How Safe is Your Organization’s Information?

Protect against today’s threats while promoting future growth

The headlines are full of stories of information breaches and other hacks in the corporate sector. These incidents cost companies millions of dollars, and in the case of retailers like Target and Home Depot, they chip away at consumer confidence. Breaches in IT security are also very real for nonprofits. Not having a system for managing your IT security is like not having a plan to secure the financial data of your organization. The truth is that all organizations, both big and small, are at risk. The key is to create and monitor your systems in order to reduce and minimize the risks.

With all the ways that technology can be a tool to help nonprofits manage data, operations, and membership, it can also create challenges if it is not managed properly. If your organization doesn’t have a solid IT security strategy, developing one needs to be a top priority.

Highway T is a program of the Michigan Nonprofit Association and has been providing IT advice, planning, and support to Michigan’s nonprofit sector since 2001.

Join us on Tuesday, April 14th from 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM for a free and open session to ask a Highway T consultant any IT question. You will get straightforward advice aimed at making your IT easier to manage. Register for this FREE event here.

In the meantime, here are some basic tips that all nonprofit organizations need to put in place today:

  • Institute a company password policy for your organization. Set up guidelines for changing the passwords every 30, 60, or 90 days. Require strong passwords that use a mix of words, capital letters, numeric, and special characters. And never use the same passwords more than once in a calendar year.
  • Stay away from recording the passwords by any method that is easily accessible. This means sharing passwords, writing them down, or even saving them in personal cloud storage systems like Google Drive or Dropbox.
  • Keep your anti-virus and your anti-malware software up-to-date on all computers and devices in your organization.
  • Don’t leave your laptop or device in your car for an extended period of time. If you must do this, leave it in the trunk of the car. This is important because if your car were stolen or if your computer were stolen from your car, your data and other important information would be vulnerable to theft.
  • Be mindful of who is around you when using your laptop or device in public spaces, such as coffee shops or hotel lobbies.
  • Remove access to the organization network and passwords of ex-employees immediately.
  • Don’t open email attachments from unknown sources. One of the easiest ways to pass on a malicious computer virus is through an email attachment.
  • Keep control of BYOD (Bring Your Own Devices); that is, personal device access within your organization.
  • Use organization-managed cloud storage for your information. Consumer versions of cloud storage systems such as Google Drive or Dropbox can keep your secure organization information out of your reach and easy to access.
  • Encourage employees to create a passcode for any smart devices that sync up with work emails.
  • Avoid using the “remember me” buttons on sites. Entering your password each time may be time consuming, but it is a good way to help protect your information.

Protect your organization against today’s threats while enabling future growth with security solutions from Highway T.

For more information or to schedule a free technology assessment, contact us at

Leon Wilson Leon Wilson is the Senior Director, Technology and Data Engagement at Michigan Nonprofit Association

Pinckney New Tech High School: Bringing Alternative Energy to the Community

Exciting things are happening at New Tech High (NTH) in Pinckney, Michigan this year. From now until May 2011, the installation of a Great Lakes Energy Service Inc. (GLES) Energy System is taking place above their heads. The school is receiving a 1.35 kW Solar PV system and a 1.o kW Wind Swift Turbine system to be placed on the roof, valued at an estimated $27,000. Early this year, NTH teacher Joel Craig applied for the system, hoping to expose the students and the community to its educational benefits. “It’s essential now more than ever for these students to not only understand but also obtain the skills associated with alternative energy systems,” said Craig.

New Tech High is a technology supported high school within Pinckney Community High School. Their method of learning is team-based through small student group projects, where students work on solving real-life problems with regular standard curriculum. With the addition of the GLES Energy System, the students will be able to learn how alternative energy is useful in their lives and provide service to their community by educating them on their findings.

Big plans are already being made for Earth Day 2012. NTH students will be designing and facilitating a community Earth Day Expo that focuses on alternative and renewable energy. Multiple stations will be set-up for family fun, including the GLES Mobile Renewable Energy Classroom, which will include hands-on learning about solar, wind, lighting, and other areas of energy efficiency. The main exhibit of the day will be the demonstration of the GLES Solar and Wind System. Sophomore Ellaina Beauchamp, who has enrolled in the class that will be using the energy system next year, says, “I’m really excited for the class, I think it’s going to be good for the school to know how to use this form of energy saving technology.” It is safe to say that both NTH students and staff are looking forward to, and embracing, this new addition to their school.

