How Data Breaches at Local Nonprofits Impact Their Communities

Nonprofits are often trusted with a great deal of personal information, making them a handy target for cybercriminals. See how a data breach impacts their constituents.
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Protecting your organization from data breaches is a crucial undertaking for today’s nonprofits, especially as the capture of constituent information makes nonprofits a key target for cybercriminals. When a data breach occurs, there is always an impact on the organization that could range from lost sales opportunities to negative PR in the marketplace. Nonprofits have additional concerns: if their databases are compromised, they risk losing the support of the constituents that they serve. This can have a ripple effect felt throughout the communities with a potential reduction in giving, making it challenging for the nonprofit to fulfill its mission. While data security may not seem like a priority for funding, it’s crucial that nonprofits consider ways to tighten security measures with training and proactive monitoring of data and business systems.

Is Your Nonprofit at Risk for Data Breaches?

Many nonprofits engage in operations which can make them a more attractive target to hackers such as accepting donations online, maintaining a database of donor information or storing event registrations. Any storage of personally identifiable information (PII) can make your nonprofit extremely attractive to cybercriminals who sell this information to the highest bidder. What’s frightening is that you might have excellent data storage facilities and software, but could still experience a breach through the actions or inattention of staff members who click on an infected email or share their password with others. Training, monitoring and reporting all need to be in place to help protect your nonprofit from the negative effects of data breaches.

Protecting Your Nonprofit from Data Breaches

There are layers of implications when your organization experiences a data breach. From assessing the extent of the damage to ensuring that your operations are able to continue, there are many moving parts to plan and execute before your IT team is able to return to normal daily activities. This is especially difficult if you do not have the support of a proactive IT managed services partner. Here are a few of the ways you can protect your nonprofit from data breaches.

  • Consolidate data. If you are storing constituent information in several different databases, that multiplies the potential for a catastrophic data breach. Not only will the consolidation of your donor and supplier information help reduce redundancies, but this practice also makes it easier to retain security.
  • Review access levels. The role of various staff members can change over time as people join new teams or leave the organization. Scheduling a regular review of access levels to your sensitive constituent data provides an added level of security that you are minimizing the chance of a breach.
  • Schedule regular training. Experts estimate that upwards of 75% of breaches start inside the organization from a variety of causes including poor password maintenance, software patches that weren’t applied in a timely manner and leaving devices unlocked in an area that is not secure. These data breaches are largely preventable with proactive support and ongoing training.
  • Assess infrastructure security. Everything from the WiFi endpoints to mobile devices that are connecting to your network are suspects when it comes to preventing data breaches. It may be worth working with an external IT partner to bring best practices to your organization in terms of infrastructure security and training.
  • Update backup and disaster recovery procedures. Does your nonprofit have a clearly documented and understood process for backup and data recovery? Regularly looking at this information over will help ensure that operational changes are taken into account. Without a robust backup and disaster recovery procedure in place, a data breach could have a devastating impact on the ability of your organization to function.
  • Review compliance requirements. Part of maintaining data and systems security is ensuring that your organization is complying with all state, federal and global privacy and compliance requirements. This can change depending on the focus of your nonprofit, but there are new data standards coming in the form of the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) and General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in Europe.

Cybersecurity is an increasing concern for organizations of all sizes and types, but nonprofits may be particularly vulnerable due to their unique staffing situations and budgetary constraints. Protecting the security of these constituents means these organizations may need to invest in expertise to update their IT infrastructure and security training. Are you ready to optimize operational efficiency and information security? Contact the professionals at CIO Advise today to schedule your no-obligation consultation.


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