Friday, May 10, 2013

Former Treasurer Faces Theft Charges

The former treasurer of a Tallahassee, Fl.-based nonprofit is being charged with stealing more than 90,000 from the organization.

According to a report on Tallahassee.com, Jamie Pitts was arrested Wednesday after investigators discovered she allegedly wrote checks to herself from the nonprofit for she worked, Child Advocates II, over two years. The organization obtains its donations from Guardian Ad Litem, a group that serves Florida's abused and neglected children.

Authorities allege that Pitts, who had sole access the nonprofit's account, deposited the 159 checks totaling more than $90,000 into her personal bank account. She allegedly represented the checks as expense reimbursements most of which she listed as "voided" when she presented financial statements to Child Advocates' board. The checks were reportedly written starting in August 2010 and ending on April 27, 2012.

Brad Sealey, chair of the board, first discovered the alleged theft in March when he discovered the organization's account had a negative balance. When he was able to gain access to the account by proving he was the chair of Child Advocates' board, he discovered Pitts' alleged actions.

In a sworn statement, Sealey said that the organization's bylaws state that any reimbursements must be approved by a resolution of the board, and that no such resolutions were ever made to reimburse Pitts.

Pitts faces charges of grand theft and organized scheme to defraud. You can read the full story on Tallahassee.com.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

5 Ways To Keep In Touch With Monthly Giving Donors

Your work is done just because you got a donor to join your monthly giving program. Far from it; in fact, as fundraising consultant Pamela Grow explains, your work is just beginning.

Grow says that it's up to you as a fundraising professional to make sure your monthly donors are made to feel special. As a member of an exclusive club, these individuals are going to be expecting world-class treatment. One of the best ways to accomplish this is to keep in constant contact with them.

In her e-book, "The Lifetime Donor Attraction System," Grow shared five tips on how to keep in contact with your monthly donors:

  • Don’t stop communicating. Keep sending emails, as well as offers to upgrade their monthly commitments. These donors are also excellent prospects for planned giving, having demonstrated dedication to your nonprofit.
  • Send monthly donors special versions of your regular communications. Make sure they reference the donor’s membership in your monthly giving program.
  • Give them special opportunities, such as events, guided tours and access to your organization’s executives. Make sure they know the opportunity is exclusive to monthly givers.
  • Send special thank-yous. Think about including premiums in your thank-you correspondence with monthly donors.
  • Don’t neglect your regular correspondence. Follow up if a monthly sustainer’s renewal lapses or if she suspends payments.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Debt Causes Chicago's Field Museum To Auction Off Collections

If you are hoping to see famous items such as paintings by 19th century artist George Caitlin at Chicago's Field Museum of Natural History, you will be out of luck. Citing massive debt bought on by the Great Recession, the museum has auctioned off these works and some of its other collections in order to stay afloat.

According to report on NPR, the museum saw its endowment take a huge hit after the stock market tanked both in 2002 and 2008. Combined with bonds issued in 2002 to add an undergrounds collection center and make other updates, the Field Museum found itself in massive debt. To make matters worse, an expected increase in attendance did not occur, causing the institution to miss its fundraising goals.

Even after various cost-cuttings and layoffs, Field Museum CEO Richard Larivere told NPR that the institution's budget is still $5 million in the red, and most of that budget is slated to pay off debt.

Larivere became CEO this year and arrived after the previous head had decided that the best course of financial action was to sell off some of its collections. The practice -- known as deaccessioning -- is common in the museum world though there are some generally accepted guidelines on how the funds from these sales are to be used. For example, University of Kansas' Biodiversity Institute states that institute will only deaccession collections to "establish order and purpose to the collection," among other reasons.

The Field Museum used the nearly $15 million in funds from their deaccessioning to pay off certain staff members and to purchase new artifacts, which Larivere said is within the accepted guidelines for the practice. He also said that the museum would continue to sell off collections if it needed more money to balance their budget.

Although deaccessioning is an accepted practice there is some concern that it could cause donors to think twice before donating treasured items to museums.

You can read the full story on NPR's website.

Two Men Charged In Alleged 9/11 Charity Scam

Two men have been indicted for allegedly operating a bogus 9/11 charity, New Jersey Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa announced today.

Mark Niemczyk and Thomas Scalgione were indicted Friday on third-degree charges of conspiracy and theft by deception. The two men operated a pick-up truck from which they operated a charity that was supposed to raise money for the victims of the 9/11 attacks or related charities. The men allegedly sold t-shirts and collected donation at 9/11 events. The funds they raised -- in excess of $50,000 -- never made it to victims' families or 9/11 charities as promised, according to Chiesa.

“It’s a sad reality that in the wake of a devastating tragedy, when so many want to help, there are always parasites who view the tragedy and the generosity of others as nothing more than the opportunity and the means to turn a crooked profit for themselves,” said Chiesa.

The state alleges that Niemczyk and Scalgione, who registered their operation with the state, took all of their proceeds and deposited it into their personal bank accounts to pay for unrelated expenses. As a result of their alleged fraud, the two men were able to purchase the t-shirts they sold at a discounted rate by telling vendors that the proceeds from their sales would benefit victims' families. One vendor gave discounts totaling $3,312, and another gave discounts totaling $1,378.

Elie Honig, director of the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice, also alleges that the men told other lies in the name of donations. Niemczyk allegedly claimed that he was a Navy SEAL who did three tours of duty in Vietnam, and that he and Scalgione were father-and-son firefighters who were working at a firehouse near the World Trade Center on 9/11.

“Their conduct was outrageous, and we urge any victims who donated money or bought T-shirts from these con artists to contact us,” said Honig.

The charges against Niemczyk and Scaligione stem from an investigation by the Division of Criminal Justice Financial & Computer Crimes Bureau. The criminal investigation began with a referral from the Division of Consumer Affairs, which in November secured a final consent judgment in a civil action, under which the men must pay a total of more than $200,000, representing disgorgement of donations and payment of civil penalties, attorneys’ fees and investigative costs. The judgment bars the men from ever working for any charitable organization in New Jersey should they be convicted.

You can read the full indictment on the state of New Jersey's website.