Mission-driven organizations are using technology to make good things happen. But while technology can help deliver positive outcomes, it also brings problems, like the challenge of keeping information safe and secure.
As a volunteer board member helping to make important decisions for your organization, you also have a vital role to play in security: making sure private information is kept safe, that stakeholder trust remains intact, and that your organization continues to deliver the services it aims to provide.
In this article, we explore how technology and good security practices work hand-in-hand to help nonprofit and charity boards. Technology can protect information, help with safe communication, and make sure key data, strategic plans and operational decisions don’t go beyond the boardroom.
Technology can be leveraged to make boards even more strong and effective, enabling board trustees to be confident and do great things while also keeping data secure.
The Impact of Cyberthreats Goes Beyond the Financial
With data breaches and cyberthreats against nonprofits on the rise, the importance of maintaining confidentiality, integrity, and availability of sensitive information is critical. We have all heard of the financial risks associated with security breaches, but the reputational risks can be even more detrimental. Several nonprofits have unfortunately faced reputational damage due to cyberbreaches. Here are a few examples:
- Amnesty International has disclosed a cyberattack in 2023 that led to the exposure of sensitive information about its staff and supporters. This breach highlighted vulnerabilities in their cybersecurity infrastructure and has potentially negatively impacted their reputation.
- Personal data and confidential information records were compromised during an attack on the servers of the International Committee of the Red Cross in 2022. The ICRC has had to work hard to maintain people’s trust following the incident particularly as the data was related their programs that help vulnerable people separated from their families due to conflict, migration or disaster.
- The American Cancer Society‘s website was breached in 2019 and attackers gained unauthorized access to individuals’ personal information. This breach eroded trust in the organization’s ability to protect donor and supporter data.
- UNICEF suffered a data exposure in 2019 that publicly released the personal information of supporters and donors. The exposure raised concerns about the organization’s data protection practices and its ability to safeguard sensitive information.
These examples underscore the importance of prioritizing robust cybersecurity measures for nonprofit organizations to avoid reputational damage, loss of donor and stakeholder trust, and operational impact — never mind the financial implications of having to pay ransoms for stolen data, or the cost of downtime.
Leveraging Technology for Secure Communication
Your board needs to protect its sensitive discussions and documents. You also don’t want insecure communication among board members — such as emails containing sensitive documents, which could be open to attack.
Board management solutions not only bolster data protection, but also streamline the sharing and collaboration process among board members. Encrypted communication and secure messaging mean you are not open to hacking and subsequent public dissemination of board business.
Ensuring Data Protection and Privacy
If your organization has to comply with data protection regulations such as GDPR or HIPAA, then technology can play a critical role in this area too. Nonprofit boards must adhere to stringent data privacy regulations to prevent breaches that could compromise not only their constituents’ personal information, but also the overall mission.
Advanced encryption techniques, secure data storage solutions, and access controls all help to safeguard sensitive information.
Protecting key donor data, financial records, and strategic plans not only preserves the trust of stakeholders, but also upholds the organization’s reputation.
Conducting Board Meetings Securely
With more board meetings now held as virtual or hybrid meetings, secure platforms are needed to ensure that you have secure video conferencing with end-to-end encryption and access controls.
Ensuring that only those authorized can access the meetings is crucial.
Training and Educating Board Members
Many volunteer boards are finding it difficult to recruit new trustees with cybersecurity expertise, so this is another area where technology can step in to help upskill existing board members.
Use your board management software to store training and awareness programs, materials and videos to equip board members with the knowledge they need to handle data responsibly and prevent attacks such as phishing, as you foster a culture of privacy-conscious practices across the organization.
Regular Security Audits and Risk Assessments Are a Must
Regular security audits of your board communications are key to good governance, as your organization should regularly test and look to strengthen its cyber-readiness.
Store the results of security risk assessments and audits in your board management software to help track progress and build confidence in your organization’s cyber capabilities.
Board management communications can help remind board members of their own responsibilities, give them easy access to upskilling and training on cyber topics, and participate in quick surveys or polls to check their cyber-readiness.
Security, Privacy and Responsible Governance
The vital role of technology in enhancing security best practices for nonprofit boards cannot be overstated.
By embracing advanced encryption, secure communication and robust document management for your board business — along with best practices for cybersecurity — you can all work together to protect sensitive discussions and documents.
Technology also helps equip the board with tools to navigate regulatory complexities and adhere to data protection and privacy standards.
Security, privacy and responsible governance should remain top priorities, as they are all key to maintaining stakeholder trust and achieving your mission effectively.
See how BoardEffect, a Diligent Brand, can help strengthen your charity or nonprofit’s cyber resilience. Request a demo today.