Responsible Data Collection for Nonprofit Organizations

By | Abila, Accounting, Accounting Software, Cloud, Data, Internal Controls, MIP Fund Accounting, Nonprofit, Technology | No Comments

Many people were shocked to discover the amount of data that Facebook and its partner organizations collect and share about their users. What’s surprising isn’t the amount of data collected and shared, but the public’s ignorance of how rampant data abuse is throughout the online world.

Have you ever had advertisements that seem to follow you online? That’s due to data collection from your browser history. Companies such as Google note which websites you’ve shopped or browsed recently and make educated guesses on behalf of their advertisers on which ads to display on your pages. So-called “remarketing” or “re-targeting” is just one example of how you are inadvertently leaving a detailed data footprint wherever you go online.

Social media websites such as Facebook may be in the news because of their disregard of how sensitive people are to data collection and sharing, but your company could be next on the list if you aren’t careful. Take time now to review your nonprofit’s data collection habits, security, and sharing guidelines, and make changes if needed to safeguard your donor and member privacy.

Create and Display Data Privacy Policies

Data privacy policies should be written and displayed prominently on your website. Some websites request that users accept them as part of their terms and conditions of using the website.

Privacy policies include:

  1. Details on how data is collected, shared, and stored
  2. Users’ abilities to stop data collection or access records
  3. Where to send complaints, questions, comments
  4. How IP addresses, cookies, and external links are used
  5. Any other information related to data use and collection

The Council of Nonprofits has a good privacy policy which you can review as a guideline to help you create your own. It includes the major points most nonprofits should cover in their privacy policies.

How Data Is Used

Most people recognize that some data is collected anytime they visit a website. Few object to simply recording IP addresses of people who visit a site but do disagree with who sites share their data with – they want control over who sees their personal information.

As part of your data privacy policy, be specific about how data is shared. Consider limiting shared data only to necessary third-party vendors, such as mailing companies who help you package donor mailings, or some other third party you manage and control. Selling user data may be a tempting way to make extra money, but it can quickly sour any trust built with your member base.

Improve Data Security

Even if you only collect a few data elements when people register for your site or make a donation, you must make all efforts to safeguard that data from hackers. Small nonprofits are actually at greater risk than larger ones because criminals know that small organizations lack the resources to counter against a cyberattack. They are more likely to pay the ransom when data is hijacked and may lack a dedicated IT resource to protect against attacks.

Take the time now to improve data security. Simple steps such as updating software, creating strong passwords, and adding virus protection software to your organization can act like locks on the front door of a house – not much if someone is truly determined to break in but enough of a deterrent that the average thief walks away for easier pickings elsewhere. Consider working with a cyber security expert to enact greater safeguards against intrusion if you handle highly sensitive data.

Although nonprofit organizations aren’t in the business of collecting and selling data like Facebook and other big companies are, they must maintain a basic level of trust with the public in order to continue their activities. Protecting data and providing transparency into your organization’s data privacy and security is one way to enhance that trust.


Welter Consulting

Welter Consulting is a technology firm empowering nonprofit and government organizations with effective software, consulting & training that can help you with your accounting needs. We are committed to finding the most affordable technology, the most powerful solution, and providing expert support. By leveraging technology and superior reporting, our team helps to free more of your time to devote to the important work of your mission. We bridge people and technology together for effective solutions for nonprofit organizations. We are passionate professionals who choose to work in the nonprofit sector for the same reason you do – helping others. Please contact Welter Consulting at 206-605-3113 for more information.

Finding Technology Resources for Your Nonprofit Organization

By | Cloud, Data, Nonprofit, Technology | No Comments

It would be nice to have a fairy godmother who could wave her magic wand and provide your nonprofit with all the technology bells, whistles, sparkles and licenses it needs to be up-to-date. The reality is, however, that each nonprofit must find a way to find its tech upgrades on its own. That comes with challenges.

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There are solutions for nonprofit organizations who need to update their technology, but no solution is a perfect fit for every organization. You’ll need to examine the solutions, weigh the pros and cons, and come up with the technology plan that’s right for your group.

Consider All Costs

“Technology” is an umbrella term that encompasses hardware, software, and connectivity. It may also include various devices used by your employees such as laptops, cell phones, tablets and more.

Before looking for technology resources, develop a list that includes all of your organization’s technology needs. Start by listing the employees, their jobs, and the resources each person needs to successfully complete their job.

Costs may include:

  • Laptops
  • Desktop units
  • Monitors
  • Mouse and keyboard
  • Tablets
  • Smartphones
  • Business productivity software such as spreadsheets, word processing, presentation software, etc.
  • Cloud storage or networking
  • Graphic design software
  • Human resources software
  • CRM or donor relationship management software
  • Grant tracking software
  • Accounting and financial software
  • Modem or internet connectivity
  • Copiers, scanners, fax machines, printers, etc.

Some of these items may be available for little or no cost. Google Documents, for example, provides cloud-based word processing, spreadsheets, and presentation software that may be fine for your basic business needs. Small or startup nonprofits have different needs than a 100-person nonprofit operating in several states or countries.

