Accavallo & Company, LLC

Protecting Nonprofit Finances: Safeguarding Against Fraud Risks

When it comes to financial fraud, nonprofits often operate on thin margins, making every dollar crucial to their mission. While it’s encouraging that nonprofits typically experience lower median losses from fraud compared to for-profit entities, this doesn’t diminish the importance of vigilance. In fact, with limited resources at their disposal, nonprofits can ill-afford any financial setbacks. As a trusted tax firm specializing in nonprofit compliance, we recognize the critical role of proactive measures in mitigating fraud risks and safeguarding nonprofit finances.

Raising Awareness and Providing Training

The 2024 ACFE report underscores a concerning trend: nonprofits have a lower implementation rate of fraud awareness training compared to public companies. This knowledge gap leaves nonprofits vulnerable to financial losses, with organizations lacking comprehensive training programs facing double the risk of financial misdeeds. To address this, it’s imperative for nonprofits to integrate fraud prevention and reporting protocols into their operational frameworks. Our firm recommends incorporating fraud prevention training into the onboarding process for new hires, executives, and volunteers with financial responsibilities. Additionally, regular refresher courses should be provided to ensure ongoing awareness and vigilance among staff members.

Facilitating Reporting Channels

Effective reporting channels are essential for detecting and addressing fraudulent activities. Nonprofits should ensure that all stakeholders, including clients and vendors, are aware of how to report suspicions of fraud. Implementing anonymous tip lines or web portals has been shown to significantly reduce the cost and duration of fraudulent schemes, fostering a culture of accountability and transparency within the organization. Our firm can assist nonprofits in establishing robust reporting mechanisms tailored to their specific needs and operational structure.

Enhanced Financial Oversight

Regular review of financial statements is a cornerstone of fraud detection and prevention. While nonprofit boards typically conduct annual or semi-annual reviews, increasing the frequency of these evaluations can provide greater insight into potential discrepancies and irregularities. Our firm recommends quarterly or monthly financial reviews to enhance oversight and minimize the risk of financial losses stemming from fraud. Additionally, board members should receive regular budget reports highlighting variances between projected and actual figures, enabling proactive intervention when necessary.

Implementing Segregation of Duties

Segregation of duties is a fundamental internal control measure that can significantly mitigate the risk of fraud. By distributing financial responsibilities among different individuals, nonprofits can minimize the opportunity for fraudulent activities to occur unchecked. Our firm advises nonprofits to ensure that no single individual has control over multiple phases of a financial transaction or function. This includes separating roles such as asset management, transaction initiation, approval, and reconciliation. We can assist nonprofits in designing and implementing robust segregation of duties policies tailored to their organizational structure and operational needs.

Additional Control Measures

In addition to segregation of duties, nonprofits should implement other control measures to further mitigate fraud risks. Our firm recommends limiting the number of credit cards issued and enforcing stringent documentation and review processes for card usage to prevent unauthorized expenditures. Mandatory vacation policies can serve as a deterrent against fraud by ensuring transparency and accountability in employees’ absence. Our team can work with nonprofits to develop and implement tailored control measures aligned with their specific risk profiles and operational requirements.

Adapting to Evolving Threats

As the threat landscape continues to evolve, nonprofits must remain vigilant and adaptable. Our firm recognizes the importance of staying abreast of emerging fraud trends and adjusting internal controls accordingly. Factors such as workforce reductions and upcoming fundraising events can increase vulnerability to fraudulent activities, underscoring the need for proactive measures. Our experienced team can help nonprofits assess their unique risk factors and develop tailored strategies to address emerging threats and protect their financial integrity.

In conclusion, while nonprofits may face lower median losses from fraud, the impact can still be significant. By prioritizing fraud prevention measures and partnering with a trusted tax firm like ours, nonprofits can effectively safeguard their finances and fulfill their missions with confidence.

If you have any questions on the importance of implementing proactive measures to prevent financial fraud in nonprofit organizations, contact us to discuss your needs. We can be reached at 203-925-9600.

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Sherri Fisher is a Tax Manager at Accavallo & Company, LLC.  Sherri has longstanding expertise in Trust and Estate Taxation, Eldercare, and Estate planning. Sherri appreciates the relationships she has built with estate planning attorneys and advisors, to provide a team approach to assisting her clients. Sherri also has seasoned experience in business and individual taxation and is partial to assisting start-ups in developing overall accounting and operating plans.

Prior to joining Accavallo & Company, LLC, Sherri was a manager in a large firm, servicing high net worth trust clients, business, and personal clients. She was also a Partner in a large bookkeeping firm, which specialized in cloud accounting systems for regional and national companies. Sherri led a team in assisting clients to organize their accounting systems.  She is a graduate of Florida Atlantic University with a B.S. degree in Accounting.    

Sherri’s experience includes working with companies and organizations in a variety of industries including:

  • Investment Trusts

  • DAPT and Family Investment Partnerships

  • Estate and Probate Administration

  • E-Commerce

  • Manufacturing

  • Construction

  • Real Estate Investment

  • Marketing and Service-based industries

In addition to her professional accomplishments, Sherri is an Intuit Advanced Pro Advisor, Intuit Future Firm Advisory Board member, member of the Valley WIN Network, and proudly served as past Connecticut Public School liaison for the Yale Tommy Fund for Childhood Cancer. Sherri enjoys time with her family, Cleveland sports, thrifting and gardening.