Chapter Profile - Northeast Ohio Chapter #13

NEO Chapter President John Heffner, CFE

NEO Chapter President John Heffner, CFE

Over the past few years, I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing the submissions for the Chapter of the Year Award. There have been so many deserving chapters and while there can be only one winner, I’d like to spotlight a chapter each month and give chapters a platform to share their accomplishments, lessons learned and any wisdom the leaders have gained along the way.

The first chapter we’re featuring is the Northeast Ohio (NEO) Chapter #13 located in Cleveland, OH. The NEO Chapter was approved in January of 1990 and will be celebrating its 30th anniversary in a few short months. Their board consists of four officers and seven board members.

The NEO Chapter currently has between 75-100 members and charges $25 a year for membership for CFEs, associate members, affiliates and students. Memberships run from January-December and often include a limited-time promotional period at the beginning of each year whereby memberships can be obtained at a discounted rate of only $20. Fees charged for trainings throughout the year vary and are priced according to venue and overhead costs as well as the number of CPE credits offered. Student members can generally attend trainings free of charge unless otherwise specified.

The chapter organizes approximately five events per year and prides themselves on being a one-stop-shop for all 20 annual CPE credit requirements. Meetings include either a breakfast or lunch depending upon the time scheduled. Their training events generally offer 2-4 CPE credit but can reach upward of 6-8 CPE credits depending upon the topics or presenters being offered. They have had a great deal of success in partnering with other organizations in their community and in putting on trainings. Some of these include the local chapters of the IIA and ACAMS. More recently, they have established relationships with State Crime Bureaus as well as federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.

The chapter has consistently been a high-performing chapter and the local members have certainly benefited from the support they provide. They also make a point to promote the ACFE and recruit new members at each event whenever possible. Additionally, they have also found success in giving back to the local community at nearly every training event by donating a portion of their proceeds to organizations such as the Greater Cleveland Food Bank and other non-profits in the area. This chapter exemplifies what it means to give back to the community, and here's a future look at how they bring that mentality into everything they do.

Finding a unique setting for training events

In March, the chapter had its annual ethics training at the Terrace Club inside Progressive Field, home of the Cleveland Indians. The backdrop was the actual ballfield and stadium, offering a unique and lively setting. Afterward, the chapter had special permission to take a group photo in the stands. Several attendees opted to join in for the group photo under the 2019 All-Star Logo. The chapter also won approval and accreditation from the Ohio Accountancy Board that allowed the CPE credits offered to be used by licensed CPAs. This also garnered a significant uptick in overall attendance. The training event received rave reviews from everyone.

NEO Chapter leaders and attendees after their event at the Cleveland Indians baseball stadium.

NEO Chapter leaders and attendees after their event at the Cleveland Indians baseball stadium.

In May, the chapter partnered with the Ohio Attorney General’s office and the Bureau of Criminal Investigation for a special training day focused on financial crimes and legal case studies. Topics touched upon elderly exploitation, sovereign citizen concerns, financial investigations and their prosecutions, and cyber currency. Holding the training onsite where some of the actual law enforcement investigations take place and having the topics presented by some of the officials who oversaw those cases brings forth a realism to the experience like no other.

In September, the chapter will have a special training event at the MGM Northfield Casino. They’ve partnered with MGM and members of the Ohio Lottery and Casino Control Commissions to put on an event focused on casino operations and investigations. The event will be held in one of the conference rooms onsite at MGM in Northfield, Ohio, and following the event, MGM is allowing attendees to partake in a behind-the-scenes tour of the facility and security areas of the casino. Attendees will be able to put into perspective the training they receive.

Working with the local community

The chapter is very successful in partnering with their community to organize the locations of training events. They try to achieve discounted rates whenever possible on locations or facilities where training occurs. Even when discounts aren’t possible, they still try to provide a benefit to those who help in their programs. For example, for the ethics event at Progressive Field, they had several members from the Cleveland Indians’ Internal Audit Department attend the training as their guests, and the chapter also made a small donation to the Cleveland Indians Charities, all as a measure of thanks for the partnership established and for the assistance in providing a unique experience for their members and attendees.

Bringing in new members

The NEO Chapter promotes membership at every event in some way. Much of their recent growth has been from word of mouth from other members urging others to join. Membership has also grown by offering a wide variety of topics that touch many different arenas, thus exposing new people and especially younger people to the ACFE. The chapter is also proud to have one of its board members strongly affiliated with Baldwin Wallace University, which helps in promoting the chapter to students. In most cases, attendance of training events by students is free or offered at a deeply discounted rate. They look forward to containing their promotion of the ACFE and the chapter wherever and whenever possible. Fraud is essentially everywhere, so they try to take the ACFE’s message to as many people and entities as they can.

Goals for the future

The NEO Chapter wants to continue being a leader not only in their local community but globally as well by bringing the world of fraud examination to new arenas through establishing new relationships and training opportunities wherever they may be. They believe that building upon their past successes will not only grow the chapter’s membership and training attendance but allow them to be a major contributor and force in the ACFE world.

Advice for other chapters

Don't be afraid to try to things, new locations, new topics or to meet new people. Establish relationships or partnerships wherever and whenever possible. The art of communication and negotiation are key components to success. Give back to the community in which you exist through volunteerism or monetary donations. Give your membership and event attendees the best training, from the best people, at the best value, and with an experience they will remember.

Remember…this is a group effort

The NEO Chapter believes they have the best officers and board members because everyone contributes and participates in some way. It's a group effort and that's what it really takes to make any organization stand out and thrive.

I’d like to thank the Northeast Ohio Chapter for the nearly 30 years of being active and helping promote the ACFE. We realize that running a chapter is time consuming, and often you don’t get the recognition you deserve for volunteering your time as a chapter leader. I’d like to thank you all one last time for the hard work you put into keeping the NEO Chapter active over the years, and I look forward to hearing more about their accomplishments.