Look for future updates on this project @

Submitted by Gabby Abrego, AmeriCorps Vista for The LEAGUE Michigan

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SuperConference 2011, Not Your Ordinary Workshops

This year the SuperConference planning committee has hand selected presenters for the 30+ workshops that will be taking place at SuperConference on May 10th and 11th. Presenters include speakers from our plenary sessions as well as speakers from across the U.S. Not only that, workshops are divided into six topic-based tracks that appeal to those at both an intermediate and advanced level.

Below, is a sneak peek at some of the workshops and presenters from each track that are being featured this year.

Planned Giving Strategies to Meet Donor Expectations and Current Funding Goals
Advanced Fund Development Course
Facilitated By: Christopher L. Kelly, Vice President/Senior Philanthropic Advisor – Comerica Charitable Services Group

“Opportunities and Options” are the requirement of today’s donor. Our donors would like to see multiple ways to meet current gifting goals for their beloved organization, as well as paths toward leaving a lasting legacy. In this workshop we will discuss various planned giving vehicles; how they function traditionally, but more importantly, how they can function to meet the challenges presented by today’s sophisticated donor base. The result will provide opportunities for donors to gift from their accumulated wealth, rather than their disposable income, which translates into potentially larger and concrete financial commitments, and the opportunity to generate new relationships with the next generations of your current donor base.

The Game Plan
Intermediate Public Policy and Advocacy Course
Facilitated By: Abby Levine, Legal Director of Advocacy Programs – Alliance for Justice.

This interactive session helps organizations strategize how best to employ the advocacy tools at their disposal. It includes a discussion of advocacy fundamentals that help participants define their goals and objectives, appropriate targets, and effective advocacy tools, as well as assessing advocacy capacity and evaluating advocacy activities and planning for future campaigns.

Communications & Collaborations
Cross Track Communication Course
Facilitated By: David Stillman and Debra (Fiterman) Arbit, BridgeWorks

Join our Keynote Speakers, David & Debra, as they take you on a deeper dive of working through generational issues to keep your organization relevant in today’s changing world!

Five Crazy Habits
Intermediate Governance/Professional Development Course
Facilitated By: Robin Lynn Grinnell, Program Officer – Cook Family Foundation

Is your board agenda chock full of lengthy (ugh) program reports? Are you stuck in a perpetual cycle of fundraising events that are “just fine”? Do you sometimes sit at your desk and wonder if your board and/or staff will ever really get it together? If you answered ‘yes’ to any (or all) of these questions, don’t dismay… Many nonprofits have adopted Five Crazy Habits that simply trip us up. None of them are blatantly obvious and they’re certainly not illegal – they just make our work harder. Join us for a fast-paced session in which we’ll laugh (and groan) at our collective goofs and we’ll share some simple fixes that – with a little dedication – will get you back on the right path!

Google Grant & Apps!
Cross Track Planning Course
Facilitated By: Elyse Guilfoyle, AdWords Account Strategist – Google, Mary Elizabeth Ulliman, AdWords Account Manager – Google, and Jon Fraiser, Google

You are changing the world, and we want to help! Google employees from the Ann Arbor office will introduce you to Google’s free product offerings for nonprofits. They will touch on a wide variety of products that can help you: Reach and engage your supporters, improve your organization’s operations, Raise awareness for your cause .This session will focus specifically on the Google Grants program and Google Apps for Nonprofits. The Google Grants program empowers select nonprofit organizations to achieve their goals by helping them promote their websites via advertising on As a Google Grants recipient, your organization can solicit donations, recruit volunteers, promote events and programs, and much more through Google Grants ads.

Catch the Spirit of Service
Intermediate Civic Engagement Course
Facilitated By: Jeanine Yard, Program Officer – Michigan Community Service Commission and Evan Albert, State Program Director – Corporation for National & Community Service

Is your organization interested in making connections with National Service programs such as AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, and Learn and Serve? Do you wonder what a strong national service program looks like and how you might become that strong program effectively utilizing national service members. Join us for this interactive workshop and get answers to all your National Service questions. Learn how to ready your organization to apply for a grant or to host a member, identify opportunities for collaboration with other service programs, and find out how national service can add value to your organization.

For more information on SuperConference 2011, the workshops, keynote speakers, and other conference features, visit .

Submitted by Ashley Branoff, Communications Coordinator for Michigan Nonprofit Association.

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Is a Home Server for your nonprofit?

