06/30/2009 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Profiting From a Non-Profit

The associated press reported recently that several employees of a national non-profit that helps victims of child sexual abuse had pilfered more than $50,000 from the organization. Obviously this news is sad and disturbing, but what's worse is that it's not the first time we've heard that unscrupulous individuals committed fraud, and took advantage of the altruism of others. A Google search turns up dozens of pages of similar abuses. Unfortunately, before such crimes are noticed, the amount stolen is often much more.

This latest revelation of the theft of non-profit funds is a reminder that independent supervision and oversight is vital. It's also a wake-up call to individuals who donate to charitable organizations. It's not always easy to give money away -- it requires due-diligence and follow-through, and a personal effort to determine whether those non-profits have the proper checks and balances in place to ensure that the funds actually go to the population of individuals who were meant to benefit from the donations in the first place.

Hopefully, we all learn from these difficult, costly experiences. Going forward, it appears that non-profit organizations will need to be even more savvy in their efforts to protect themselves and you, their donors, from fraudulent practices and employee theft. The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners has suggestions on their website.

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