Strong anti-fraud measures reassure volunteers, conference told

26 Nov 2020 News

Anti-fraud measures can reassure volunteers as well as protecting charities against crime, a foodbank boss has told Charity Finance Week.

Mike Beckett, the chief officer at Colchester Foodbank, said that procedures introduced to address the risks of fraud at his charity had also helped reduce anxiety in volunteers.

The foodbank, the second largest in the East of England, expects to provide more than 12,000 meals to families in need this year. 

Small reforms to make volunteers happy

Beckett said that he and his team had introduced a range of anti-fraud reforms at the foodbank.

These included more regular checks of the charity’s assets and stock, additional signatures for some financial transactions, and reducing the amounts of money held in its bank accounts.

The foodbank also removed money set aside as a “float” and changed its cash box, which could now be removed from the building by the treasurer every night.

Leaving money on the premises had particularly worried some volunteers, Beckett said. Changing the approach had “reduced anxiety in volunteers, and happy volunteers achieve more”.

Beckett added that in the two years since the change, surveys had shown rising levels of satisfaction with the charity from its volunteers, “so listening to our volunteers has really helped”.

Sharing the load

He also told the event that relatively easy adjustments to financial controls had relieved pressure on the charity's trustees.

Beckett said that after some reforms, “we had more people involved and more signatories, so that there were more checks and balances.

“Before it had been more of a one-man show by our treasurer, who was doing a good job but he was only one person.

“By bringing in additional people who could also monitor the online transactions, it shared the load.”

Safe growth

Beckett said that strong anti-fraud measures had helped to ensure the charity could grow as demand for the foodbank grew.

He said: “By taking care of fraud prevention, and trying to make the organisation as robust and strong as possible – and by doing that first – we were then able to grow the organisation in a safe way.

“Because if we had not done that as a foundational task, we wouldn’t have been able to grow and be as successful as we have been.”

He added: “One thing we have noticed is that the foodbank is only scaling one way at the moment, and that is not likely to change.”

Demand doubling

His foodbank has 250 volunteers, compared with 150 before the pandemic, and has doubled the number of sites on which it gives out food.

Beckett predicts that it will provide meals to feed 12,000 people in 2020, up around a third compared with 2019 and double the total in 2016.

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