Sunday, May 10, 2009

How To Protect Your Personal Information When Making Charitable Donations

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What Happens to Personal Information When Making a Charitable Donation? New Grants Benefit Both Charities and Donors During Spike in Identity Theft. Data security issues have garnered a great deal of press lately. And of course it is not a huge stretch to imagine why charities are often attractive to hackers. They simply don't have the budgets or the staff to maintain tight data security--and they handle money… sometimes a lot of money. Typically, supplying the charity with a great deal of information that may even include an address, social security number and banking information.

This can be a nightmare for some. Normally this information becomes hard data utilized in part to solicit for further funding somewhere on down the road. Personal data, even an identity can be sold, stolen, misused or even used in such a way to harass an individual with constant solicitations.

Works of Life Ministries may be able to help with new grant offerings available to Charitable programs.

So far in 2009, over 100 million records containing Social Security numbers, bank accounts, age, gender and other information on individuals have been lost. Imagine what can be lost from the lack of security at a non-profit school, or a non-profit hospital, both collecting a varied array of their client's personal information.

The reasoning for this has to do with the nature of the relationship the organizations have with the individuals they serve. Rarely do for profit business-to-business companies have personal relationships with customers.

However, the relationship between most nonprofit organizations and their donors is different. Charitable business transactions aren't about buying, they're about giving. Donors are making a personal investment into a charity's mission. Therefore, to ensure revenue streams remain intact, nonprofits must go the extra mile to make sure their donor's information is protected.

In some cases, such as with many faith based charitable organizations, personal information may never be exposed to such as risk. As in the United States, many faith based organizations are not required to disclose their financials in any way unless requested by their Donors.

"This extra layer of protection receives a great deal of criticism from many who do not subscribe to the idea that the Church and State should be separate but we all know that the Government has never been good at running a religious entity. Those who disagree should probably move to a country where fewer people have given their lives to afford us such rights," comments Director D.O. Smith of Works of Life and the Computers with cause's charitable program.

"I have never heard of a church or faith based charity that has a problem disclosing to any individual Donor where their donation is going or who has benefited from their gift," states Rev. Everett of Works of Life. "Non-disclosure really is not an issue for those who actually are Donors to these types of Charities," adds Everett.

The risk is the same no matter what kind of donation is made. A financial or car donation, even a real estate donation, Donors still give up a great deal of sensitive data. "We only store the data needed for the reason it was collected. If the data is no longer needed, we get rid of it," adds Everett.

"We limit the storage of Donor data only to systems that are not connected to the Internet. Stand alone systems only to eliminate the possibility of a security breach. This allows us to secure the Donor's sensitive data both physically and technically," states Dir. Smith of Works of Life.

"Our previous CEO insisted on making the Donor the focus and with good cause. Creating policies and procedures that the Ministry then implemented when dealing with sensitive data. Having these policies not only protects your donors, but protects your organization as well," says Dir. Smith.

When it comes to responsibility and ethics, always make sure that the Organization has a stated privacy policy and will not share any information with outside parties.

Always ask to be informed as to who will benefit from the donation. Keep in mind that there is a right to place certain stipulations on a gift (within reason) and should make sure to have this noted on a federal tax form IRS 8283. Follow the donation and the data!

So the IT focus for charities definitely needs to change from acquiring hardware and software to having the resources to protect charity networks and servers from outside attack. It is making an already tough job even tougher.

Verify the choice of charities and remember that a charity need not be listed with the IRS to be "legit." However, it is fairly easy today to find if an Organization is providing services with the funds they collect. Churches and most religious organizations do not need to be listed with the IRS to be tax exempt, neither do some hospitals or schools. (See IRS form i1023)

"We run many of our offices out of Volunteers homes," states Everett, "Our former CEO was disabled and started the Organization out of a residential based office to make the Ministry possible. On the upside it also eliminated a great deal of overhead. That allowed us to spend more providing an actual benefit to those in need," Everett stated.

A very recent donation in excess of $100,000.00 is allowing Charities such as Works of Life to also provide assistance to other like-minded Non-profit Organizations to create and implement their own data security programs as well. The same Donor has pledged to provide a quarterly grant to help other Charities and to assist in the creation of these secure programs.

So what should nonprofit leaders do?

Ask for Help! "We welcome any Responsible, like-minded Charitable Organization to contact us if they need advice or funding," states Director Smith Of Works of Life, "A great part of our mission is to provide works of this nature."

Works of Life International Ministries
1081 S. Cimmaron
Las Vegas, Nevada 89145
http://www.worksoflife.org

About Works of Life International Ministries:

Operating since 2002 Works of Life International Ministries is a non-profit, non-denominational faith-based charitable organization that provides charitable works for other like-minded organizations in the form of endowments, grants and much, much more.For a secure data program grant please apply online at www.worksoflife.org

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