Nonprofit 411: Insider Tips for Grant-Writing Success

Nonprofit 411 People's-minBy Karen Galbo, Executive Director,VP; Foundation and Community Relations, People’s United Bank

Being able to effectively compete for grants is a mission-critical endeavor for the nonprofit sector. Whether an organization is seeking funds to expand key programs, launch new initiatives, obtain necessary equipment or services, or hire additional employees, grants provide crucial financial support that allow nonprofits to fulfill their purpose.

Not surprisingly, seeking a grant can be a high-stakes situation! Constraints on time, resources, and know-how can make grant-writing challenging—and even intimidating—but there are strategies and approaches that make the process easier and more effective. Ultimately, the most successful grant proposals provide compelling, specific information; are clearly and concisely written; and align well with a funder’s priorities.

Here are some quick tips:

  1. Do Your Due Diligence!

Research is the most crucial part of the grant-writing process. The very first step, therefore, should be to understand what the funder is looking for. Visit the funder’s website and study up on their focus areas and funding priorities, the size and levels of the grants they typically award, and other organizations they have funded recently. In addition, make sure your organization meets the minimum eligibility requirements for the grant you are applying for, and be sure to familiarize yourself with the application deadlines and submission process to ensure you can meet all criteria.

  1. Be Clear and Concise

While it can be tempting to wax poetic about every detail of your nonprofit’s history, mission, and efforts, grant writing is often a less-is-more endeavor: it is imperative to provide the requested information in a clear and concise manner. Be sure to convey your organization’s purpose and how you plan to use the grant funding to further the mission and drive impact—but do so without including unnecessary details or irrelevant information.

  1. Share Specifics

Nonprofit 411 Peoples textbox (1)-minA successful grant application should contain both quantitative (“100 participants graduated from high school, and 95% were accepted into college”) and qualitative data (“We were able to safely welcome students back into the classroom for in-person learning after COVID; parents indicated they felt confident in our health and safety practices”). Including outcome measurements that a funder may be looking for will help your grant proposal resonate with the reviewer. In addition, sprinkling in success stories—briefly—is a great way to provide a personalized view of the work your organization is doing. Talk to the program director(s) in your organization for key feedback that can help articulate these real-world results. Be sure to avoid industry jargon or abbreviations and acronyms that might be commonplace in your world, but unfamiliar to someone else.

  1. Follow Directions!

Funders set up specific parameters for filling out and submitting grant applications and staying within those parameters is key. If they indicate that a certain section should be one to two sentences long, stick to that length; if they do not want you to repeat information in multiple sections of the application, honor that request; if they specify that you submit the grant application via a web portal (and not via email), be sure to do so.

Remember, grants are available for a reason: funders want to partner with worthy nonprofits to fund projects that will drive change and elevate communities. Following these tips will help position your organization as the perfect recipient for their funds.

 

 

 

 

Nonprofit leaders, your DEI commitments did not end with the 2020 presidential election.

Picture1-minBy YW Boston

During the summer of 2020, we saw many organizations supporting diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) work. Finally, it was not enough to provide nominal support – nonprofit staff and constituents brought these topics forward and demanded real change. Toward the end of the year, we started to see this momentum wane. Last summer, it was hard to ignore what was right in front of us – two interlocked pandemics, COVID-19 and systemic racism. And our president at the time did not consider either to be a major concern.

Now that we have had a transition of power in the White House and the COVID-19 vaccine rollout is picking up speed, we have to ensure we don’t step away from our commitments. And as more organizations express their support of the Asian American Pacific Islander Community, we have to ensure we stay accountable to these public statements. While it may feel like we are reaching the end of a particularly dark year, remember that the inequities that made this time difficult still permeate our institutions. Now we must recognize: by committing to DEI, we will strengthen our work toward our missions, too.

This past year helped many leaders come to realize that aspects of their employees’ lives, such as their family’s needs or their racial identity, are not shed when they start working. These lived experiences can impact how secure people feel working at an organization, and leaders should meet any concerns with acknowledgment, empathy, and action. Strong leaders will take much of what they learned this past year forward. They will hold difficult workplace conversations and allocate resources to support employees.

