Make Cybersecurity a Priority for Your Not-for-Profit

Make Cybersecurity a Priority for Your Not-for-Profit

Cybersecurity has transitioned from being a reactionary measure to a necessity for not-for-profit organizations. The 2023 Nonprofit Tech for Good Report highlights that 27% of not-for-profits across the globe have fallen victim to cyberattacks, with incidents ranging from email phishing scams to website hacking. This vulnerability stems from several factors unique to not-for-profits, including the handling of sensitive donor information, limited cybersecurity expertise, a notable scarcity of dedicated personnel and financial resources and a heavy reliance on volunteers and third-party vendors for operational support. These factors not only increase their vulnerability but also make it challenging to deploy effective cybersecurity defenses.

The stakes for not-for-profit organizations in maintaining robust cybersecurity protocols are high. Their ability to retain and attract donors is dependent on maintaining a pristine reputation, which can be tarnished by a single cybersecurity incident. The ramifications of such breaches extend beyond reputational damage; they also pose a legal risk, with inadequate data security measures leading to class action lawsuits. Given that many not-for-profits operate with limited financial buffers, the potential legal costs and loss of donor trust can have devastating long-term effects, underscoring the critical need for proactive and comprehensive cybersecurity strategies.

Here are a few ways that not-for-profit organizations can ensure they are meeting their cybersecurity needs:

Keeping Policies in Place

A recent report by the Nonprofit Technology Enterprise Network (NTEN) reveals a concerning lack of preparedness among not-for-profits, with 68% lacking documented policies and procedures for responding to a cyberattack. Plus, less than half have internal guidelines on how data is shared with external agencies. This gap in cybersecurity planning exposes not-for-profits to significant risks, emphasizing the need for comprehensive and proactive measures to safeguard sensitive information and maintain operational integrity.

Not-for-profit organizations should implement comprehensive cybersecurity policies and procedures that include regular security assessments, employee training on phishing and other common cyber threats and stringent data access controls. They should establish protocols for secure data encryption, routine password changes and the use of multifactor authentication to protect sensitive information. Also, it's crucial to have an incident response plan ready, outlining steps to quickly address and mitigate the impact of a cyberattack, including communication strategies with stakeholders. These measures are essential for safeguarding against data breaches, maintaining operational continuity and preserving the trust of donors and clients.   

Get the Board Involved

Cybersecurity within not-for-profit organizations is a shared responsibility that extends beyond the IT department to include leadership, board members and all staff. Organization leaders play a critical role in fostering a culture of cybersecurity awareness. They should actively encourage discussions at board meetings to ensure every member understands and is committed to upholding cybersecurity protocols. This collaborative approach helps embed cybersecurity as a fundamental aspect of the organization's operations and strategic planning.

For example, leaders can initiate regular cybersecurity training sessions for board members, focusing on the latest cyber threats and prevention strategies. This would reinforce the board's role in championing cybersecurity efforts across the organization.

Incorporating IT personnel in these discussions is also key, as these experts can provide critical insights into the current cybersecurity landscape, potential risks and the effectiveness of existing security measures. By presenting detailed reports and updates to the board, IT professionals enable informed decision making and ensure that the board takes an active role in managing cybersecurity risks. This partnership can lead to the development of comprehensive cybersecurity policies that are fully supported by the board, such as investing in advanced security technologies or adopting industry best practices for data protection.

An example of effective board engagement is approving funds for cybersecurity initiatives, demonstrating a commitment to safeguarding the organization's digital assets and the privacy of its donors and beneficiaries.

Increasing Your Cybersecurity Budget

Not-for-profit organizations should enhance their investment in cybersecurity by engaging third-party consultants for unbiased audits. This approach ensures an objective evaluation of their cybersecurity posture, identifying vulnerabilities that internal teams might overlook due to familiarity or resource constraints. Third-party audits can provide a fresh perspective on the organization's security measures, benchmarking them against industry standards and best practices.

For example, a consultant could uncover gaps in data encryption protocols or weaknesses in the incident response plan that internal assessments might miss. This external verification not only strengthens the organization’s defenses against cyber threats but also reinforces donor and stakeholder trust by demonstrating a commitment to safeguarding sensitive information.

While hiring a third-party cybersecurity consultant may appear costly upfront, it is actually a cost-effective measure that can prevent devastating financial consequences in the long run by averting potential breaches.

In addition, not-for-profits must acknowledge the escalating need to allocate increased funding for IT management or consultancy roles. As cybersecurity threats become more sophisticated, the importance of having dedicated expertise to navigate these challenges grows. Investing in skilled IT professionals ensures organizations can proactively manage their cybersecurity posture, implement the latest security measures and respond effectively to incidents.

Next Steps

Enhance your cybersecurity protocols by collaborating with our experts to elevate your defenses. The outdated "set it and forget it" approach to cyber risk management is no longer viable. Given that each business has a unique risk profile, it's crucial to have a dynamic information security plan tailored to your needs. Customizing your cybersecurity strategy ensures the protection of sensitive data, offering your organization the peace of mind that comes with top-notch security. Connect with our cybersecurity team today to secure your operations.

Copyright © 2024, CBIZ, Inc. All rights reserved. Contents of this publication may not be reproduced without the express written consent of CBIZ. This publication is distributed with the understanding that CBIZ is not rendering legal, accounting or other professional advice. The reader is advised to contact a tax professional prior to taking any action based upon this information. CBIZ assumes no liability whatsoever in connection with the use of this information and assumes no obligation to inform the reader of any changes in tax laws or other factors that could affect the information contained herein.

CBIZ MHM is the brand name for CBIZ MHM, LLC, a national professional services company providing tax, financial advisory and consulting services to individuals, tax-exempt organizations and a wide range of publicly-traded and privately-held companies. CBIZ MHM, LLC is a fully owned subsidiary of CBIZ, Inc. (NYSE: CBZ).

Make Cybersecurity a Priority for Your Not-for-Profit are a few ways that not-for-profit organizations can ensure they are meeting their cybersecurity needs.2024-03-25T17:00:00-05:00

Here are a few ways that not-for-profit organizations can ensure they are meeting their cybersecurity needs.

Risk MitigationNot-for-Profit & EducationCyber & Information SecurityDigital TransformationYes