The rip on nonprofit charities is that they are so keenly focused on their do-good missions that they hardly ever notice they are being defrauded until it is too late. That is not the entire story.
Many people who serve on nonprofit boards are volunteers whose principal focus is elsewhere, whose attention is divided and who are invited to participate for reasons other than hard-nosed management and sharp-eyed auditing. Misplaced trust and polite manners overshadow auditing responsibilities.
There are also structural and procedural differences among public, private and faith-based nonprofits that track to definition and resources. Not everyone has the structure, history or support staff to afford the segregation of duties, redundant authorization or layers of review.
Operational hazards and credibility threats are not necessarily a function of scale, either. Some of the biggest, wealthiest and better-branded national charities have been, over the years, rocked by scandalous excess, individual misbehavior and financial ineptitude.
For the initiated and the uninitiated, some of the basic expectations and strategies for successful board oversight will be explored in March under the auspices of Leadership Susquehanna Valley in a program called, "Who is Watching the Money; Financial Oversight for Non-Profit/Volunteer Organizations."
Scheduled for 6 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 19, at the Econo Lodge Inn & Suites in Shamokin Dam, the program features lessons from the Pennsylvania Association of Nonprofit Organizations.
Already, this project promises to be one of Leadership Susquehanna Valley's more popular public events. Anyone who wants to learn more about this or register can do so by contacting the Greater Susquehanna Valley Chamber of Commerce (743-4100) or by email to email@example.com.
This enthusiastic endorsement is included here because of reporting in recent years on a series of thefts or misappropriations from a variety of nonprofits throughout the Valley, sometimes in extraordinary amounts siphoned off over a period of many years.
A number of organizations -- although not all of them -- have survived these setbacks with continued hard work and generous community support by reporting the problem.
It is a safe bet, however, that the people on duty who had to deal with these difficulties would have much preferred to avoid them in the first place.