Keeping Volunteer Information Secure from Cyber Theft & Data Leaks

Managing Volunteers, Technology, Volunteer Management / Wednesday, May 5th, 2021

In the era of “hacking” and information being easily accessible on the internet, it’s no surprise that people are ever more concerned about privacy and information security, especially at nonprofits.

Not to mention the significant number of news and signals about large institutions’ electronic files being susceptible and eventually hacked.

That being said, volunteers applying for, or already a part of your organization, are probably more worried than usual.

So, as a nonprofit, one of your primary responsibilities is to secure volunteer data, so no unfortunate leaks occur. A single scandal can devastate PR.

At Volunteer Mark, we know how important it is to take volunteer privacy seriously and execute measures that ensure reliable protection of personal information.

Read ahead the guide on how to keep volunteer information private and secure.

Safeguard Digital Records of Volunteers

With all the advanced software systems around, most of your organization’s data, if not all, is probably kept electronically.

If so, make sure to

  • Upkeep all digitally stored personal information in password-protected files on all devices, related to your organization, whether they are computers, tablets, phones, and so on.
  • Grant access to the passwords and devices used only to other nonprofit members and volunteer coordinators authorized under firm data governance to use personal data for the sake of the org.

Enact Firewall Monitoring

The most important feature of strong database security is a firewall that monitors your network traffic and prevents unauthorized internet actions, comments firewall security professional Ivan Radev. Make sure to research and apply reliable firewall systems to your system and network used for managing volunteer information. It’s best to choose a firewall system from a provider offering flexibility with security permission settings. This allows tailoring what info stays available to users and what data remains private and protected, the expert adds.

Use Reliable Cloud Software

Alongside stealing and hacking information on the internet, there are other hazards that endanger the safety of your volunteers’ personal details, especially in the age of virtual volunteering.

What we mean is system crashes.

These happen when operating systems don’t function properly and destroy some or all records kept.

How to prevent?

Well, a system failure is usually unpredictable, and you can rarely do anything to stop it. You can take preventive measures to protect data with remote work, your org from losing all sensitive info, and avoid the serious and costly consequences of a system crash.

A reliable way to defend against it is by employing cloud-based volunteer management. Systems you can access from any point at any time are the best to ensure security because it lets you store your data in “the cloud”. The next best thing is onboarding people with basic SQL skills to build and upkeep your own archives, but know-how binds them to the organizations, which is again a colossal risk.

So, if your volunteer management software crashes, you have a backup in your cloud system and can restore all valuable information, such as messages, files, and forms of asynchronous communication.

Some questions to have in mind while choosing a cloud system provider are:

  • Does it have a mirroring process?
  • At what periods of time, do you back up information?
  • Do the provider’s servers undergo 24/7 monitoring?
  • Is there a Plan B if the internet connection or the power goes out?

Just make sure that the backup system you pick has backup generators itself to ultimately prevent worst-case scenarios.

Manage Paper-Based Records the Right Way

No matter if you use electronically stored or paper files, make sure to keep both safe and secure at all times.

  • It’s obligatory to always keep paper-based personal data in a locked cabinet, cupboard, or filing drawer.
  • Never give the key or reveal the lock combination to anybody, but the assistants whose job is volunteer information management.
  • Take no paper copies of personal information at home.
  • When this is unavoidable, limit the access of your family members to any volunteer data files.
  • Avoid reviews while in public.
  • Never leave the copies unattended in your car.

These are especially useful for volunteers in healthcare organizations and managing political volunteerism.

Treat Volunteers as Your Clients

Another aspect of data security concerns how and when volunteer personal data gets distributed around.

Many volunteer coordinators find it okay to share info about their volunteers in different programs, social media posts, announcements, and etc. uses of landing pages for the nonprofit’s aims. But there are certain limits. A volunteer might prefer if their personal information and volunteering habits stay private.

It’s useful advice to treat your volunteers as if they are loyal clients relying on your services. With clients, you probably have strict guidelines on how to use and keep their personal details protected.

So, when signing up a volunteer, take the time to determine how you would share personal details and what for? Use questionnaire rounds and analyze surveys as if motivating employees and answers will tell. Conduct live webinars and build video training archives to educate and foster awareness.

Also, the volunteers themselves indicate what part of the info is okay to be released. Just use proper signing forms where a volunteer can choose if he is okay with their photo being published, or their name, etc.

Mind Who You Share Volunteer Information With

To avoid any issues regarding your volunteers’ personal details security, be aware of who it’s okay to share it with.

You could share volunteer data if:

  • It contains details of known terrorists or suspicious entities.
  • Police, legal advisers, regulatory bodies, etc.
  • External organizations for the sake of a particular nonprofit cause.

Remember that whenever you share personal information, you must comply with the established standards and your preferences.

Never give out personal details to third parties for marketing purposes.

Prevent Data Breaches

A data breach is every incident that exposes confidential data. In some situations, it’s clear that the information was accessed by error, but that’s not always the case.

There are a number of reasons a breach occurs:

  • If you click on unreliable links in emails that present themselves as first in a row. Sometimes these only mean to breach the security of your device and get access to contact lists, logins, and anything valuable. Be mindful of emails and links from unknown sources!
  • Because of a mistake in your IT system set up and someone hacking it.
  • Loss or theft of the hardware containing personal data.
  • Sending an email to a group of people and accidentally sharing everyone’s email addresses in it.
  • Verbally sharing secret information, like passwords or codes, about your volunteer management system with people who shouldn’t have access to it.

A honeypot of information is your database. So, keep in mind the potential risks of a data breach and manage volunteer personal details extremely seriously.

Final Thoughts

When volunteers agree to provide their personal details to your nonprofit organization, they trust your privacy to you to a high level. That’s why it’s crucial that you take all care possible to secure their personal information unless they require you to share.

The volunteers definitely deserve this effort provided the hard work and devotion they give to your association, which is often more than a row on the resume.

So, stick to our informative guidelines to establish highly secured and protected volunteer information management.