Fundraising Fraud – Presidential Style

The New York attorney general filed suit against President Trump and his three eldest children Thursday, alleging “persistently illegal conduct” at the president’s personal charity, saying Trump repeatedly misused the nonprofit organization.”

As a lifelong fundraiser, it is always distressing to read stories about financial fraud within charities. But when the fundraising scam article you are reading in the Washington Post is about the U.S. President’s foundation, we have entered a whole new realm of insanity.

During the course of my career, I have had the pleasure of working with hundreds of organizations that raise funds from the public while upholding the highest standards of ethics. I work with nonprofit leaders who willingly and religiously abide by the laws of their states and our nation in administering charitable dollars.

And, now, the person holding the office of the President is alleged to have made a mockery of this worthy profession and the entire philanthropic sector. According to the suit filed by the New York Attorney General, Trump raised $2.8 million at a fundraiser in Iowa to benefit veterans. Some funds did go to veterans groups, but the suit alleges that the vast majority was used to support the Trump campaign. The Trump Foundation is also alleged to have used Foundation dollars to pay Mr. Trump’s debts, legal settlements, and even purchase a large portrait of the President.

This is the last thing our sector needed. Another story about misuse of funds by a charity. Now is an important time for all of us who work in this crazy and wonderful fundraising world to speak up. Let it be known that even when the news fills with stories of charitable fraud, that there is a mountain of good work happening in the nonprofit world. The funds we raise every day are protecting the environment, feeding hungry children, advancing treatments for cancer and Alzheimer’s, protecting the arts, ending discrimination, and so much more.

Stand up and say how proud you are by posting on social media this week. Here are some suggested hashtags: #proudfundraiser #closetrumpfoundation #charitiesmatter #weusefundswisely. Come up with your own. But let’s get the message out there that the big media story about fraud in the Trump Foundation is an anomaly and not the norm in charitable fundraising.

-Kathy Swayze


Photo credit: Damian Gadal Used under a Creative Commons (CC-BY-2.0) license.

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