Fraud is often associated with loss of assets, but the non-financial impact can be far more damaging particularly in the 3rd sector where trust is paramount.

In a previous post I wrote about indicators of fraud, in this post I would like to address the impact it can have on an organisation, with particular emphasis on the not-for-profit sector.

Breach of Trust

Morale and trust can be severly altered by the discovery of fraud.  In a charity environment where income and assets are donated rather than earned through commercial activity, reputation and trust in paramount to survival. 

Vulnerability

Charities are often considered to be more vulnerable, but are they?  In fact the incidence of fraud amoung the 3rd sector remains very low in comparison to commercial sectors.  In a survey conducted by The Fraud Advisory Panel, just 7% of respondents reported that their charitable organisations have been the victim of fraud within the previous two years.  In my opinion this incredibly low figure could be as a result of less fraud being detected or a culture that discourages whistleblowing, but never-the-less, 7% is remarkably low.

So why the perception?

  • Reliance on goodwill, generally being too trusting allows less ethical individuals to take advantage
  • Lack of supervision, particularly where the public are involved, for example during small fundraising events
  • Lower levels of management expertise or financial control
  • Less frequent or indepth training of staff and volunteers
  • Lower levels of remuneration

In my experience, many of these views are unfounded in most organisations, as the survey results confirm.

Financial Impact

Obviously the loss of assets is the easiest way to measure fraud, but have you considered the following?

  • The cost of management time dealing with the event and the resulting communications
  • The possible increase in insurance premiums, warranties etcetera
  • The cost of replacing the assets/cash
  • The loss of donations/sales resulting from the damage to goodwill
  • The cost of recruiting and training the staff/volunteers to replace those that have been removed due to their association with the event and those who have chosen to leave because of the emotional impact of the event.

Non-Financial Impact

Clearly the impact is difficult to quantify but should not be underestimated

  • Increased stress and negative affect on morale of internal and external stakeholders
  • Less favourable and/or negative messages in the Media
  • Loss of public trust, inherent goodwill and general interest in supporting the organisation
  • Lack of committment by volunteers and/or decline in numbers willing to volunteer
  • Exposure to further incidences of fraud as the organisation may be seen as vulnerable –  ‘an easy target’

I hope this information has provoked thought, in the next of this ‘fraud’ series, I intend to look at ways to reduce the risk of fraud occuring.

The information provided in this blog illustrates my opinions and experiences, it does not constitute advice and I do not accept responsibility for any actions taken or refrained from as a result of reading this post.

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