A question that often crops up in discussions about fraud is ‘why does prevention matter?’ Well, it does for some very important reasons.
The simple fact is that there is a lot of fraud around nowadays. Today, you are more likely to become a victim of fraud than you are to become a victim of theft or robbery. Fraud accounts for about 40% of all crime and a significant and growing proportion of it is committed online. This means that anyone – and any charity – is at risk. Research by the Fraud Advisory Panel and Charity Commission in 2019 estimated that around 1 in every 25 charities would fall victim to fraud within the next two years, and this has probably been exacerbated by the pandemic and the rapid shift online.
While trustees have a duty to protect their charity’s funds, we all have a part to play in this, regardless of the role we occupy within our organisations. Everyone wants their charity to thrive and succeed. Taking steps to keep our charity’s safe from fraud is an important aspect of this because fraud often flourishes in environments with poor governance, poor culture and poor financial management.
As the saying goes, prevention is far better than cure. It is often cheaper and less time-consuming to stop fraud from happening in the first place than to deal with the aftermath. It can also boost trust and confidence in your charity and protect those associated with it. Here are four basic steps to get you started.
- One of the easiest ways to prevent fraud is to be simply aware of the risks and how they might affect your charity. As part of this, think about how money comes into and goes out of your charity, the services it provides, where it operates, how many offices it has, and whether it is volunteer led, has staff or a combination of both. And then ask yourself: do you have controls in place to manage these risks and are they working properly?
- Your staff and volunteers are the eyes and ears of your charity and are often the first to spot when something is amiss, so it is important that they are aware of the risks and know how to report their concerns. Our research revealed that very few charities provide fraud awareness training to staff and this needs to improve, not least because it is a good way to ensure fraud is on everyone’s radar.
- Keep up to date on the latest threats by talking to colleagues both within and outside your charity. Also, visit trusted websites like those of Action Fraud, the National Cyber Security Centre and your regulator, and sign up to their email alerts.
- Finally, consider getting involved in charity fraud awareness week, taking place 18 – 22 October. It’s a great way to raise awareness and prevent fraud and, best of all, it’s easy.
- Organise some activities for your staff and volunteers. This might include a talk from a guest speaker, a training session, an article or even a quiz.
- Take part in the social media campaign using #StopCharityFraud
- Join one of the planned webinars and events
- Sign up to the new fraud pledge (coming soon)
- Use and share the free resources (including on-demand webinars and helpsheets) available online shortly (coming soon)
For more information or to request a supporters pack, please contact Mia Campbell at the Fraud Advisory Panel, firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.preventcharityfraud.org.uk (available from mid-September).*The views expressed are the author’s and not ICAEW’s.