5 ways to make security a top priority for your not-for-profit

Alistair Sergeant
Alistair Sergeant

When you think of not-for-profits, the first thing that springs to mind is likely the good they can do for animals, people or wider society. Security is usually less of an immediate concern than it is for corporate, money-making organisations – though this should not be the case.

In fact, despite initial preconceptions, NFPs are actually at higher risk of data breach than many other businesses. Relying on the goodwill of their benefactors to run, they still deal with high-value funds and process an enormous amount of personal data. Protecting this information is not only a legal requirement but must also remain a top priority if the benevolence of those willing to provide their support is to be successfully maintained.

Five steps towards a cybersafe future

Invest in robust security infrastructure 

In order to safeguard your not-for-profit’s data, it’s vital to invest in a robust security infrastructure. This includes everything from firewalls and encryption protocols to intrusion detection systems. Although this requires higher initial outgoings, it will pay off vastly in the end, as it will prevent costly data breaches that could lead to serious legal problems or downtime for your organisation.

We understand that most NFPs are not time-rich, which is why we advise partnering with a reputable managed-security service provider (MSSP) or digital transformation company who knows just how to protect your digital assets. They would also be able to assess your security infrastructure for you on a regular basis, allowing you to identify and address any potential vulnerabilities before it’s too late. This dedication, time and attention should free up your staff and volunteers to focus on other, more charitable actions, allowing your NFP to perform at it’s absolute best for those who matter most, without worrying about letting them down.

Don’t underestimate the power of staff training 

Human error is one of the main drivers of security breaches. It’s not that people are ill-willed. Rather, a lack of digital knowledge and understanding of safe cybersecurity practices can easily lead to silly mistakes that put your NFP organisation at risk.

Organising regular training sessions to raise awareness of common threats like email phishing, social engineering and password security can make a world of difference, as can encouraging your employees and volunteers to adopt strong, unique passwords. Enabling multi-factor authentication is also a must and is relatively easy and affordable to incorporate with the right knowledge and understanding.

By fostering a security-conscious culture and teaching those you work with to remain vigilant about suspicious online activities, you can significantly reduce your risk of cyber incidents, ultimately keeping your data, benefactors and NFP organisation safe.

Keep moving with the times 

Another key reason that NFPs make an easy target is that hackers know that they are less likely to invest in the latest technology than their corporate counterparts. Unfortunately, when you continue to run on outdated systems, it becomes easier for hackers to make their way in and help themselves to your valuable data. This is because older, legacy systems tend to lack the security patches and updates they need to keep things secure.

Although it might seem counterintuitive in an industry characterised by a lack of funds, it’s fundamental that you continue to assess your organisations digital infrastructure on a regular basis. Staying up to date with the right technology could be the difference between a thriving organisation continuing to make a significant contribution and an NFP forced to close down due to data breaches, theft and other illegal activity.

Adopt secure data-handling practices 

Of course, it’s no use having the right equipment and training if you don’t also follow the right data-handling policies. Legal practices are an absolute must but it’s often advisable to go that one step further, encrypting all sensitive data to ensure it remains secure at rest or in transit – even if it should fall into the wrong hands.

In addition to limiting access to confidential information to authorised personnel, you should also make an effort to review access privileges on a regular basis to prevent any dangerous breaches. This small step goes a long way towards protecting your data, as do regular backups – especially if you choose to store them in secure, offsite locations or in the cloud.

Conduct regular risk assessments and security audits 

Finally, remember to conduct regular security audits and risk assessments. Even when you have invested all you can in protecting your NFP, it’s important to keep up with security. Indeed, this is an ongoing project to protect you and your stakeholders from potential threats and vulnerabilities.

For time-poor not-for-profit organisations, it’s often a good idea to engage a third-party security firm to conduct an independent assessment of your systems and processes on your behalf. They often have the knowhow that your team might lack to identify potential weaknesses and recommend appropriate security measures in response. They would also be able to guide you to ensure you remain compliant.

In an era where data breaches and cyber threats are sadly on the rise, not-for-profits must prioritise security to protect their sensitive information and maintain stakeholder trust. By investing in robust security infrastructure, educating staff, updating legacy systems and implementing secure data handling, not-for-profits can significantly reduce their risk of falling victim to cyber incidents.

Prioritising security in this way not only ensues the long-term sustainability and success of not-for-profit organisations but also guarantees that they can continue to make a positive impact in their communities, without worrying about potential threats.

How Equantiis can help

At Equantiis, we specialise in developing all kinds of security and change management plans for organisations just like yours. We have the skills and knowledge required to recommend solutions that work for you and your budget, and can also assist with training, budgets and ongoing assessments. What’s more, we can help your NFP organisation to develop an incident response plan, guaranteeing that, even in the worst-case scenario if disaster should strike, your workforce will know exactly what to do to make things secure.

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More about the author

Alistair Sergeant
Alistair Sergeant CEO

As CEO of Equantiis, his main focus is on strategic leadership and growth within the business whilst working through new opportunities that support this. Alistair manages client relationships so that they can benefit from his experience and knowledge. He thrives on leading a disruptive business that works with business leaders to identify and overcome complex business challenges, with cost certainty and transformative outcomes. Alistair is passionate about anything outdoors. Including running, camping and travelling with the family.