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Addressing the Dangers of Cyber Attacks

By | Data, Nonprofit | No Comments

No one is immune to cyber attacks, hackers, viruses and phishing scams, including non-profit associations. Both your organization’s money and its reputation may be at stake.

At Welter Consulting, we want your organization to be safe from such cyber attacks. We offer consulting services to make technology planning easy. Contact us online or call us at (206) 605-3113 to learn more.

Boards Must Lead the Charge Against Attacks

Boards cannot afford to be complacent about cybersecurity. Many nonprofits are too small to have a dedicated IT staff or resources. In those cases, it falls upon the Board as the leadership team of the organization to develop policies and processes to guard against cyber attacks.

How Breaches Occur

Nonprofits may find themselves in the thick of a cyber attack through completely innocent circumstances. An employee may accidentally download an infected file. Someone may be searching for information and stumble across an infected site, leaving a virus in their browser.

These are common ways in which nonprofits become infected with malware. Recently there has been an increase in the number of extortion-related viruses. Such viruses lock users out of their computers until money is paid to someone who supposedly holds the virtual key to unlock the computer. Criminals do not care whether you run a charity for orphans or a financial firm; they take the money and continue their extortion schemes.

Other types of cybercrime include data theft. A data breach in which your donors’ or members’ personal data including names, addresses, social security numbers or credit card numbers are stolen can result in negative publicity for nonprofits and the threat of potential lawsuits. These crimes often aren’t noticed until long after they occur, giving nonprofit leaders a false sense of security. In truth, anyone can be the subject of such an attack.

Taking Steps to Prevent Attacks

Nonprofit board members can take several positive steps to ward off the threat of cyber attacks. While you may not be able to prevent them all, you can ward off many.

Steps you can take include:

  • Encourage management to adopt policies that prevent cyber intrusion. This may include frequent software updates, limits on web browsing, and training to raise awareness.
  • Add cyber insurance to your organization’s coverage to minimize the financial ramifications of cleaning up after a breach.
  • Build a proactive response plan, imagining worst-case scenarios and including steps to take should they occur.
  • Take an inventory of your current cyber security measures to disclose gaps.
  • Close any identified gaps or hire a consultant to do so for you.
  • Evaluate security risks among vendors and suppliers.
  • Find out where the most valuable information is stored – and treat it as you would money in a safe. Take extra precautions to make sure it is secure.
  • Discourage risky cyber practices, such as downloading documents from unknown sites or clicking links requesting that users reset their passwords.

Above all, make cybersecurity a top priority for your company. When boards do so, they send a powerful signal that it is an important topic worthy of employees’ time and effort to address it.

Cybersecurity is like the doors and locks on your home. You invest in strong doors, locks, and alarm systems to prevent burglars from stealing your television and computer. By making sure your cybersecurity efforts are up to par, you’ll prevent virtual burglars from walking off with important assets. You’ll add a layer of safety to your nonprofit that provides better peace of mind.

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.

Going Faster Isn’t the Answer. How Nonprofit Leaders Improve Decision Making.

By | Abila, Accounting, Budget, Data, MIP Fund Accounting, Nonprofit | No Comments

The phone is ringing off the hook and you have 3,000 emails waiting for an answer. Meetings are booked back-to-back and your desk looks like someone dumped a file cabinet on it. If that sounds familiar, it’s time to take a deep breath and rethink how you’re handling your day.

We each get 24 hours in a day, and some of that time must be spent on things like sleeping, eating, and personal needs…but many of us feel that if we can cram more into our workdays, we’re improving our productivity. We take classes on productivity, buy fancy journals or add apps for time management, and wonder what we’re doing wrong when we get buried under an avalanche of work.

Where we go wrong is easy to spot. We think that by going faster and working harder, we’ll eventually catch up. We try to multi-task, cram more tasks into each hour, and find new ways of working while commuting, showering, or sleeping (okay, that’s an exaggeration, but how many of us would find ways to work if we could while we sleep?).

Instead of working harder and doing more, noted professor Harry Kraemer of the Kellogg School suggests a radical new approach to managing the deluge of tasks facing most professionals. Rest, reflect, and reset is the mantra of the truly successful person.

Why Doing More Isn’t Better

The problem with always trying to do more is that you never have time to do what will truly make an impact.

Authentic and effective leadership requires thoughtful planning. Leaders may have natural talent and abilities, but they must put those talents into action after considering the facts around them. Without the time to reflect, the action may be ineffective.

Self Reflection Leads to Better Decisions

Leaders know that they have two main tasks: to prioritize what is important and to find the resources needed to get the important tasks completed. But you can’t prioritize if you don’t take the time for self reflection.

Self reflection is more than thinking about what you’ve done during the day and what you’d like to accomplish tomorrow. It includes thinking about what you need to do differently.

If you’re so busy you don’t have time to breathe, let alone think, you won’t be able to think outside of your current situation. You’ll continue to try solutions that haven’t worked but are comfortable and familiar. And when it comes to problem-solving, comfortable and familiar are not a leader’s friends.

Systematized Self Reflection for Leaders

To make self reflection a reality instead of a wish, it’s important to systematize it. By setting up a system for reflection, observation, and action, you incorporate self reflection into your day.

The following steps may make it easier to incorporate self-reflection in your leadership skills.

  1. Set aside 15 minutes for writing out your reflection.
  2. Write down your thoughts about the day. Include questions, problems, and tasks you need to tackle next.
  3. Keep a running list of items to follow up on as well as the second list of items to explore.
  4. Consider both big-picture thoughts as well as the minutia of the day.
  5. Make self reflection a daily habit.

