Widespread Nonprofit Thefts? Well, It’s Complicated
Nonprofit Quarterly | January 31, 2018
No sector is immune from embezzlement or theft; it can be found at nonprofits, at for-profits, and in the public sector. A recent article in the Boston Globe posits that theft by employees of nonprofits may be more common than we think, but this case is not well made for a number of reasons. In fact, most of the article is devoted to one (albeit interesting) case in contrast to a series done in the Washington Post four years ago on the same topic. At that time, Rick Cohen wrote,There are big themes in the Washington Post’s series on nonprofit “asset diversions” that merit attention and action, but they aren’t necessarily the ones you might think. The unfortunate result of much of the reporting done on the basis of this data is the general perception that nonprofits tend as a class toward bad managers or crooks or both. The reality is far more nuanced, and likely not dissimilar from that of the business sector. The truth is that there are many predators out there with a lot of new scams and tools who victimize the nonprofit sector as they do individuals.In short, nonprofits should be bulking up their protections against in-house and out-of-house thieves and embezzlers, and they should be working with governmental authorities to take action against anyone and everyone who would purloin resources from tax-exempt organizations. But they must also take action against categories of miscreants and malefactors in ways that produce change; not just for nonprofits, but for standards of ethics and accountability in the US economy.