Keep in mind that licenses for software may be based on how many users are on the system, so as your nonprofit grows, you may need to add extra licenses. You should include these costs into your estimates.

Office equipment today combines printing, scanners, fax machines and copiers all in one small unit. Such a unit may suffice for your office needs in the short-term and can be purchased new for a modest fee.

Nearly New or Brand New?

Nonprofits may find that they can benefit from local corporations who wish to donate their computer equipment to the organization. Before accepting such equipment, ascertain whether the donated equipment is compatible with licenses and software that you currently own. Otherwise, you may spend considerable time and effort finding ways to adapt software to equipment.

Before accepting used equipment, feel free to stipulate to the company donating it that you’d like to look at it first. You don’t want a truck pulling up at your doorstep filled with circa 1990 monitors; they’re only good for doorstops at this point in time. Examine the equipment and if it doesn’t meet your needs, pass on it.

New equipment can be purchased at a discount online. TechSoup offers discounted equipment and  many bargains . Even traditional retailers and office supply stores provide coupons, discounts and sales. End of year and back to school times are great opportunities to take advantage of these sales.

Big Projects? Think Sponsorships

 Lastly, consider asking your best donors to sponsor large-scale tech projects. Consider a capital campaign with specific donation amounts suggested in the campaign and linking those amounts to what the donation will purchase.

“Your donation of $100 will buy a new copier for our office” ,for example, allows the potential donor to visualize how they help your organization. This is a time-tested way of encouraging donations for specific campaigns.

Nonprofits need technology. Paying for it or finding the funds for it may be challenging, but there are many creative ways to help you harness the power of technology for your benefit with a little thought, care and planning.

Welter Consulting, Your Bridge to Solutions

Navigating the many options available to you for technology resources can be tricky. There’s always something else tugging at you for attention. Where do you start? How do you decide?

Welter Consulting offers a bridge to solutions that work 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.

Key Takeaways from the Journal of Accountancy’s 6th Annual Roundtable

By | Data, MIP Fund Accounting, Nonprofit, Technology, Training | No Comments

In this year’s 6th annual roundtable, sponsored by the Journal of Accountancy, some familiar themes emerged: the importance of cloud computing, improving technology training for all staff, and cybersecurity. But among the topics discussed during the roundtable, new trends emerged that are worth noting.

Mid-Sized Accounting Firms Struggle with Technology

According to the experts participating in the roundtable, mid-sized accounting firms lag behind both small and large-sized firms in many areas of technology: Implementation, maintenance, and strategy, which can create problems.

For example, lagging behind in cybersecurity puts your entire IT infrastructure at risk. Cyber attacks aren’t limited to big firms; mid-sized and small-sized nonprofits may be at greater risk since criminals view them as low-hanging fruit and quick to capitulate and succumb to things like ransomware. They may also have no dedicated staff to cybersecurity, which means less attention is paid to it and criminals may have an easier time accessing critical data, personal information they can resell, and other information.

Cloud Computing

Cloud computing may bridge the gap mid-sized firms experience in the technology world. Because cloud computing services are set up through the internet, they are accessible to all sizes of companies. They also offer higher security since cloud-based companies providing software and services invest in tighter security to protect multiple clients.

Software delivered through the cloud can also be less costly than previously available versions that were seat-based. Cloud software, shared among multiple mid-sized firms, spreads the cost out so that it is more affordable. Better computing power at a lower cost makes it an obtainable goal for many mid-sized companies.

Technology Improvements Needed

Throughout the roundtable discussion, the need for overall improvement in the use, adoption, and understanding of technology was apparent. Many nonprofit organizations feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of technology solutions they are expected to learn and apply.

Partnering with a strong consulting firm who can teach, advise, and guide you through the process of adopting tighter cybersecurity practices and cloud-based software solutions may be a good path to follow. Small to mid-sized nonprofits do not have the resources or time to invest in cybersecurity, but they can partner with a company or consultant who is an expert in this area to help them. Understanding your nonprofit’s strengths and partnering with others to shore up your weaknesses is a smart way to proceed.

Simple Changes that Reap Big Results

A few simple changes suggested by the experts that can produce big results include:

  • Encrypting emails: Encryption can protect sensitive information and provide an additional layer of security with an easy fix.
  • Training: Training staff how to screen for phishing schemes, how to craft strong passwords, and other simple cybersecurity measures needn’t be a huge undertaking, but even a little training can go a long way to improve cybersecurity.
  • Updating hardware: Many experts talk about updating software, but how about updating the hardware your staff uses? Bigger monitors may sound like a strange thing to focus on, but they can make workstations more comfortable and prevent mistakes by simply enlarging information on screen.

There’s a lot to focus on when it comes to technology for your nonprofit association. It can feel overwhelming to tackle everything on your technology to do list. Finding and working with a consulting partner may help you move into a better, more comfortable place when it comes to technology.

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.