Guest Blog: 5 Tips for Launching a Successful Community Outreach Program

By Dawn-Marie Dalsass, CFE, CCS

(Editor's Note: Dalsass is the president of the Long Island Chapter. The chapter recently began a community outreach program to help educate business leaders and residents of Long Island about fraud.)

 Dawn-Marie Dalsass, CFE, CCS

Dawn-Marie Dalsass, CFE, CCS

In October of 2012 many Long Island communities were devastated by Hurricane Sandy. The Long Island shoreline was destroyed and many homes went with it. In the course of rebuilding many of our neighbors found themselves victims of fraudulent schemes. Vendor fraud was abundant, and the elderly were being taken advantage of from all angles. Long Island, already a victim to widespread fraud in various school systems, was being hit harder. We thought to ourselves, “What could CFEs do to help?” 

The Long Island Chapter of the ACFE decided that we wanted to be more than just an organization that helped professionals to network and earn CPE credits. We noticed an increase in fraud in our backyard and wanted to help spread the word of fraud prevention. The Board of Directors agreed that as CFEs our chapter had so much more to offer our community. We created a VP of Community Affairs position, and we formed a Community Affairs Committee.

We now have volunteers from our chapter who prepare outreach program presentations and help get the word out about fraud and how to prevent it. We go to local schools, libraries, community centers, Chambers of Commerce, and other community and business organizations to spread the word about fraud prevention. Some of our presentations include: frauds that senior citizens face, small business fraud, vendor fraud, identity theft, employee background checks and fraud in schools.

What can you do to get your own community outreach program off the ground?

1.       Make sure you have a committee leader that is committed to helping keep things organized. This individual should have no fear of reaching out to community leaders and booking speaking engagements.

2.       Make it clear to the committee members and speakers that this is volunteer work and not meant for promotion of their own business. We are here to help spread the word about fraud prevention. 

3.       Have a professional handout with the chapter’s contact information and website. Be sure to distribute these to let the outreach program attendees know that they have a whole chapter of professionals available should they find themselves in need of a fraud professional.

4.       Let your chapter members know that when calls come in from attendees of an outreach program presentation, they will be reaching out to them to assist these individuals in need of help. Make sure to ask them only to respond if they are familiar with the specific type of fraud that is being described. 

5.       Most importantly, make sure your speakers are compassionate, empathetic, patient and knowledgeable. The people attending these seminars will have lots of questions, are sometimes scared and may have even been victims themselves.

Teaching others about fraud can be a very rewarding and fulfilling way to share your expertise as a fraud examiner with members of your community and a great way for your chapter to give back.