Simple Steps You Can Take to Prevent Cybercrime

By | Fraud | No Comments

If you’re not taking steps to reduce your risk of cybercrime, you should. Nonprofits aren’t immune to attacks from criminals, and , in fact, the opposite may be true. Many cybercrimes target small businesses and nonprofits because criminals know that these organizations lack resources, such as insurance or IT specialists, to fight back. Instead, they often submit to the criminals’ demands and pay the ransom. The criminals can then head to their next victim without punishment.

It’s time to to reduce cybercrime risk by taking proactive steps . While you cannot eliminate the threat from attacks, you can certainly take steps to minimize risk. It’s like installing sturdy locks on the door of your home, an alarm system, and a webcam; it won’t stop someone determined to break in and steal your possessions, but it sure makes it harder for them to do so, and easier to catch them.

Five Tips to Reduce a Nonprofit’s Risk of Cybercrimes

  1. Improve password strength: Please, say goodbye to using “password123” or “namename123” as your passwords. Yes, according to MetroNews, people still use passwords like 1234567. Despite news of security breaches affecting millions of people (and their credit rating), people continue to use weak passwords. Don’t allow this within your organization. Insist that everyone choose strong passwords and change them monthly. Strong passwords are difficult for the average person to guess, do not include common words or phrases, and include capital letters and lower case letters as well as symbols and numbers. Think that’s a tall order? It could save you a great deal of trouble later by making the proverbial “lock on the door” very strong and keep attackers from easy entry into your database or website.
  2. Review your cybersecurity strength: Conduct a cybersecurity audit or work with us to conduct one. A cybersecurity audit examines all areas of your organization where attackers may gain entry and cause trouble. It also helps you pinpoint things you’re doing right so you can replicate them. AICPA provides a free guideline to help you conduct your audit.
  3. Update your software and website: All software needs to be updated to patch known problems and fix gaps that hackers exploit for nefarious reasons. When your software prompts you that it needs to update, please don’t ignore the message or quiet it and forget it. Websites also need to be updated frequently. WordPress, a common framework used to build websites, typically includes codes called plugins, which are areas hackers are known to exploit. These should be checked and updated regularly, which can be done from the administrative panel in WordPress. Other site providers and frameworks have similar places to update software.
  4. Provide training: Train employees to recognize attempts to gain access to systems. Some common things to watch for include phishing schemes, which trick people into revealing passwords through phony reset messages or similar emails; scams that encourage you to click on a link, thus infecting your computer with a virus or similar code; or downloading a ‘free’ item that includes malicious code embedded in it. Another method that criminals use to gain access to company systems is to pretend to be the CEO or another public-facing executive and request information from someone about the system or their password. By teaching your staff all of these methods, you help raise awareness of what they may encounter and encourage the appropriate steps to confirm any requests for passwords and confidential information. Write and document all procedures and provide training to both new employees and refresher training for current employees.
  5. Back up everything: If a security breach occurs, you may be locked out of your systems. It’s a nightmare that some companies face, and it can be costly to fix it. By backing up your systems, you’ll be able to access and replace any information that may be compromised by an attack.

Take Cybercrime Seriously

Take cybercrime seriously. An ounce of prevention is always worth more than a pound of cure.

If you need help with a cybersecurity audit or more information, please don’t hesitate to contact Welter Consulting for information.

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.

The Importance of Nonprofit Strategic Planning

By | Nonprofit | No Comments

Of all the items on your to-do list, strategic planning probably ranks low on the list—if it’s there at all. Most nonprofit managers and directors believe they are too busy serving constituents and members, leading teams, and reacting to challenges and demands of the organization to develop a strategic plan.

That’s the key: reactive. Most nonprofits and indeed most companies overall react rather than act with forethought, planning, and insight.

That’s where strategic planning comes into the picture. By creating a strategic plan, you’re taking charge of your nonprofit’s future. While you must still react to changing circumstances and the daily challenges and demands of an active nonprofit, you’ve got an overarching plan in mind to guide the organization through it all.

What Is a Strategic Plan?

