March 27, 2011; Source: | The Cape Cod, Mass., charity Touched by Angels asked residents to open up their hearts and wallets to support struggling neighbors. Now, the president of the organization has been accused of mishandling funds, and the 30,000 nonprofits throughout the state fear a decline in donor trust and support.

President Gina Clark of Marston Mills has been indicted on charges of fraud, embezzlement and labor violations after she stole tens of thousands of dollars meant for 15 families who had just lost a loved one or were in financial stress. According to the state attorney general, Clark kept most of the funds raised through local charity events, with families receiving as little as $50 to $200 after being promised more.

Clark is also accused of failing to pay employees and threatening donors when they stopped making regular donations.

Leaders in the state’s nonprofit sector are concerned this will cause donors to lose faith, according to Stephen Pratt, co-founder of the Massachusetts Nonprofit Network. Pratt said that 12 percent of state employees work for nonprofits. “Our state depends heavily on generosity to charities,” he noted.

“This is very rare, and shouldn’t besmirch other nonprofits.” Elizabeth Gawron, president of the Cape Cod Foundation said regarding the Touched by Angels scandal. “At the same time, it is disheartening to have this happen on Cape Cod, where there are so many in need.”

Pratt encourages donors to review a charity’s tax forms filed with the state. He also emphasized that donors need to look at a charity’s longevity and use common sense. He added, “But keep giving.”—Nancy Knoche