Money Management for Volunteer Departments
October 20, 2015
One of the most damaging things a volunteer department can have happen is someone willfully mishandling the department’s money. One person’s theft or intentional misuse of funds can ruin years of good community relations and result in loss of members, recruitment setbacks, fines, jail time for those involved, and potential lawsuits. Future fundraising efforts will likely result in fewer donations, and the department’s reputation will be tarnished for years.
It is not limited to theft, though. Failure to follow tax rules can lead to loss of not-for-profit status and all that legally comes with it, and the Internal Revenue Service will take action. This will also be detrimental to volunteer departments, many of which rely on donations to run.
While we want to believe people in public trust positions will do the right thing, headlines and legal proceedings show it isn’t that simple. Good financial management practices keeps members from chancing embezzlement and theft. This includes:
- Ensuring all officers know the responsibilities of their position;
- A checks and balances system for paying bills and auditing the books;
- Keeping insurance paid, ensuring enough coverage for fidelity-related loss;
- Creating policies that include conflicts of interest, whistleblowers, and more.
The Volunteer Fire Insurance Services, Inc., produced “Financial Systems Management for Fire and EMS Agencies,” which can be found as one of the National Volunteer Fire Council’s recorded webinars. It is only 30 minutes, is very thorough, and can be used for training purposes. Some states, such as Pennsylvania, offer information and support for departments wanting to understand records keeping requirements and the auditing processes.