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Fortify your nonprofit: 5 steps to enhance cybersecurity


By Allison Wilson

Cybersecurity is a critical concern for organizations across all sectors, including nonprofits.

The misconception that nonprofits are immune or don’t have to worry about cyber threats is far from the truth. Nonprofits often handle sensitive data, such as donor information, making them potential targets for hackers. To protect their data and maintain the trust of their stakeholders, prioritizing cybersecurity is a must.

While large cyber intrusions make headlines, hackers often target small businesses and organizations, counting on weak data security. In 2021, more than 50 percent of NGOs reported being targeted by a cyberattack, according to In one 2020 incident, cybercriminals hit a Philadelphia food bank with a $1 million ransomware attack.

Online donation forms are a potential source of banking info for cybercriminals, who especially look for websites that are not updated routinely, according to a report from GrantStation. Many nonprofits rely on part-time help, who may fall prey to fake or “phishing” emails seeking confidential information.

Here are five essential tips to help safeguard nonprofits against cyber threats:

1. Invest in comprehensive antivirus protection

Cybersecurity begins with strong antivirus software. Antivirus software helps detect and remove malicious software, preventing unauthorized access to sensitive data. Regular updates are essential to stay ahead of emerging threats and maintain the effectiveness of the software.

2. Implement strong password policies

Weak passwords are a common vulnerability that cybercriminals exploit. Nonprofits should enforce strong password policies that require employees to create passwords with a minimum of 11 characters, including a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and special symbols. Regularly remind employees to avoid using easily guessable passwords and encourage them to utilize password management tools for added security.

3. Enable Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)

Multi-factor authentication adds an extra layer of security to protect against unauthorized access. Nonprofits should implement MFA for all systems and applications that contain sensitive data. This requires users to provide additional authentication factors, such as a unique code sent to their mobile devices, in addition to their passwords. MFA significantly reduces the risk of unauthorized access, even if passwords are compromised.

4. Educate and train employees

Employees are often the weakest link in an organization's cybersecurity defenses. Nonprofits should conduct regular cybersecurity training sessions to educate employees about best practices and potential risks. Teach employees to recognize phishing emails, avoid clicking on suspicious links, and be cautious of social engineering tactics. By promoting a culture of cybersecurity awareness, nonprofits can empower their employees to become the first line of defense against cyber threats.

5. Regularly backup data

Data loss can devastate any organization, especially nonprofits that rely on accurate records for financial reporting and donor relationships. Nonprofits should establish a regular data backup routine to ensure critical information is securely stored and recoverable during a cyber incident or system failure. Consider utilizing cloud-based backup solutions that offer redundancy and off-site storage to enhance data protection.

Bottom line

In an increasingly interconnected world, nonprofits cannot afford to overlook cybersecurity.

By implementing five essential safeguards — investing in antivirus protection, implementing strong password policies, enabling multi-factor authentication, educating employees, and regularly backing up data — nonprofits can significantly enhance their cybersecurity defenses.

Protecting sensitive data, maintaining donor trust, and safeguarding organizational integrity should be paramount for nonprofits navigating the digital landscape. Remember, cybersecurity is an ongoing effort that requires constant vigilance and proactive measures to ensure the resilience and security of nonprofit organizations in the face of evolving cyber threats.


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