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It's Not Just Fundraising Anymore:
Non-Profits Must
Practice "Fundkeeping" to Protect Assets

by Scott N. Wright

Any time an organization has a campaign to raise money, it attracts attention. After all, that's the point, isn't it? But you must always remember, where there are large sums of money or valuables, thieves and even opportunists will take note.

It's easy to understand how your fundraising organization can start to assume that the population, in general, has a good heart. But year after year, we hear of heart-wrenching stories of how some grinch made off with large quantities of donated cash or gifts. Now, more than ever, when it is so easy for criminals to find out about the latest fundraising campaigns through online searches and website news releases, non-profit organizations must take explicit and comprehensive precautions to reduce the risk of becoming a victim of crime.

The following 7 important elements should be a part of any non-profit organization's operational plans for implementing a "Fundkeeping" approach to protecting assets:

  1. Information Asset Identification and Control - Information can lead people to your assets. So, all types of information should be treated as assets, and should be carefully controlled. Everything from your strategic objectives to your partnership agreements and advertising should be reviewed to ensure that they convey only the information that is necessary for staff, volunteers and the public to make the operation - not just the campaign - successful. There's no advantage in telling the criminals where the loot is.

  2. Security as a Priority - As a manager in a non-profit organization, you must constantly reinforce the need for both physical and information security to be top priorities. For example, when choosing between making one more cold call or securing all valuables in the office before leaving at the end of the day, always make sure the priority is on protecting your assets.

  3. Security Roles and Responsibilities - "But I thought it was HIS job!" is a sickening statement to hear after an incident. If anybody is unclear about who has responsibility for a procedure that protects an asset, it must be addressed immediately. There must be an individual, and preferably one of the most senior roles, who is responsible for assigning security-related responsibilities. The top dog is ultimately responsible, and the best way to ensure proper governance is to keep involved in assignment of security duties.

  4. Security Policies - Policies are not the most exciting thing to use for rallying a rag-tag team of volunteers. But without everybody understanding exactly which practices are required, allowed and not allowed, you may as well be keeping your assets in a paper bag on the front desk. Policies also act as a deterrent for opportunistic staff and volunteers who may figure that nobody cares about a few missing gifts if there are no rules being enforced.

  5. Educating Staff and Volunteers - Of course, some policies are easier to understand and follow than others. They work best if they are short, clear and concise, and are constantly being reinforced. So, security policies should be kept visible and even discussed regularly, with incentives or real-life illustrative stories that can be communicated to staff at every opportunity. This way they will know that upholding security policies are a priority, and that they are required in order for the organization to be successful.

  6. Protection Practices and Systems - While many large enterprises sometimes do elaborate Threat and Risk Assessments to determine how they should protect assets, it's also a good idea for non-profits to look at each asset type - both physical and information-based - with a view to identifying the best way to ensure consistent protection. For example, cash is an asset and it travels from a donor's wallet to your volunteers, to your staff or office, and finally to your bank. Each protection method should reflect the state of the asset, and should be turned into a procedure that can be repeated easily. You must then enforce the method as "the only acceptable way" to handle specific types of assets. Creating repeatable procedures that people use as a matter of habit results in a set of systems in which you can have a high degree of confidence.

  7. Monitoring Activity and Handling Incidents - Finally, because no amount of planning or preventative measures will be 100% effective, you still need a way to detect and respond to incidents in a consistent way. Incident handling can be hard, because you hope the worst case won't happen. Nevertheless, this is just another set of procedures that need to be reviewed and practiced more often than the others, to keep them fresh in your team's mind. Everyone has to be able to act fast and know how to limit losses as soon as an incident is detected.

Total awareness of security policies, procedures and events is the key to sustaining a non-profit organization's public trust. If the public doesn't think you are taking care of their donations, why would they continue making them? "Fundkeeping" is an attitude that every non-profit organization should have, not only when they plan a campaign to collect new assets, but on an ongoing basis. Every type of organization has it's own special brand of security problems, and this one is yours.

The good news for any manager with limited resources is that, with very little time, effort and even little or no extra money, you can become more confident in how your business information is protected - even before investing in technology. You can learn and practice this approach - which I call Governance by Graffiti - by employing many small bits of security wisdom that become second nature to your team. You'll sleep better, and so will all the stakeholders in your organization.

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About the Author:

Scott Wright - The Streetwise Security Coach

You can learn more about Governance by Graffiti at

You'll also find FREE forums and tools for improving information security, specifically for small business managers.

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