers. The automated system reduces paperwork and volunteer approval time by using an online application with integrated background checks. Organizations can even streamline event creation, recruitment, and management, as well as enhance safety and security by screening volunteers for sex offender status and criminal history. 


Create a Visitor and Volunteer Approval Policy

Writing your visitor and volunteer management policy is a critical step in safeguarding your community center from unwanted entrants. Safety should be the number one consideration.

Visitor Management System for Schools -Raptor Kiosk Video
Building a Visitor Policy

The foundation of your visitor policy is making sure you collect the right information. The most robust visitor management systems have various persona types to help community centers automatically screen and track entrants based on their roles. These roles typically include visitors, guardians, contractors, and volunteers. This helps keep track of who is in the buildings and why. You’ll also have to decide who to screen.

It’s best practice to screen all non-members and non-staff who are requesting access to your center. This includes volunteers, guardians, members’ guests, and contractors. It’s unusual to screen members or staff every time they enter. However, it is best practice to regularly screen their information against sex offender registries and custom databases. This screening helps confirm that they should continue receiving access to your center.


Guide to K-12 Visitor Management

Best practices for year-round safety. This guide helps you best leverage visitor management to its fullest potential. Learn More.

Building a Volunteer Policy

Every community center needs a volunteer program that details how you will recruit volunteers and manage applications and background checks. You also need to stay in compliance with state laws, confirm each volunteer is approved to be in your buildings, create and schedule events, and report on all activity. These tasks can be extremely time-consuming, especially when done manually.

The volunteer process should be straightforward, beginning with an online application that can be accessed directly from your website. The online volunteer application should be customizable to your needs so you can collect the information you need to confidently approve each prospect. Ideally, your application is integrated with a criminal background check to streamline and manage the entire process.


Volunteer Management Video

See how to customize your volunteer application based on state requirements and your policies


Screen Visitors and Volunteers for Safety Threats

There are nearly one million registered sex offenders and even more individuals with other criminal charges in the United States. Some have almost certainly slipped through the cracks at community centers that don’t have visitor and volunteer management security.

Some community centers, most commonly religious centers, are prone to threats of violence. It’s important that anyone who has made a threat against the center or has committed violence towards the center is not allowed entry.

Screening visitor information against custom databases of banned visitors is a reliable way to make sure you don’t allow these threats inside. Having robust volunteer screening will also increase safety and security by making sure volunteers don’t have criminal histories.

“I’m able to manage more than 30,000 volunteers, process 6,000 new applications, help applicants or volunteers with any questions, complete the necessary screenings, and do all of this by myself,” Randle Evett says of using Raptor Volunteer Management.

According to the Summit Area YMCA, the introduction of the Raptor system is in line with the YMCA’s goal to provide the best service in both hospitality as well as safety, with the safety of its members, especially youth, being integral to the successful development of a strong and secure community. 

Reviewing Visitor Offender Alerts

If a visitor’s information matches someone on the sex offender registry or a custom database, it’s important to thoroughly review their information before confirming whether it’s a match. This can be nerve-wracking, especially when the visitor is standing right in front of you. This is why it’s critical for front staff and security to have a process. The center’s responsibility is to confirm if a possible alert matches the visitor. The best systems display a photo of the visitor and the potential match, as well as their information, side-by-side on your screen.

If you confirm it is not a match, and the visitor is cleared, the system should remember the false positive pair and not show it again. If a flagged visitor attempts to check in again, the system should immediately alert you that the entrant has been previously flagged and unapproved for entry.

Reviewing Volunteer Criminal Background Alerts 

If a volunteer applicant’s check discovers criminal record in your volunteer management system, the system should ideally alert you so that you can review the results. It should also capture all the volunteers who need manual review in a queue for easy access. This allows the community center employee to review the details and approve or deny the applicant. Note that volunteer background checks are not instantaneous like the sex offender registry screening.


Guide to K-12 Volunteer Management

Best Practices to Streamline Your Volunteer Program.
Learn More

Alerting Security for Assistance at the Center

If a visitor is confirmed to match the information from the sex offender or custom database alert, the system will automatically send text and email alerts to the appropriate personnel for assistance. This allows management and/or security to quickly respond, and if necessary, safely escort the individual out of the building.

If the individual refuses to wait, center staff should return their ID and allow the individual to leave. Your visitor management system will keep track of their information and alert you, and other appropriate personnel, if they attempt to sign in at another time, even if the next time is at another building or welcome desk.


Track Visitor and Volunteer Activity

Automated visitor management systems record and maintain every visitor’s details and make such data instantly accessible to approved personnel so that they can create accurate reports. When your visitor system is integrated with your volunteer system, you can also easily track volunteer hours and activities.
Track Visitor and Volunteer Activity
Track Activity Based on Roles
In your visitor management system, you may want to track different information depending on why the individual is visiting. For example, using your visitor management system to track contractors lets you not only screen them against the databases, but also create reports showing all contractor activity, including the times they signed in and out of the system. You may also want to collect different data per role type. You may want to require volunteers to enter their organization’s name, while this field may not be applicable for other roles, like member guests or guardians.
Make Reports Based on Your Needs

Robust systems come pre-configured with multiple reporting options and allow community centers to create and save custom reports at no additional cost. To streamline reporting, the system should enable you to automatically set reports to run and be delivered based on a schedule that fits your needs.

Your automated volunteer management system should also enable volunteers to stay updated on their activity. Volunteers and active community members can have access to an online web portal where they can track volunteer hours, see open opportunities, register for events, and communicate with other volunteers and volunteer coordinators. They only need to send in one application, instead of submitting one per building.

Be Ready for Emergencies
Your visitor management reports should be accessible on any web-enabled device. This is imperative if your center evacuates and you need to account for everyone in your buildings.

When first responders have immediate access to your school floorplans and maps, they won’t have to stop and ask for directions. Instead, they can just go exactly where they are needed. It is also critical that buildings and doors are labeled.


Choose a System That Scales to Your Needs

Each community center requires different check-in configurations. Your visitor management system should give you the flexibility to configure the software to your needs. This customization can include what fields are required during visitor sign-in, what destinations are available, and the reasons for entry. The system should also allow you to integrate with a web camera to capture a visitor photo if the individual does not have an ID. The best provider can also offer you the flexibility to choose between assisted systems (those that are used at your front desk and managed by a school employee) and kiosk stations for self-service.

Boost Your Security

You can boost security by integrating with an automated volunteer management system. Each time a volunteer signs into your visitor management system, they are instantly screened for sex offender status and against any custom alert databases. Once signed in, each volunteer’s hours are tracked automatically. This data is then available in the integrated system and in the Volunteer Portal.

Volunteer Coordinators can also quickly run a batch of volunteers through the sex offender and custom alert checks and then print badges in advance of the volunteer event. This speeds up the sign in process for an event and helps prevent a long line of volunteers at your front desk.


Brochure – Raptor Volunteer Management System

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