Many people confuse strategy with tactics, so it’s essential first to understand what a strategic plan entails. A strategic plan presents a series of coordinated actions and activities that help advance the nonprofit’s mission. After describing the actions and activities, the “how-to” may be added. The “how-to” are the tactics or discrete actions to be taken to achieve the overall strategy.

Think of a strategic plan as a deliberate choice. Rather than react and rely upon your creativity, knowledge, and insight, it helps you to outline a series of intentional and considered steps to advance your organization’s mission.

If your mission is to reduce hunger in your town, your strategic plan may include establishing a pipeline of donations from local restaurants (hot meals) and supermarkets (non-perishable and perishable food) as well as networking with local churches and charities to meet the needs within the community. How you do this may include phone calls to the owners of the restaurants, meeting with corporate representatives of supermarket chains, and local networking. The strategy to reduce hunger will guide your decisions and the overall work of the organization for the year.

Why Bother with Strategic Planning?

Some people view strategic planning as a mere exercise or paperwork. Not so. It’s vital for a healthy nonprofit. If you have a strategic plan in place you can:

  1. Make better decisions: Strategic plans provide a framework against which daily choices can be made. It’s easier to decide whether to do one thing or another if you have a rubric against which you can check the choices.
  2. Clarifies the organization’s mission and values: With a strategic plan in place, it is crystal clear what your organization values and what it intends to do. It clears up where you are headed and makes it easier to describe activities to the public and staff.
  3. Guides the staff: One way to improve employee engagement is to give them clear directions. People generally work better together when they understand what is expected of them and the direction in which they’re heading. When you build a strategic plan, you outline the overall goals and direction for the year, and the staff understands now what they can do to help achieve the plan and support the organization’s mission.
  4. Improves fundraising: A strategic plan may provide the impetus and inspiration for marketing staff to create new campaigns and better align their messaging with the organization’s mission.

As you can see, a strategic plan serves many functions. An annual strategic plan offers you the opportunity for direction-setting and cohesive staff guidance. Perhaps, more importantly, it helps you set and guide the direction of your organization, so you’re no longer tossed about by the winds of chance but have your hand firmly at the wheel to steer where you’re headed.

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.

A Health Checkup for Nonprofit Organizations

By | Nonprofit | No Comments

Wouldn’t it be great if our organizations could get a checkup the way we go to the doctor to get a checkup? When you go to the doctor for a checkup, she takes your blood pressure, listens to your heartbeat, and generally checks your vital signs to ensure they’re within normal parameters. Anything that stands out as unusual can be investigated and, if possible, corrected to ensure you stay healthy for a long time to come.

Nonprofit organizations could also benefit from checkups. Their financial health, along with their overall operational health, needs to be in tip-top shape to continue fulfilling their mission for a long time to come.

Here are seven “vital signs” to check on the health of your nonprofit organization. If anything is amiss, it’s time to speak with Welter Consulting, your nonprofit counselor, to correct it before it becomes an emergency.

Seven “Vital Signs” to Check on Your Nonprofit

The ‘vital signs’ in this list fall into three major categories:

  • Financial: dealing with the nonprofit’s funding
  • Operational: dealing with the organization’s corporate infrastructure, culture, or programs
  • Marketing: how the organization appears before the general public and donors

The following are typical signs of a troubled organization. Check these ‘vital signs’ against your organization. If you see any, it’s time to take action.

  1. Chronic cash-flow problems: Are you always scrambling to find the cash to pay the bills? How about chasing after receivables and invoices each month? Persistent cash flow problems are a sign that something is amiss in the way you’re running your nonprofit.
  2. Crisis-driven funding: A grant dries up, and there’s a scramble to fill the gap. Or there’s a push for an emergency funding drive because no one realized that the coffers were running low to fund the programs to the end of the year. Anything with the word “crisis” in it should be a red flag that something unhealthy is brewing in the organization.
  3. High staff turnover: High staff turnover in any organization or company is a big warning sign of an unhealthy corporate culture. It usually means high stress and little fulfillment for the employees. At a nonprofit, it may also be a sign of a dysfunctional organization that makes it difficult for people to do their work. High turnover rates are a big warning sign that should be investigated immediately.
  4. Burnout: Burnout goes along with high attrition rates. Burnout means that people no longer care about their work. They may continue to work at the nonprofit or volunteer out of a sense of obligation, but the passion, the drive, the fire to fulfill the mission is no longer there.
  5. Loss of programs: Programs are quietly retired without much ado. Instead of an outcry that it’s needed, such programs fade away for lack of participation.
  6. Adding many new programs at once: The flip side of loss of programs is the frantic push to add more programs. It’s as if the new programs will somehow “make things right” within the organization. The feeling one gets amid all the new programs being added is a feeling of frantic desperation rather than healthy growth.
  7. Bad press or negative mentions from the public: One or two bad mentions may not signify much, but consistent questioning of the organization’s leadership, mission, and funding are red flags that the nonprofit is sending signals that it’s not doing what it’s supposed to be doing to support its mission.

