Motivation is typically described as the pressure or incentive to commit fraud. When great pressure is brought to bear, people will do things you would have never thought possible. We used to illustrate this with someone who has a drinking problem or a gambling problem. Those illustrations of pressure don’t paint a good enough picture because you can’t drink enough (and still function) to create pressure to steal enough money to cause a severe problem. Let’s expand the picture. Long before someone with a drug problem deteriorates to the point of non-functioning, they can appear to function normally on the outside but have a need for so much money that the only way they could possibly feed their addiction is to steal from the ministry. I don’t know anything about the going price for illicit drugs, but I am aware enough to know that a serious problem would quickly be larger than anyone’s income in the non-profit world.
Let’s expand the motivation picture even further. Consider medical costs. Think about the way coverages have dropped and the marvels of modern technology have increased (along with the skyrocketing costs of all those astounding drugs and phenomenal machines). Today it is possible for a person to have $50,000 or $100,000 of uncovered costs from a serious illness. If a loved one is severely ill or suffers from a chronic disease, the uncovered costs could be astronomical. If someone has worked in ministry for a long time (at the wages typically paid in the NPO sector), where in the world will a person get the cash to continue caring for their loved one? From their savings? Not likely. From their house equity? Not anymore. Without any turmoil in the work environment, a person could find themselves with severe pressure to get money any way they can. Those silly little gaps in your accounting procedures quickly become a solution to all the problems.
Consider also the current housing crisis. A huge jump in monthly payments because of an adjustable rate mortgage could devastate a family’s finances. The pressure of being behind several months on a large loan could be more financial distress than a person has ever felt before. The fear of losing everything you have built up in a lifetime of work could be an overwhelming pressure.