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A Telecommuting Cyber Security Checklist for Nonprofits

By | cyber security, Nonprofit | No Comments

Many nonprofits are discovering that telecommuting offers a viable alternative to working in an office. As concerns about the coronavirus continue, more organizations are relying on telecommuting to ensure their operations continue.

Telecommuting offers many benefits, but some drawbacks too. Many organizations worry about cybersecurity in the age of video conference calls, instant messenger conversations, and myriad other cloud-based software that enables people to meet, share, and collaborate on projects.

If you’re among those concerned about security when employees work from home, you’re not alone. We’ve put together a three-point checklist to help you think through all aspects of telecommuting safety. Apply this information to your organization’s telecommuting policies and procedures and safeguard your nonprofit’s data and reputation.

Three-Point Telecommuting Security Checklist for Nonprofit Organizations

There are many areas of concern when employees work from home. Everyone has access to different technology and internet services yet logs into central cloud-based systems. Viruses, hacking, phishing, and other threats remain, while new ones emerge. There is no one size fits all policy for all organizations embarking on a telecommuting program, but there are guidelines you can put into place to reduce the risk of problems.

Below you’ll find three areas to review and address as part of your cybersecurity checklist. For more on this topic, we recommend listening to Cybersecurity Advisory. Working From Anywhere, Rebooting Securely.

1. Review hardware configurations and security settings

Many organizations purchased laptops and other hardware to enable critical employees to work from home. This helped them ramp up quickly and get everyone online, but they failed to review each unit’s software and security configurations. The result: the potential for serious security flaws that offer criminals the opportunity to attack an organization’s critical systems.

To address this issue, have an IT specialist review all of the devices and ensure standard configurations. Install antivirus software and make sure it is run periodically. And create a policy and procedure to ensure that in the future, all hardware purchased meets minimum security standards, and IT reviews them before they are distributed to staff.

2. Bring your own device (BYOD)

As an alternative to purchasing hardware for all employees, some organizations allowed employees to use whatever equipment they had at home to log in to their network and systems. This is called “bring your own device” or BYOD and is common among many companies and organizations.

The problem with implementing BYOD on the fly is that everyone in your organization is connecting with a unique device, some of which may be infected by trojans and malware. Some people may be diligent about running security scans and updating their software, while others don’t know they should be taking such actions. The results could be catastrophic if someone uploads a document infected with a virus or malware.

To fix this problem, make sure that you ask employees to use a VPN to connect to the corporate network. Remind employees to run security checks and update software. Have your technical specialists draft a process by which employees can use their own devices safely. This may include steps taken on the organization-owned hardware and systems to secure sensitive data, upgrading security measures on an organization-wide level, and other steps indicated by your technology team.

3. Temporary changes that (accidentally) became permanent

Many organizations implemented temporary changes to address the confusion of the early stages of the pandemic. These included forgoing required password changes, allowing employees to share logins, and other things that at the time solved problems but now pose a threat to the organization.

The solution is to return to the pre-pandemic best practices and procedures as soon as possible. Speak with your teams and ensure that everyone understands why the changes are implemented and why it is essential to return to “all systems normal” as soon as possible.

Cyber Security Training Remains an Urgent Priority

According to the University of San Diego, phishing attacks have become more sophisticated. Increasing vigilance and protection against all types of cyberattacks is critical.

Many cyberattacks can be thwarted simply by user awareness. That’s where training for your team comes into the picture. Make sure that you frequently offer, uptodate training to remind staff about the many ways in which criminals use the internet to attack and steal data. Update policies that address cybersecurity and offer virtual training to ensure that all staff remains alert to cyber attacks.

Welter Consulting

Welter Consulting bridges people and technology together for effective solutions for nonprofit organizations. We offer software and services that can help you with your accounting needs. Please contact Welter Consulting at 206-605-3113 for more information.

Encouraging Diversity in Nonprofit Organizations

By | Nonprofit | No Comments

You can’t turn on the news today without hearing something about equality, diversity, and racial disparities. Not since the 1960s has the topic of racial equality been so prevalent in our society and culture. Discussions about how every organization, from schools to businesses, can welcome and include greater diversity are critical to ensuring that all voices are heard from the boardroom to the classroom.

Importance of Diversity in Nonprofit Organizations

Nonprofits are better positioned to plan for the future and embrace current challenges when they have a diverse staff and board. Diverse people bring unique perspectives, life experiences, and opinions to the table to add to discussions.

