Happy Halloween: The scariest things for charities this October

As the witching hour approaches some of the scariest things for charities to know about aren’t the ghosts and ghouls of October 31.

Paul Rubens | 31st Oct 19
foggy woods representing the scariest things for charities

Halloween is the time for ghouls, ghosts and all manner of scary monsters to take to the streets across the land, but as October draws to an end there are plenty of spooky happenings to occupy the minds of organisations. Here are some of the scariest things for charities this Halloween.

Brexit

Perhaps the biggest frightener is the spectre of Brexit looming over us: both the uncertainty of when it will arrive and the potential for it wreaking havoc when it does.

On the positive side, donations from the public appear to not to have been affected by the uncertainty so far and are unlikely to be in the future, according to CAF’s Brexit and its impact on charitable causes research paper. But that’s not to say that Brexit will not turn out to be the stuff of nightmares for charities that are not prepared for wild swings in the value of sterling – which can have a significant impact on charities which operate overseas, new procedures for moving goods and money around the world, the end of EU funding, and even problems recruiting staff.

What’s even scarier is that charities are now facing the double whammy of Brexit and a General Election in December as well. The resulting level of uncertainty is probably unprecedented, making it extremely difficult for charities to make and implement plans for the short and medium-term.

The good news is that elections are a relatively common occurrence, and this one will be over before the year is out. “Elections might be brutal, but whatever happens to politicians, charities still remain relevant the morning after,” Sir John Low, the chief executive of CAF, pointed out after the last election.

> See also: Is there a positive side to Brexit for charities?

Cyber-security

Cyber-security is something else that should be keeping charities awake at night, and that’s because one in five charities were targeted by online criminals in the last year, according to government figures.

Fraud is the most common type of cybercrime, accounting for 37% of all computer-related crimes,  according to ONS crime figures, and bank fraud alone has risen 17% in the last year. But here’s a scary fact: more than a third of charities believe their organisation will not be hit by the most common types of fraud such as phishing attacks, and less than nine per cent have a fraud awareness training programme in place according to a recent survey. That’s despite the fact that fraudsters specifically target charities because staff and volunteers often receive less online security training than employees in for-profit organisations according to Professor Mark Button, a counter-fraud expert at the University of Plymouth.

But cyber-crime goes far beyond fraud alone, and other frightening types of online attacks that charities need to prepare for include virus, malware and more targeted hacker attacks which may be designed to steal charities’ data, and ransomware attacks which hold data hostage using encryption and demand payment before charities can  get access to it again.

> See also: A cloud security checklist for charities

Digital Ethics

One final thing for charities to think about as the jack-o’-lanterns come out is the data that they collect and the ethical considerations that surround its use. The implications of the misuse of data are grave, so every charity has a moral (as well as a legal) responsibility to ensure that it keeps that data it collects securely, uses it only in accordance with the permissions that have been granted, and makes the services which use that data accessible to everyone – as a bare minimum.

Failure to consider the ethics of data usage can be catastrophic for a charity because it implies a breach of trust with its supporters and the public more generally  – and without the trust of the public there can be no charity sector. Data offers charities great power, but as Halloween approaches charities would do well to remember that with great power comes great responsibility too.

> See also: How small charities can embrace digital tools ethically