How To Prevent Stealing From Youth Sports Organizations

It’s always a shock when you hear about it. A trusted volunteer, league administrator, or coach is stealing from the local youth sports league. Unfortunately, this is a reality and something that every parent and league administrator should be aware of.

According to the Center for Fraud Prevention, there have been hundreds of arrests and convictions in 43 states involving 15 sports over the last five years. Although shocking, these numbers are much lower than the actual number of cases as the majority go unreported.

So what can we do? The repercussions of not catching this type of fraud ahead of time is dire. Some leagues have dissolved as a result. Most of them survive, but come up short in terms of funding for equipment, uniforms, and fields.

We’ve seen this happen a couple of times at LeagueSide, so we’ve done our best to compile a list of best practices to prevent any type of embezzlement or stealing from youth sports organizations.

Step 1: Implement a system of checks and balances

Typically, a little league or youth sports league is a non-profit comprised of a Board of Directors. The board’s roles are divided across a variety of functions including President, Vice President, Secretary, and Treasurer.

It’s important to note that these people are volunteers. It’s tempting due to restraints of time to divvy up responsibilities. However, we strongly recommend implementing a system of checks and balances and always involving multiple people in the process when money is involved.

Typically, the treasurer of a league will have a background in accounting and handles the day-to-day bookkeeping. It’s important that the entire board sets aside time to go through the finances and bank statement together.

As a general rule, whenever a money transaction occurs, someone else should be involved. This includes registration, fundraisers, sponsorships, paying for refs, managing the concession stand, and buying equipment.

For example, LeagueSide always involves multiple board members in the sponsorship process to prevent any type of behind the scenes theft and to hold people accountable to their sponsorship duties.

Step 2: Run background checks

There are several tools for background checks. In the youth sports space, there is Protect Youth Sports or SSCI. These background checks can cost anywhere from $7.95 to $20 depending on the thoroughness of the screening.

Background checks will catch anyone with a previous criminal history, but we have noticed that the majority of embezzlement cases involve a parent that has fallen on hard times. That means background checks aren’t perfect.

Nonetheless, we recommend implementing background checks for any league administrator or coach involved with your organization.

Step 3: Use an electronic payment system

The best way to keep tabs on the flow of money through your league is through an online payment system.

Never, never, never allow coaches or administrators to collect money in-person. Advertise this to all of your vendors, coaches, administrators, and families.

An easy payment process to set up is PayPal.  If you’re using a league management software for your website, chances are that this software has a payment processor as well.

If you’re looking for a payment processor for your sports league, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We can make a recommendation 🙂

Step 4: Train your volunteers

It is important to remember that the board of directors, league administrators, and coaches are volunteers too. The majority have little or no experience working within the parameters of a non-profit.

The National Alliance for Youth Sports actually offers training for volunteer administrators. There is no cost for one person from your league to attend and features insights on how to better manage your organization including preventing embezzlement.

Proper training and preparation for their new role can go a long way to preventing embezzlement and creating better programs for your kids.

What else?

These tactics won’t guarantee that you’ll be able to prevent fraud and embezzlement for your youth sports organization, but these are some of the best practices we’ve seen.

We want to hear from you. What other ways have you seen work well to prevent this type of theft?

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