While we saw a burst of energy and enthusiasm for DEI work last summer, now may actually be the best time to get organized. Anouska Bhattacharyya Ph.D., YW Boston’s Director of InclusionBoston, explained that, “There was a real haste last summer that meant folks wanted to show they were anti-racist RIGHT NOW. Rushed inclusion often leads to exclusion!” There is no one-size-fits-all solution for DEI work. Successful organizations are pacing the work with a “greater understanding that sustainable and equitable practices need to be baked into their daily praxis.”

Be sure to integrate time for research and reflection. One of the strengths of our InclusionBoston program is the space it provides for organizational assessment and relationship building. This provides a strong base of trust and understanding on which to build a successful plan. Once it is time for action-planning, we at YW Boston recommend following a SMARTIE plan. Evaluation is crucial throughout the entire process to understand your baseline and growth.

Remember, Anouska says, that there will be hiccups along the way which are an opportunity to find your growing points: “Hiccups are an opportunity for you to recruit more of your team into the solution. The greater the buy-in across your staff, the greater your successes.” By working through these stuck points, organizations will build the skills necessary to ensure their DEI work continues to deepen and grow.

____

About YW Boston
As the first YWCA in the nation, YW Boston has been at the forefront of advancing equity for over 150 years. Through our DE&I services—InclusionBoston and LeadBoston—as well as our advocacy work and youth programming, we help individuals and organizations change policies, practices, attitudes, and behaviors with a goal of creating more inclusive environments where women, people of color, and especially women of color can succeed.

As part of that work, we are helping organizations prioritize Diversity, Equity & Inclusion and become socially connected while staying physically distant. During this time, YW Boston is providing organizations with digital workshops and resources to help them better understand the challenges faced by their employees. For more information, please contact Sheera Bornstein at sheera@ywboston.org.

Nonprofit 411: Where We Have Been & Where We Are Going – Considerations From an HR, Finance, and IT Perspective

Nonprofit 411 Insource-minBy Saleha Walsh, Vice President, Insource Services, Inc.

In this year of surreal change and anxiety, it can be a challenge to appreciate the progress and transformation many organizations are experiencing. As a firm that supports many nonprofits with their back-office business operations, we too were propelled into quick action a year ago and reflect on the trends we’ve seen as our clients adapt to this new reality.

The shift to a suddenly remote workforce and the events in the world has presented leaders with the dual challenge of stabilizing operations and rising to support employees as they juggle work/life balance. We hope sharing some of these trends will show you that you are not alone and may prompt you to consider some of these options at your organization.

Employer Challenges

  • Pivoting to remote operations and now, considering the office of the future (remote, traditional, hybrid), automating tools and processes
  • Providing more support for employee wellness and mental health
  • Proactively taking a stand on civic responsibility and exploring practices with a DE&I lens
  • Stabilizing operations in a time of uncertainty

Trends and Strategies

Different and more frequent employee check-ins

  • Town halls and issue forums
  • Deliberate connection – create “water cooler” time – chat, video, phone
  • Be the bearers of good news – positive updates, reassuring transparency

Reexamination of space and equipment, IT needs

  • Individual offices vs. congregate space considerations, what do you need, how do you want to invest your office dollars
  • Equipment needs review (copiers, phones, faxes – are they needed anymore?)
  • Reviews of IT system reliability and security, related policies
  • Reviewing computing needs for increasing applications (Zoom, Teams, etc.)
  • Incorporating collaboration tools into systems (SharePoint, Teams, Office 365, etc.)
  • Shift to cloud-based recordkeeping and investment in IT infrastructure
  • Increased IT security to avoid scams – multi-factor authentication, device monitoring
  • Staff security training

Showcasing and engaging staff

  • Creating affinity groups, DE&I educational opportunities (formal training, informal Read and Reflect sessions, or other opportunities for dialog)
  • Forming cross-organizational communication committees to address employee information needs and concerns

Providing increased employee support

  • Uptick in employee assistance programs (through disability carriers/free or standalone resources and training)
  • Expressing care and appreciation (thoughtful gifts mailed to employee’s homes, etc.)
  • Intranet reboots
  • Redesigning benefits around new realities (meal delivery vs. pre-tax parking, etc.)

