Just the other week we came across this story where the former president of a youth football program in Massachusetts was charged with four felonies for allegedly embezzling funds from the organization over the past year. “…the investigation showed that Davis allegedly used the program’s debit card 75 times for charges totaling $2,256 for his own benefit, for things like gas, meals and personal auto insurance. Davis also allegedly wrote 13 checks, made out to “Cash,” totaling $1,728.” And while nearly $5,000 is no small amount, it’s pales in comparison to the New Jersey Pop Warner football volunteer who was sentenced to 27 months in prison and has to make $560,000 in restitution after his wire fraud conviction. Or the man who co-founded a suburban St. Paul, Minnesota youth sports league and was charged with five counts of felony theft for taking $113,000 from the organization.
These stories break our hearts. How could anyone steal from a youth sports organization, essentially robbing the kids?! But no matter how much we’d like to believe that could never happen in our own communities, we can’t turn a blind eye to the fact that unscrupulous people do exist and will take advantage of loopholes in the system. That’s why league administrators need to keep an eye on the league finances and watch for any red flags. The moment the numbers don’t add up you need to figure out why! It could easily be a simple accounting error or a misplaced check, but even a missing $50 here and there adds up over time if you don’t figure out why that money is missing. So how are you tracking your league’s funds?
An online sports registration system can electronically deposit funds into the league’s bank account daily so there is no real time delay between when you get the money and when it shows up in your bank account. By offering credit card payment options online you minimize the number of physical checks coming through your office. This not only saves your treasurer the hassle of depositing and recording hundreds of checks (and one can easily be lost or misplaced, applied to the wrong family’s registration or recorded incorrectly), but it also creates an electronic paper trail that no one can fake. You know exactly how much money came in on any given day and can see exactly where it went. With an online reporting system, you can also easily see which registration payments haven’t been received so you can account for any missing funds that way. The online system then sends statements of all account activity each month so you not only track how much went in, but also how much was taken out. If the funds taken out don’t match the receipts for purchases made you’ve got a problem on your hands!
Granted, all the reporting in the world doesn’t make much of a difference if only one person (the person stealing) is the only one watching the money. League volunteers and administrators often wear multiple hats, but make sure at least two people are keeping an eye on the league’s finances. Again, no one wants to think that their friends and neighbors are capable of embezzling even $5, let alone $5,000, but are you willing to risk your league’s future because you don’t want to offend someone by having more than one person handling the funds? Even if the Treasurer is the main money manager, have someone else double checking receipts at the least. That way, even honest mistakes are caught early on and easily fixed.