Another reason why diversity is essential in nonprofit organizations is to ensure that the staff reflects the populations served. People from similar backgrounds share common approaches to problem-solving, shared understanding of cultural norms, and other attributes that make it easier to connect and communicate. Having people of diverse races, genders, and other factors that reflect the demographic your organization services improves your ability to reach others to achieve your mission.

Many nonprofit organizations address sensitive issues as part of their mission: reproductive rights, healthcare, child and family needs, domestic violence, hunger, poverty, religious freedoms, education. It can be difficult for people to talk about their needs with nonprofit volunteers and staff who do not look like them or do not share the same cultural background. Improving diversity can lead to better outcomes because people may open up more to others from the same background.

Diversity Improves Performance

Many reports indicate that having diverse teams and boards improves an organization’s fundraising and revenue-generating ability. Forbes reports that companies with ethnically diverse executive teams were likely to achieve 33% more profits. Boards that were racially and ethnically diverse led companies to achieve 43% more profits.

Another study found that nonprofits with a higher percentage of women on their boards engaged more in fundraising and advocacy. The Association of Fundraising Professionals agrees that diversity improves an organization’s outreach efforts and leads to better fundraising.

Diversity Among Accountants Still Lacking

The accounting profession has made some inroads in diversity, but much work remains to be done. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, among the 1.9 million auditors and accountants in the United States, just about 9% are black. There is much room for improvement in these statistics.

How Can Nonprofits Improve Diversity?

Nonprofit organizations can take many steps to improve diversity throughout all levels of their organizations, including their accounting team. As we have seen, a more diverse organization can lead to better advocacy, communications, and fundraising activities.

To improve organization-wide diversity, your organization can:

  1. Establish organization-wide policies on diversity and inclusion.
  2. Appoint resources for diversity training.
  3. Review policies and hiring practices for potentially hidden biases.
  4. Train hiring managers and recruiters to be “color-blind” when hiring candidates.
  5. Seek board members who reflect the diversity of the population that your organization serves.
  6. Include diversity and inclusion language in job postings to welcome potential candidates of all ethnicities, races, genders, etc.
  7. Create and measure diversity goals.

It is only by becoming aware of a problem that we can confront it head-on and address it. Becoming aware of any diversity issues in the workforce is a necessary part of growth. “Futureproof” your nonprofit organization by ensuring a diverse workforce now.

Welter Consulting

Welter Consulting bridges people and technology together for effective solutions for nonprofit organizations. We offer software and services that can help you with your accounting needs. Please contact Welter Consulting at 206-605-3113 for more information.

Give Your Budget a Checkup with These Best Practices

By | Budget | No Comments

Budgets aren’t set in stone. Rather, they evolve over the fiscal year. They require periodic checkups and adjustments to make them work for, rather than against, an organization’s needs.

If it’s been a while since you’ve reviewed this fiscal year’s budget, take time now to go over the budget. Work with your accounting person or department to review projected expenses, income, and more, and give your budget a thorough checkup and tune-up with the following nonprofit budgeting best practices.

Nonprofit Accounting and Budgeting Best Practices

  1. Continuous monitoring: Budgets must be monitored continuously. This includes using both operational processes and the right software to provide up-to-date information. Continuous monitoring enables you to take action quickly should you need to adjust the budget based on actual and projected figures. It also lets you catch and correct mistakes quickly. Schedule time for budget reviews each month and add it to your calendar now.
  2. Assess and review: In addition to monitoring the budget to make sure there are no mistakes, assess and review the major line items periodically. You may need to shift funds from one budget to another or update lines based on cash flow. Special projects, especially those that take more than a year, may need to be treated separately in the budgeting system so that you can maintain, monitor, and review the project budget within a different timeframe than the organization’s general budget.
  3. Ask key questions: During the budget review, ask key questions. These questions may include:
    1. Did you gain or lose any important sources of funding?
    2. Do any granting institutions need updates on how their funds are being spent?
    3. Are there any new economic challenges on the horizon? If so, how can you adjust the budget to prepare for them?
    4. Is there any important or unexpected need that will require special funding?
    5. Are any lines running low? Expecting a surplus?
  4. Revise the budget according: Budgets are working documents, not final outputs. It’s fine to revise the budget and to make adjustments as needed to accommodate changing situations.
  5. Review bylaws and budgets: Bylaws may address budgetary issues. Review the organization’s charter and bylaws now to make sure that any changes you make to the budget follow the bylaws.

Communicate Budget Updates to Your Team

Lastly, budget checkups shouldn’t end with closing the computer or signing off on the updates. You must take the time to provide your staff with an update on the budget.