Reexamining traditional standards and tools of productivity

  • Considering flexible standard work hours and locations
  • Modifying policies to accommodate remote or hybrid work requirements (security, childcare, reimbursement standards, etc.)
  • Work as a place of purpose and productivity vs. a location
  • Automation of financial processes – implementation of Bill.com, Expensify, DocuSign, and other automated and streamlining tools – replacing traditionally paper transactions
  • Retaining proper segregations of duties and updating accounting procedures

Setting a standard of corporate citizenship and responsibility

  • Giving back, employee matching programs
  • Creating a learning environment
  • Taking a stand
  • Increasing and supporting diversity and inclusion efforts

These are just a few of the trends we’ve been seeing in our work with clients. While this has been a stressful and difficult time, there have been some silver linings. As we emerge from the past year’s tribulations, we are grateful to have survived and honored to have witnessed all the good that can come out of even the darkest of times.

Insource Services offers outsourced, part-time HR, Finance, and IT services to small to midsized organizations. If you are interested in an assessment of your operations in any of these areas or would like to learn more about our services, please contact us at info@insourceservices.com.

 

President Biden Signs American Rescue Plan Act

On March 11, 2021, President Biden signed the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) into law. The Act is one of the most significant stimulus and economic recovery programs in U.S. history, and it includes several important provisions that impact nonprofit organizations and the people they serve. Key provisions include:

  • Expansion of Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Loans: The ARPA provides an additional $7.25 billion for the program, and expands eligibility to nonprofits with more than 500 employees that operate at multiple locations as long as no more than 500 employees work at any single location. The bill also allows arts and culture nonprofits to apply for both PPP loans and the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG) program (a SVOG grant would have to be reduced by the amount of any PPP loan). The deadline for first or second-draw PPP loans remains March 31, 2021. MNN supports the PPP Extension Act, which is a bipartisan bill in Congress that would extend the PPP loan application deadline through May 31, 2021.
  • Increased federal unemployment insurance (UI) coverage: The law increases federal coverage of unemployment costs for self-insured nonprofits from 50% to 75% from April 1, 2021 to September 6, 2021. Nonprofits in Massachusetts currently have until June 30, 2021 to begin making their UI payments to the Department of Unemployment Assistance. In terms of individual unemployment benefits, the federal law also extends federal benefits for unemployed workers through September 6, 2021.
  • Significant aid to state, local, and Tribal governments: the law provides $350 billion in aid to state and local governments; Massachusetts is poised to receive about $8 billion, which will go to state government, municipalities, and Tribal organizations. Permissible uses of these funds include: “assistance to households, small businesses, and nonprofits, or aid to impacted industries.”
Nonprofits can download a helpful chart compiled by the National Council on Nonprofits that lays out the key nonprofit provisions here. Please contact MNN’s Director of Government Affairs, Danielle Fleury, with any follow up questions or for more information.

How nonprofit leaders can communicate more effectively with diverse teams

OSS-minBy YW Boston

Over the past year, living and working in the midst of a pandemic, mourning the loss of many more Black lives to racism and anti-Blackness, and witnessing a violent insurrection on the U.S. Capitol, many nonprofit leaders have had to re-examine what it means to be an effective leader. In the face of unprecedented and compounding challenges, nonprofits are more aware than ever of the importance of instilling inclusive communication skills within their organizations. Leaders, tasked with supporting and guiding people who hold a variety of social identities and personalities, bear an especial responsibility when it comes to communication and accounting for the diversity within their teams.

Understand how social identities impact communications

Social identities inform how we experience life, including the workplace. At YW Boston, we define identity as “the way an individual thinks about themself, the way they are viewed by the world, and the characteristics that define them.” Social identities include race, gender, age, ability, sexual orientation, religion, immigration status, class. What’s more, these identities intersect and create compounded advantages and disadvantages. The exploration of social identities is invaluable for leaders, given that these identities not only impact how we are perceived by others but how we perceive ourselves.

