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Nonprofit Fraud: 5 Common Schemes And How To Prevent Them

Nonprofit fraud is a serious issue that can have devastating consequences for organizations and the communities they serve. In order to protect against financial loss and reputational damage, it is crucial for nonprofits to be aware of the common fraud schemes and to have the right strategies in place. This article will discuss five common nonprofit fraud schemes and how a lawyer can help prevent them.


Embezzlement is one of the most common forms of nonprofit fraud. It occurs when an individual entrusted with managing the organization's funds diverts money for their personal use. A lawyer can assist nonprofits in establishing proper financial controls, such as implementing segregation of duties and conducting regular internal audits, to detect and prevent embezzlement.

False expense reimbursement:

In this scheme, an employee or volunteer submits false expense reports for reimbursement. This can involve inflating expenses or claiming reimbursement for expenses that were never incurred. A lawyer can help nonprofits establish clear expense reimbursement policies and procedures, ensuring that all expenses are properly documented and reviewed before reimbursement.

Grant fraud:

Nonprofits often rely on grant funding to support their programs and initiatives. However, some individuals may fraudulently obtain grants by providing false information or misrepresenting the organization's activities and impact. A lawyer can help nonprofits navigate the grant application process, ensuring that all representations are accurate and in compliance with legal requirements.

Payroll fraud:

Payroll fraud can occur when an employee manipulates their own payroll records or creates "ghost" employees to divert funds. A lawyer can help nonprofits establish strong internal controls over payroll to detect and prevent fraudulent activity.

Board conflicts of interest:

Conflicts of interest can arise when board members have personal or financial interests that may influence their decision-making. This can include entering into contracts with companies they have a financial stake in or using nonprofit resources for personal gain. A lawyer can help nonprofits establish conflict of interest policies and procedures, ensuring that board members are aware of their responsibilities and obligations.

Having the right legal guidance is essential for preventing nonprofit fraud. Legal professionals with expertise in nonprofit law can help organizations establish strong internal controls, develop and implement policies and procedures, and provide guidance on compliance with applicable laws and regulations. By taking proactive measures to prevent fraud, nonprofits can safeguard their assets, maintain their reputations, and continue to make a positive impact on the communities they serve.

Contact a lawyer for more information about nonprofit fraud