The Chester County Controller's Office is putting on an excellent seminar to help nonprofit groups prevent fraudulent use of their hard-earned money.
I attended the presentation in Modena on Aug. 23 with Controller Norman MacQueen, Deputy Controller Carol Pollitz, and Internal Audit Manager Sharon Kay Jones, and found it to be so interesting and relevant that I didn't even remove my knitting from my workbag (I will never finish these socks!).
Ms. Jones started by giving alarming examples of fraud committed by Chester County residents. I was amazed by the amount of money stolen and the slipshod controls that were in place. She explained that the number-one reason why people steal from nonprofits is that they're living beyond their means. They get away with it because people trust them and don't want to believe that a friend could do such a thing.
Ms. Jones then outlined practical recommendations that can help prevent insider fraud, like having two people present and alert at all times when handling cash (say, when selling tickets at a high school football game). I was happy and relieved to note that almost all are in place in the nonprofit group I work with.
About a dozen people attended, representing an array of nonprofits, including churches, youth groups and fire companies. They were all nonprofit veterans and offered excellent examples of accounting lapses they'd witnessed. One woman said her church used to allow volunteers to write checks to themselves for reimbursement.
"No, that's not happening any more," she said she told them when she took over.
There was a lively debate about whether volunteers should be allowed to use credit or debit cards. Although it's traditionally frowned on, with today's technology, procurement cards (or "p-cards") can be set with a ceiling for purchases, and use can be limited to certain places.
I highly recommend this useful seminar for all treasurers and other officers. The folks from the Controller's Office said they planned to repeat it this fall, so keep an eye out for an announcement.