Beware of communication blockers

“Yes, but…” is one of the most reliable ways of derailing conversations and leaving others feeling unheard. Stealth “buts” also include:

  • “I understand where you’re coming from… However,”
  • “I see your point… Nevertheless,”
  • “That may be true… On the other hand,”
  • “You could say that…only,”
  • “You’re right…it’s just that,”

In order to combat the use of stealth “buts” and their derivatives, it’s important to begin building awareness around when these communication pitfalls come up and how often we use them. When we challenge ourselves to use different language, we begin to notice when and how our implicit attitudes occur. Try shifting from “buts” to “builds” by building upon the person’s idea before adding your own thoughts or before asking a question. Your questions should reflect curiosity and interest, not a desire to persuade or “poke holes” in an argument. If you wish to state your disagreement with what someone says, do so explicitly and respectfully.

Be cautious of mind-reading

Mindreading describes instances when we try to infer what other people are thinking without seeking clarification. Mindreading can cause us to form opinions or act upon assumptions. It is a significant barrier to effective communication as it can further entrench misunderstandings. Below are some signs that can help you identify if and when you are mindreading, so that you can disrupt the cycle:

  • You spend more time imagining than having real conversations.
  • You spend more time talking about others than to them.
  • What you think others are not saying affects you most.
  • You often wonder what others think of you.
  • You think others aren’t telling the whole truth.
  • Many things people say tend to bother you.
  • Others often remind you of someone you know or once knew.

It’s essential for nonprofit leaders to understand how social identities and the internalized and externalized assumptions that accompany them influence our communications. Only then can leaders and organizations be fully equipped to succeed in a vastly diverse workforce.

___

About YW Boston
As the first YWCA in the nation, YW Boston has been at the forefront of advancing equity for over 150 years. Through our DE&I services—InclusionBoston and LeadBoston—as well as our advocacy work and youth programming, we help individuals and organizations change policies, practices, attitudes, and behaviors with a goal of creating more inclusive environments where women, people of color, and especially women of color can succeed.

As part of that work, we are helping organizations prioritize Diversity, Equity & Inclusion and become socially connected while staying physically distant. During this time, YW Boston is providing organizations with digital workshops and resources to help them better understand the challenges faced by their employees. For more information, please contact Sheera Bornstein at sheera@ywboston.org.

Nonprofit 411: 2021 Employee Retention Credit – Are You Eligible?

Nonprofit 411 CLA-minBy Raechel Grady, CPA, MSA, Senior Associate, CLA (CliftonLarsonAllen)

The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 (CAA 2021) expanded the employee retention credit (ERC). We’ve answered some frequently asked questions to help you determine whether your organization is eligible.

What periods are ERC available for?

CAA 2021 modified the ERC to make it available for the first two quarters of 2021. It was originally set to expire on December 31, 2020.

If my organization received a PPP loan, is it still eligible for the ERC?

Prior to the passage of CAA 2021, employers that received a PPP loan could not claim the ERC. CAA 2021 changed this rule retroactively. Now, employers that received a PPP loan in 2020 may claim the ERC for qualified wages paid after March 12, 2020 and before January 1, 2021 — if they are otherwise eligible for the credit. However, an employer cannot claim the ERC on wages it uses to receive PPP loan forgiveness.

Who is eligible for the ERC?

If an entity’s operations were fully or partially suspended due to a government order, then the credit is applicable for the dates the government order is in effect. Employers may also be eligible if they had a significant decline in gross receipts — less than 80% compared to the same quarter in 2019. If an organization was not in business in 2019, it can use 2020 as its comparison year.

What is the amount of the ERC in 2021?

Effective January 1, 2021, the maximum credit increased to $7,000 per employee for each of the first two quarters of 2021, for a possible $14,000 credit per employee. The 2021 credit is available even if the employer received the $5,000 maximum credit for wages paid to such employee in 2020. Under the new law, the credit is also allowed for hazardous duty pay increases.

Are there limits to the size of an entity that can apply for ERC?

Effective January 2, 2021, an employer with 500 or fewer full-time employees will be eligible for the credit, even if employees are working. When calculating the 500-employee threshold, the employees of affiliated companies sharing more than 50% common ownership are aggregated. For entities with more than 500 full-time employees, the ERC can only be claimed for those employees who are not providing services.