All nonprofits, even the healthiest ones, may pass through one or all seven of these issues at any given time. The point isn’t to check off each one with a sigh of relief – “Whew, glad we don’t do that!” – But to see if it’s a chronic problem. Chronic, long-term issues, such as high turnover or poor cash flow, can sap the energy of an organization to the point where it begins to falter. One quarter of high turnover may be a blip on the radar, but a year of people coming and going can seriously degrade the morale of those left in the organization and leave it leaderless. Look for patterns rather than a checklist of vital signs to spot problems.

Welter Consulting

If you’re not sure how healthy your organization is, then speak with the experts at 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 or to schedule a ‘vital sign checkup.’

Gain Donor Support for Overhead and Infrastructure Dollars

By | Donations | No Comments

After stories in the media showcased lavish travel and other perks among some nonprofit leadership, the public outcry became deafening. The public believed that their cash donations should go directly towards the people they thought they were helping. Nonprofits, eager to prove that they were using funds wisely, began touting the percentage of donations that go ‘directly towards helping those they serve.’

The problem with this model, however, is that it doesn’t address the ongoing need for funds to support overhead. Yes, overhead. Many nonprofits bemoan the limited funds given to them for overhead, yet do nothing to educate the public about why donating to general funds that include overhead, marketing, and administrative costs are necessary.

Nonprofits Are Businesses

Part of the problem is that many people still believe a nonprofit organization is in effect a full charity with zero need for funds for things like office rent, utilities, computers, telephone services, and salaries.

People seem to equate the nonprofits of the 21st century with the charitable organizations of the 19th century. You know, the ones you see in movies, run by ladies with leisure time out of their sitting rooms over cups of tea.

Okay, so we exaggerate, but there’s still a public perception that nonprofits aren’t businesses but charities that should give away all of their funds.

While it is true that nonprofits do not seek a profit margin the way for-profits do, they do need margin to continue their operations, and they certainly need capital to go towards infrastructure.

Ratios Can Be Misleading

Touting the proportion or percent of funds going directly towards programs can be misleading. If 99% of the donated funds go towards programs, nothing is left to pay the bills. And if you can’t pay the bills, the nonprofit won’t be able to continue operations. It’s not an either/or scenario – either funds go towards programs or overhead. It should be both.

Every Penny Goes Towards Supporting the Mission

Instead of promoting the percent of funds that go directly to the nonprofit’s recipients, it would be better if organizations promoted how their donations go towards supporting the overall mission of the organization. After all, every penny donated to a nonprofit, whether earmarked to pay the water bill or to buy food for the homeless, goes towards the support of the organization’s mission.

A few ideas to help you showcase your mission rather than the ratio of funds going towards program recipients:

  • Use images on social media to showcase the recipients without promoting percentages
  • Explain how you track and monitor the use of funds, and reassure donors that all money goes towards fulfilling the organization’s mission
  • Disclose the needs of your nonprofit for overhead and infrastructure. Don’t skip over it in your messages to your constituents. If you need funds for a new roof or to pay the electric bill, say so.
  • Showcase how your nonprofit is more efficient or effective this year than last year — share program results and outcomes

Nonprofits, like any other organization, need money for their infrastructure. By including transparent, honest messages in your marketing to donors and potential donors, you’ll avoid the trap of focusing only on the percent or ratio of dollars spent on direct programs and help raise awareness that yes, overhead and infrastructure are essential, too.

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.