Fraud has seen many nonprofit organizations lose funds running to millions of dollars in unclear circumstances. Your report of fraud could help recover diverted assets and serve justice to perpetrators. A Washington Post article on Oct. 27, 2013, cites the case of Lela West of the Virginia Scholastic Association, who was handed a 10-year prison sentence in March 2012 for financial fraud and ordered by the court to compensate the organization with restitution totaling $150,000.
Financial audits and investigations of nonprofit organizations have unearthed many fraud cases perpetrated by employees and other insiders. Some fraud perpetrators falsify financial information of their nonprofit organizations to conceal the embezzlement and misappropriation of funds. Findings of the 2012 Global Fraud Study published by the Association of Fraud Examiners showed that median fraud-related losses in nonprofit organizations reached $100,000 in 2012. The incidents of fraud at nonprofits are usually precipitated by environments of trust and friendships that employees and volunteers exploit to fleece these organizations.
Once you detect fraud, follow leads and gather appropriate evidence from accounting and communication documents. This could be local purchase orders, supplier and debtor invoices, payment vouchers, credit card slips, credit notes or signed contract forms. Form 990, which nonprofits file annually with the Internal Revenue Service, can also provide substantiating evidence. The nonprofit is required to report contributions and grants, program revenue, benefits paid to members and other financial information. The documented evidence will help you back up your allegations against any individual suspected of defrauding the nonprofit organization.
Identify the Appropriate Reporting Channel
If you are an internal or external auditor, highlight detected fraud in your audit report and recommend further investigations. An insider such as a staff member, board member or volunteer may have to report fraud anonymously to avoid retribution from perpetrators of the fraud. Contact fraud reporting organizations, such as the Fraud Hotline and Federal Trade Commission, to confirm whether they can investigate your fraud report. Fraud Hotline offers fraud reporting services to its registered organizations while the FTC attends to fraud red flags from donors and consumers of nonprofit services.
Submit the Fraud Report
Use the hotline numbers, email contacts and online contact forms provided by whistle-blower organizations to submit your fraud report. Some of these organizations provide website links for reporting fraud online. They also allow you to attach copies of your documented evidence in the emails and online contact forms. Seek the help of your state attorney general for legal guidance for reporting fraud in a nonprofit organization.
Paul Cole-Ingait is a professional accountant and financial advisor. He has been working as a senior accountant for leading multinational firms in Europe and Asia since 2007. Cole-Ingait holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in accounting and finance and Master of Business Administration degree from the University of Birmingham.