Still have questions?

Visit CLAconnect.com and reach out to a trusted professional who can help you understand ERC eligibility requirements and provide strategies to enhance economic relief for your organization.

The information contained herein is general in nature and is not intended, and should not be construed, as legal, accounting, investment, or tax advice or opinion provided by CliftonLarsonAllen LLP (CliftonLarsonAllen) to the reader. For more information, visit CLAconnect.com.

CLA exists to create opportunities for our clients, our people, and our communities through our industry-focused wealth advisory, outsourcing, audit, tax, and consulting services. Investment advisory services are offered through CliftonLarsonAllen Wealth Advisors, LLC, an SEC-registered investment advisor. 

What we learned about Diversity, Equity & Inclusion in 2020 and how to improve in 2021

Feb2021MNNBlogPostSharedSector-minBy YW Boston

Recently, David Brooks, New York Times Op-Ed columnist, shared an article explaining why the current models used to address Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) aren’t working. In the article, Brooks explains how bias trainings, although conducted with good intent, “don’t reduce discrimination” for several reasons. Study after study has shown that racial diversity training does not accomplish the task for which it is intended and, at times, is even counterproductive. Some of the reasons behind this, as laid out by Brooks and as the year 2020 has demonstrated, include that:

  1. “Short-term educational interventions, in general, do not change people.”
  2. Training can activate stereotypes in people’s minds rather than eliminate them.
  3. Training can make people complacent.
  4. Mandatory trainings make many White participants feel left out, angry, and resentful, actually decreasing their support for workplace diversity.
  5. People don’t like to be told what to think and may rebel if they feel that they are being pressured to think a certain way.
  6. Training models of “teaching people to be good” are based on the illusion that you can change people’s minds and behaviors solely by presenting them with new thoughts and information.

At YW Boston, we agree with Brooks’ main point: addressing, reducing, and ultimately eliminating intrinsic biases requires more than one 2-hour training. One-time trainings alone do not and will not suffice in bringing about the systemic changes that we need to address organizational inequities.

Through our work with nonprofit organizations looking to advance DE&I, YW Boston has found that we must not conclude that trainings aren’t helpful altogether. Instead, it’s important to ask, what is a more effective way to bring about social change in the workplace?

Brooks suggests that we need permanent physical integration, not trainings. At YW Boston, we believe that there must be multi-level interventions for true organizational change to occur. Driving real change towards a more inclusive and equitable workplace requires both continuous training and intentional policies and practices that can address the structural barriers to permanent physical integration.

For this reason, our InclusionBoston model addresses inequities at the micro (individual), meso (interpersonal), and macro (institutional) levels. Through a long-term organizational partnership, YW Boston provides formative and summative assessments, root-cause analysis of organizational strengths and challenges, and delivery of a five-part dialogue series that develops shared knowledge, trust, and skills in all participants—all of which are prerequisites to creating sustainable change within an organization. Using the knowledge and trust the cohort builds through the YW Boston-facilitated sessions; participants develop an action plan to address DEI challenges within their organization.

While we agree with Brooks that our current model of social change is fractured, we don’t want to lose some of its valuable elements. Trainings are not the cause of the fracture and are not insufficient unto themselves, but rather the manner in which trainings are conducted–either ad hoc or without proper guidance–that render them ineffective for the broad changes we need as a business ecosystem and society at large.

___

About YW Boston

As the first YWCA in the nation, YW Boston has been at the forefront of advancing equity for over 150 years. Through our DE&I services—InclusionBoston and LeadBoston—as well as our advocacy work and youth programming, we help individuals and organizations change policies, practices, attitudes, and behaviors with a goal of creating more inclusive environments where women, people of color, and especially women of color can succeed.

As part of that work, we are helping organizations prioritize Diversity, Equity & Inclusion and become socially connected while staying physically distant. During this time, YW Boston is providing organizations with digital workshops and resources to help them better understand the challenges faced by their employees. For more information, please contact Sheera Bornstein at sheera@ywboston.org.

