Group photo of participants from the ELEVATE Program Financial and Legal Session with Beth Short, organized by the Van Wert County Foundation.

ELEVATE Program 2024: Tackling Financial & Legal Obligations as a Nonprofit with Beth Short

By: Maddie Emerick

Keeping everyone’s attention during a presentation is challenging. Getting laughter and engagement from the audience about legalities and finances- that has to be a superpower! 

On Thursday, June 20th, nonprofits in Van Wert County met superwoman Beth Short, the Director of Charitable Outreach and Education for the Ohio Attorney General’s Office. Beth kicked off this year’s ELEVATE program talking about fundraising, how to prevent stealing from within an organization, and the importance of financial transparency. 

A major focus of Beth’s presentation was the uncomfortable truth of fund misappropriation and theft. She highlighted several scenarios of financial dishonesty that often go overlooked. Beth pointed out theft is typically the result of poor preventative measures and the lack of a verification process. Here are some things that you can do to be proactive about preventing theft within your organization.

Monitor Your Money

Simply knowing where your money is and where it’s going is a great first step in preventing theft. Regularly checking bank statements, especially after a change in treasurer or other similar financial position, can ensure that everything is where it needs to be. Additional methods, such as restricting the use of cash to discourage sticky fingers and establishing check-handling procedures, affirm all of the money makes it to the account in the first place. Finally, setting and strictly adhering to budgets will ensure accountability and visibility into the funds entering and leaving the organization.

Know Who is Working for You and Who You Are Working With

Employees, vendors and partners all make up the fingerprint of a transaction. Without the proper systems in place, this complexity can leave room for leaks in the cash pipeline. Beth recommends creating a list of vetted vendors and developing payroll controls to help monitor who your organization can pay to stop these leaks.  One of the preventative measures that Beth encouraged was implementing background and credit checks. These activities provide insight and transparency into sensitive personal circumstances with the potential to affect your organization’s financial well-being, such as gambling problems, substance abuse issues, or recent economic hardships.

Have a System in Place

Having a system in place aids in financial transparency within your organization. These systems can look like requiring the rotation of duties, regularly changing passwords, recruiting new audit committee members, and assessing your internal controls. Beth recommends having two or more people with eyes on the money.

Another important point Beth addressed was how to fundraise within the legal parameters set by the state. Knowing how to raise money legally is imperative so you don’t damage your organization’s reputation. During her presentation, Beth outlined major fundraising requirements often overlooked by nonprofits. Important things to remember include regulations around gambling-related fundraising and partnership permission obligations.

Once again, we’d like to thank Beth Short for an amazing presentation and the resources for Van Wert’s nonprofits to grow their mission and enhance their impact. All of this information is from the financial and legal ELEVATE session and the materials provided by Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost’s Office. If you want additional materials and information, please stop by our office.