Security Considerations During the Giving Season

2015-12-02_GivingTuesdayYesterday was #GivingTuesday and a flurry of emails soliciting donations hit my inbox like snowflakes in a snow storm. With that, there were also posts and comments warning people to donate to organizations with the highest percentage of your donation going to the actual programs. Here’s my warning to donors as we continue to evaluate our charities of choice…

If you look at the charities that are the most sustainable, they have a strong infrastructure in place. They can weather the ups and downs of budget and grant availabilities. They have a leadership team that includes vision and strong operations. They also have security, a point for which I’d like to elaborate.

Many giving drives happen over the web. When you donate, you are submitting your personally identifiable information to this organization. This information is stored in their donor database where their staff has access to the information.

Who is it that has access to your information? How is it secured? For an organization with a high percentage of volunteers, what assurances do you have that those with access to your information are held to internal security procedures that protect you? If they are breached (and these days, you’ll need to assume that it is a possibility if it hasn’t happened already), what processes does the organization have in place to notify you and will they make available free credit monitoring?

My point is this – organizations that are forced to use all of their donations on programs alone are left with no operational money to ensure things like paid staff, secure servers, IT support, legal support, etc. These are real costs that, if not implemented, can have devastating consequences to the organization, the donors and the recipients of the programs and services for which they serve.

Bottom line, do your homework on the organization as a whole. 501c3 is just a tax designation – the organization should have sound business practices and systems in place to ensure your donation is sustaining their work for years to come.