Nonprofit 411: Accounting for Nonprofits: Understanding Your Finances

Nonprofit 411 Jitasa-minBy Jitasa

You didn’t start working in the nonprofit sector to stare at financial documentation, decipher challenging math equations, and file annual tax forms. However, that comes with the territory of nonprofit accounting. 

Especially now, as strategic plans have gone awry in light of the pandemic and resulting economic downturn, non-accountants can benefit tremendously from developing a basic understanding of nonprofit accounting concepts. This general understanding will help you better react to these economic difficulties and help you create forward-thinking plans that take into account financial best practices. 

The aspect of nonprofit accounting that impacts each and every team member is the formation and approval of your annual budget.

Approving your annual budget is one of your nonprofit board’s many responsibilities. Meanwhile, calculating the budget is a job for the finance department, and implementing it falls to your development and programming teams. 

A drop in the expected revenue and cuts in the budgetary expenses are not reflective of the amount of faith in your team members but are the result of a series of complex calculations informed by previous years’ metrics. 

Jitasa’s nonprofit accounting guide explains that your revenue will be informed by either the discount or cutoff methods: 

 

  • Discount method: Using this method, your finance team organizes your expected revenue by source, then multiplies that expected amount by the probability that you’ll receive the revenue. For instance, if you have an 80% chance of receiving a grant worth $10,000, the budgeted revenue for that grant will be $8,000. 
  • Cutoff method: The cutoff method uses a similar approach, but analyzes expected revenue as a whole instead of separate sources. Your finance team multiplies your entire expected revenue by the probability that you’ll receive it. For example, if you expect to raise $1 million in total, but have a 75% chance of fundraising that much, you’ll budget for $750,000 in expected revenue. 

Meanwhile, your expenses can be broken down into specific categories. These categories not only help you understand where finances are going, but also match up with the expense categories listed on your annual Form 990. This ultimately makes it easier to keep accurate records and to file tax forms. These categories include: 

 

  • Fundraising expenses. These are the expenses that you incur to raise additional funds. They can be further broken down into your marketing costs, software investments, event costs, and other expenses that you take on to gain funding. 
  • Administrative expenses. Administrative expenses are often fixed costs that you must pay to keep the doors open at your organization. They include things like employee salary, rent, utilities, and tools for data management.
  • Program expenses. These are the costs that you incur to actually work toward and achieve your organization’s mission in the community. For instance, a dog shelter would lump the veterinary bills and cost of leashes in with program expenses. 

Nonprofit accounting is a multifaceted entity that encompasses a wide range of topics. However, your budgeting process is one of those facets that everyone at your organization should have a grip on so that you can effectively raise funds and allocate them responsibly. 

How Nonprofits Can Foster More Meaningful Virtual Engagement With Their Employees

By YW Boston

2020 was a year that many nonprofits experienced a new and unexpected transition into partially remote or completely remote work. As we continue to face the COVID-19 pandemic and grapple with increasing social unrest, including the recent violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, it is as important as ever to prioritize practicing empathy with our employees and colleagues. As we begin the year 2021, it’s important for organizations to re-examine their expectations for employees to continue conducting business as usual. Leaders must allow time for employees to process the impact of such uncertainty in their lives. When having any work-related virtual meetings, nonprofit leaders and supervisors can adjust their practices to foster more meaningful virtual engagement. Keeping employees engaged in online spaces is critical to staying socially connected while physically distant. Here are some things to consider when interacting with your employees using digital mediums.

Redefine (virtual) employee engagement

Employee engagement has transformed in the virtual space. First, let’s define what we mean by “virtual engagement.” Virtual engagement refers to all and any employee interactions that occur online, whether those are “live” and synchronous, such as video conference or voice call, or asynchronous, such as chat or emails.

Account for, and normalize, distractions

In the online realm, active and passive engagement appear a bit differently. It’s important not to confuse passive engagement with active resistance. While someone may have their camera off during a video call, for instance, that does not mean they are not fully engaged. As employees juggle new variables such as sharing their remote workspaces, increased caregiving responsibilities, and other challenges arising from working remotely during a pandemic and political crisis, employers must remain flexible and empathetic during this time.