You may wonder why this is important considering that most people on your staff don’t have budgetary responsibilities. It’s simple: everyone needs to know where the organization’s finances stand. They may not need all of the details, but they need to know that there’s enough money to continue operations, address problems, and reinvest. If there’s a shortfall, they need to know that too, so they can take measures to conserve funds and cut expenses.

It may help to use data visualizations such as graphs and charts to explain the big picture to your staff. This is where cloud-based nonprofit accounting software comes in handy. Such programs offer the ability to run reports using up-to-the-minute data and provide easy-to-understand visuals to accompany your presentation.

Now’s the time to review, revise, and adjust the budget. Make an appointment with your accountant or CFO today to begin the process. And, be sure to schedule the next review now, too. Remember, budgeting is an ongoing process, not a final report.

Welter Consulting

Welter Consulting bridges people and technology together for effective solutions for nonprofit organizations. We offer software and services that can help you with your accounting needs. Please contact Welter Consulting at 206-605-3113 for more information.

Digital Storytelling Techniques Boost Fundraising Success

By | Fundraising, Nonprofit | No Comments

As the world continues to grapple with the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak, nonprofits feel the pinch. Many face record shortfalls. Some who relied upon in-person fundraising activities find it hard to adapt to the new digital world where business and personal events have shifted to the ubiquitous video conference.

Those nonprofits who have never conducted digital fundraising campaigns face a steep learning curve as they embrace the new normal (a phrase we’ve all heard since the pandemic started in March). As you begin your online fundraising efforts, you’re faced with a myriad of choices. What marketing tactic do you use, and when? How do you engage potential donors when so much vies for their attention online? How do you make your story stand out in their newsfeeds or emails?

The following guide to the best digital storytelling techniques can help your digital fundraising activities go from ho-hum to homerun. Ready? Let’s get started.

Establish a Successful Marketing Platform

  1. Review your current marketing plan. Has it been updated since the pandemic? If not, now is the time to update the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) analysis section, competitive analysis, and target audience.
  2. Look at what your competitors are doing to raise funds or generate sales. Where are they running ads?
  3. Where are your donors congregating online? Do they like Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube? Once you understand your target market, begin to assess various advertising platforms for your fundraising campaign, and start a list of possible platforms to place ads.
  4. Set up online payment portals or gateways to collect and record funds from the campaign.
  5. Gather the stories to share in your fundraising campaign from those who your nonprofit has helped. Ensure that if you use anyone’s name or likeness, you have a signed consent form on file.

Two Powerful Digital Storytelling Techniques for Nonprofit Fundraising

Take a cue from the for-profit world of advertising and use these proven techniques to elicit responses. Each of these powerful storytelling techniques can be adapted to nonprofit fundraising with just a few adjustments. These basic formulas have been used for decades to sell products. Why not use them to generate funds for a good cause?

The AIDA Formula

AIDA stands for attention, interest, desire, and action. It’s a way of writing material to grab attention and interest, spark the desire for action, and inspire the action. In nonprofit fundraising, a compelling headline grabs attention while success stories and pictures generate interest.

To spark the desire to help, you must tell the story in such a way that it appeals to the emotions. Then, ask for the desired action—in this case, a donation. Make it easy for people to donate by creating a direct landing page for the campaign with links to online donation forms or buttons to click to donate.

Problem-Solution-Ask

The problem-solution-result-ask formula is often used in case studies to showcase how a company solved a problem, and, by extension, could solve the same problem for the potential customer reading the case study. Nonprofits can adapt this formula by thinking of it in terms of the problem brought to their attention, the solution they applied, the results achieved, and asking for donations to continue such work.

Perhaps you have seen advertisements from animal shelters on television or online. These are classic problem-solution-ask ads. These ads typically start by showing the problems—abandoned pets, sick dogs, injured cats. Next, the scene shifts to the solution—pets frolicking with new owners, shiny eyes and coats, injuries healed. The solution is the shelter’s activities and the dedicated people working there. Such commercials end with the ask and the offer. They ask for donations, offer something in return (the feeling of helping, a gift), and ask again, providing clear and easy methods for donating to the organization.

This formula has worked well for many nonprofit organizations and charities, including food banks, homeless shelters, drug and alcohol rehabilitation charities, educational organizations, and medical charities. It can work for many types of nonprofits, and it may work well for yours!

Welter Consulting

Welter Consulting bridges people and technology together for effective solutions for nonprofit organizations. We offer software and services that can help you with your accounting needs. Please contact Welter Consulting at 206-605-3113 for more information.