I have questions that have both a technological and legal aspects. More and more our ministries are moving toward a digital medium. One of the biggest holdups for many volunteer processes is “paperwork.” It’s frustrating as we have conversations with people, meet them in person and then say, oh, fill out these pages and then we’ll get the ball rolling. Some of us have taken additional steps in putting all of these forms online, but it still usually requires someone to download the form, print and sign it. Once this is finished, those volunteers either mail it in, hand deliver it or scan/fax/email back to us. For living in the 21st century, this seems like a bunch of steps from digital to analog and back to digital again. I’m wondering though if we can keep the process purely digital. Here are my thoughts followed by questions.

A digital application
I can see two versions. An editable PDf where the volunteers downloads, fills out and either emails the application back or uploads it via a wufoo form or something like that. No printing or scanning.

A digital background check
We can already do this, although we don’t do it very much. Fellowship One provides a volunteer pipeline where individuals can log in and submit their own background check. We don’t use it very much because everything else is paper-based, so it seems less confusing to keep the background check process analog as well. I included what a volunteer fills out to get a background check though Fellowship One below.

A digital ministry agreement
There are a few significant bits of information that I want every volunteer to know and understand before they begin volunteering. I actually even want them to sign off that they know and understand… even agree to comply with. This may include our expectations as well as core policies such as appropriate touch, suspected child abuse and other key issues.

All of these “physical” documents we already keep in their file with Fellowship One which is secure and private, but almost all of these documents are scanned from a paper copy.

The Big Question
What does a digital signature look like in these cases? Could I simply add a disclaimer at the end of each document saying that filling out the following fields gives us consent that the information submitted was true, accurate and from you. The fields would request their full name, date of birth and maybe even the last four digits of their social security number… making that harder for someone to randomly fake. I know that Fellowship One does a background check completely digitally (I included the screenshot below) and no one has to “sign” anything. You have to give your social (which is required to run a check) which maybe helps validate that the person filling out the form is who they say they are.

So, what can we do? What legal issues do we need to consider? What issues might we run into if someone did something inappropriate and claimed that they didn’t know and that they didn’t sign the document that we have digitally signed by them. Also, if we use a Wufoo form to transmit files electronically, the form is a secure page (signified by the https at the front of the URL). Does that then provide a safe transport of files with documents of a more sensitive nature (although we’ll not ask for people’s full social security number on these forms)?

Let me know. I’m really curious as to what our options might be.