Continuously gauge engagement and adjust accordingly

Measuring virtual engagement is a necessary step for readjusting and making modifications that will improve the quality of your interactions. As a meeting facilitator, check in with participants to see how they are feeling, what their energy level is like, and to learn whether they feel prepared for the meeting or virtual presentation they are about to participate in. If you are providing new information, be sure to check for understanding. And at the end of the meeting, check in again to see if people’s disposition or feelings have changed, and to see if they want to provide any feedback. Make note of your own observations, such as how many people participated, how often did people participate, did anyone seem to dominate the conversation, and so on.

Practice and improve your virtual facilitation skills

As a leader or supervisor, you have a responsibility to foster more meaningful engagement during virtual meetings. It’s a good practice to familiarize yourself with virtual platforms before facilitating or participating in a meeting. As much as possible, avoid troubleshooting during a meeting or presentation. If necessary, host a practice run, review a tutorial, or identify a virtual assistant who can help you. You must also commit to facilitation and be present by minimizing as many distractions as possible. Turn off email and other notifications, silence your phone, maximize the virtual meeting to full screen, etc. Practice active listening. Acknowledge people when they speak, make “eye contact” by looking at your webcam, nod or provide reaffirmations via chat, etc.

___

About YW Boston

As the first YWCA in the nation, YW Boston has been at the forefront of advancing equity for over 150 years. Through our DE&I services—InclusionBoston and LeadBoston—as well as our advocacy work and youth programming, we help individuals and organizations change policies, practices, attitudes, and behaviors with a goal of creating more inclusive environments where women, people of color, and especially women of color can succeed.

As part of that work, we are helping organizations prioritize Diversity, Equity & Inclusion and become socially connected while staying physically distant. During this time, YW Boston is providing organizations with digital workshops and resources to help them better understand the challenges faced by their employees. For more information, please contact Sheera Bornstein at sheera@ywboston.org.

Nonprofit 411: Best Practices for Data Security with a Remote Workforce

Nonprofit 411 KPM-minBy Dan Keleher, Executive Director, KPM Consulting

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, many nonprofit organizations made significant changes to their operations, systems, controls and the way their employees were working.  Many employees were moved to a remote environment for the first time, and as things changed rapidly, data security may not have received the attention it deserved. Now that the initial rush is over, and many nonprofits continue to operate remotely on a part- or full-time basis, this is the time to revisit whether these changes may have compromised your data security.

Remote Employees

  1. Be aware of phishing and social engineering schemes. Employees should remember to always check the sender’s email address, look twice before clicking any attachments, and when in doubt call or email (starting a new thread) the person you think sent the email to confirm that the request is legitimate.
  2. Encourage employees to revisit their password security. Consider using passphrases instead of smaller passwords. A passphrase is a phrase that is easy for the user to remember and then you can add complexity by capitalizing letters or adding numbers. Remember to use a unique password for each system you use.
  3. Remote employees should never use public wi-fi connections when working with sensitive data. Ideally, employees should use a VPN to access company systems. Multi-factor authentication is also highly recommended for validating access to the VPN.
  4. Employees should only use company-provided devices for work purposes. They should also consider physical security of these devices and documents. When not using a device, make sure you lock the screen. Additionally, consider collecting work documents and moving them out of sight when not in use.

New Technology

  1. In the initial rush of moving to a remote work environment, many employees installed new applications or software in order to assist with completing their jobs. Organizations are now faced with the question of whether these applications have all been properly vetted by the IT department. It is critical to make sure that IT reviews security controls and configurations for any tools that employees continue to use.
  2. Organizations should also ensure that employees have received adequate training on new technology. Security settings are not always intuitive and employees should be trained on how to prevent introducing security risks to the nonprofit.
  3. Were new controls adopted to address operational changes? If so, management needs to ensure that documentation has been updated accordingly so the nonprofit remains in compliance with any regulatory requirements.

Although your organization may be operating partially or fully remotely, it’s important to remember that the same data security processes and policies should be in effect as if you were working normally from the office. Cybercriminals look to exploit any weakness, so nonprofits must remain vigilant no matter the work environment. Following the guidelines above will help to ensure the security of one of your most important assets – your data.