Over the past few years, I’ve had the opportunity to install several Microsoft Home Servers for small to medium nonprofit organizations. For groups with 10 systems or less, these units provide secured file sharing, seamless security linked to the workgroup login, phenomenal automated backups and remote access. Even better, these “off the shelf” servers range in performance and price from $250 to $800 or so. That’s way less than the cost of a “full blown” server averaging from $3000 to $5000 just for the hardware!

Unlike traditional Servers that often require expensive “care and feeding,” Microsoft Home Server is designed around simplicity and ease of use so most anyone can become proficient in its maintenance. Inexpensive fee-based subscription “Add-ons” can provide Home Server Antivirus and even offsite server backups. Larger “off the shelf” units can handle up to 4 internal hard drives. Today that means up to 6 terabytes (4x 1.5Tb). That’s a lot of room; particularly for smaller to medium sized organizations.

I purchased an HP Mediasmart Home Server for my home some time ago because I got tired of inconsistent and infrequent backups. Now our Home Server does automated “image” backups for all 8 systems in our home. These “images” allow me to completely rebuild any system to a particular backup date in less than 30 minutes. If I want, I can also restore individual files from the same images.

Highway T has had a lot of success installing NAS (Network Access Storage) devices which work great when the 10 system Home Server limitation is a problem or where the cost of a Home Server is more than the organization can afford. NAS units are also capable of “mirrored” RAID where Home Server only “duplicates” data across multiple drives for redundancy.

If your organization requires a traditional server domain for an internal database, or to run Microsoft Exchange, then Home Server will come up short. But with the trend today to push these applications into cloud based hosted solutions, Home Server seems to fill the gap for what’s left (backup, file shares, etc.) and at a substantially lower cost.

Submitted by Mark Shaw, Highway T Consulting Services Manager for Michigan Nonprofit Association.

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Email Service Provider Comparison

While researching a couple of email marketing options for an organization I was working with recently, I came upon a new report produced by the nonprofit consulting firm Groundwire (formerly ONE/Northwest) that did an excellent job breaking down ten email service providers.

These ten providers represent the top options for nonprofits when considering an email communication service. The report breaks down each provider by features, integration with other platforms (such as Salesforce), and pricing. After you have mapped out your email marketing requirements (email volume, frequency, budget, integration needs, scheduled delivery, etc.) the report makes it wicked easy to narrow down your options. Some of the service providers profiled in the report are MailChimp, VerticalResponse, and CampaignMonitor.

The full report can be downloaded for free at:

Submitted by Adam King, consultant with Highway T for Michigan Nonprofit Association.

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Resource Friday: Website Welcome Mat for Journalist

Journalist contact MNA on a regular basis, not only to learn more about our organization, but to learn more about the nonprofit sector and what nonprofits in Michigan are experiencing. Since you can never predict when the media will reach out to your organization as a resource and expert for a story, it’s important you make it easy for a journalist to find your organization, who to contact and how best your organization can serve their needs.

Flickr member: miggslives

As I read Hannah Brazee Gregory’s recent article with the Philanthropy Journal, I was reminded how something as simple as providing a press room on your organization’s website can save journalist time when researching for a story. Consider it your website welcome mat.

You can check out Hannah’s article, Is your nonprofit’s website media friendly? here. Review her check list and make a plan of how and when to accomplish each.

Here are some great examples of press rooms from nonprofits in Michigan:
+Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services (ACCESS)
+Community Economic Development Association of Michigan (CEDAM)
+Fortune Lake Lutheran Camp
+Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit

Questions about what to share in your organization’s online press room? Drop me an email at or call 517-492-2412.

Lisa SommerSubmitted by Lisa Sommer, Public Relations Manager for the Michigan Nonprofit Association.

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Technology Curbside Consulting at Nonprofit SuperConference

At next week’s Michigan Nonprofit SuperConference, my colleagues and I from the Highway T team will making ourselves available for free, one hour individual technology consulting sessions to conference participants. We call it technology curbside consulting because it’s quick but informative. Just pull up with any and all technology questions you might have. We can provide advice for almost anything including computers, printers, software, networking, backup, security, file sharing, email, databases, websites, social media, and more. We’ll have our laptops and an Internet connection; you just bring your questions!

Conference participants will have the opportunity to sign up for one hour time sessions on the 18th or 19th. Even if you have one, quick question, we encourage you to sign up for session. We can also review best practices and ask questions about your technology to help you understand what you have and what you might be able to improve. There will be a sign up form at the conference registration table for both days. See you there!

Submitted by Adam King, Technical Manager for Highway T.

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