Self reflection builds strong leaders, teams, and companies. It’s a simple task that only takes 15 minutes a day to complete. Instead of constantly speeding up and trying to do more in a day, taking a brief break to reflect, refashion, and recommit to our goals can help build a better company and create stronger leaders.

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.

How Data Visualization Improves Your Nonprofit Organization

By | Abila, Accounting, Data, MIP Fund Accounting, Nonprofit | No Comments

Think about the reasons why bestselling authors like Dr. Seuss are prevalent and successful.  Is it because of the carefully selected words that grab your child’s attention?  Or could it be because of the bright, colorful images that leapt from the pages as you turned them?

In children’s books, illustrations are as central to the story as the text. They help little ones focus on the most important elements of the tale. They get readers enthusiastic about the material being read. They validate emotions and experiences; convey meaning; carry information; and help young children better understand the written words.

You may not be an Eric Carle (remember The Hungry Little Caterpillar?), but as a nonprofit or association financial professional you have an important story to tell. And, your audience – whether that’s your board, fellow executives, professional peers, donors, or other key constituents – may not want, need, or understand some of the financial complexities you deal with on a regular basis. So, providing them with data that’s presented visually will give you similar benefits to book illustrations.

Data visualization will help you, your team, and your audience:

  • Focus on the information that’s most important
  • Identify patterns and trends in your organization’s finances
  • Illustrate cause and effect
  • Pinpoint any details
  • De-emphasize unnecessary/superfluous data
  • Draw faster conclusions

The good news is you don’t have to be an expert in graphic or information design to effectively present your data visually. A modern true fund accounting system should do the work for you.

When considering financial software, look for a system that offers you:

  • Real-time financial data, so you’re telling an up-to-the-minute story
  • Dashboards that present clean, clear graphical representations of your data
  • Intuitive features and tools so staff members can get up and running with minimal training and can self-serve, going forward
  • Easy-to-use, drill-down capabilities for greater insight into the numbers
  • Operability on mobile devices, like tablets, for on-the-go access to your financial picture

In today’s all accessible and information overloaded world, you must be an effective storyteller. And your story – as a nonprofit or association financial professional – is essential, because your financial status and agency health ultimately determines your organization’s strategic opportunities.

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.

You Can Never Be Too Careful: Improving Computer Security

By | Accounting, CPA, Data, HR, MIP Fund Accounting, Nonprofit | No Comments

Cyber threats are on the rise worldwide. The costs of a data breach are staggering with the average cost to repair such breaches at $4 million. And if you think your nonprofit organization is too small to be affected by cybercrimes, data breaches, viruses, and ransomware think again: many of the worst threats are to individuals and small businesses and that includes small nonprofit organizations.

One of the areas most vulnerable to external cyber threats is communications. Contact forms on websites, emails, chats, images – all provide a window into your systems through which cyber criminals can enter to wreak havoc. Here’s how you can improve the security of your overall system with an eye towards shoring up the defenses of your communications network.

Questions to Ask – and Answer

The first step to solving any problem is to understand the full scope of the problem itself. To do this, you will need to evaluate all of the possible threats against your organization. Review security and access points including who has access to your systems, website, email server, social media accounts and any external software you may use such as cloud-based storage, file sharing, and other systems.

  • Do you have a written process for granting access and revoking privileges? A written process with a designated administrator controls access to key services and systems. You can detail who can access which systems and what to do when someone’s employment is terminated or they leave voluntarily.
  • Do you have a master list of all of your software and systems? Create a list of all of the software and systems, as well as administrators and contact people in your organization, for all of the software you use.
  • Do you have a process in place for updating your software? Those annoying popups prompting you to update your systems aren’t just for show. Software updates close gaps in the system that programmers find after the initial software releases. These “patches” are often important coding changes that defend against known threats. Regular updates of all of your software and operating systems are
  • Do you have virus protection in place? A virus protection program can screen websites to ensure they are safe and check inbound emails and attachments. Other types of virus programs scan your hard drive for malware, harmless but annoying programs, and other code that gets injected into your computer without your knowledge. It’s smart to have two packages rather than just one; two can often catch more than one.
  • Do you back up your systems regularly? In the event of a cyber attack, having backups ready to restore your systems is vital. Automatic backups can be installed or you can store some of your non-confidential files on a cloud server to keep copies safe.

Communications Security Tips

In addition to these questions and answers, consider a few other security measures to put into place.

  • Assume anyone, at any time, can read your emails. Do not share passwords or other confidential information by email.
  • Consider email encryption services, which encrypt email on your computer so that it can only be read by the sender and recipient.
  • Only open attachments from people you know.
  • Require two-step authentication to sensitive systems and accounts such as bank accounts.

If you’ve checked “yes” to many of these items, then congratulations – you’re ahead of many other nonprofits in the cyber security department.

One last step is to have an emergency plan on hand to restore critical systems in the event an attack cripples your nonprofit’s systems. The FBI virus, a form of ransomware, can infect computers merely through visiting an infected website and it is difficult to remove. It locks a computer so that you cannot use it until the ransom is paid to the criminal. A skilled computer technician or service can remove it but will cost both time and money.

This is just one example of possible threats. As the threats grow, having a backup plan and a plan to keep working while your systems are fixed is critical to keeping your doors open and your work continuing without pause.

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.