Digital security breaches can cause harm to grantees, as well as their clients, beneficiaries, and partner organizations. These threats also pose a risk to grantmakers and to the larger strategies of impacted organizations. Security leaks can compromise an organization’s ability to carry out its work, and can erode trust between civil society actors.

In the digital age, grantmakers should be able to assess and help address the digital security threats faced by grantees and grant applicants. Yet, this is new terrain for most grantmakers and many face a myriad of challenges including not knowing where to start, the severity of potential threats, and how to address them. Though it can be difficult to get started, funders have an important role to play in starting conversations with grantees on digital security threats and ways to mitigate them.

The Ford Foundation, MacArthur Foundation, Knight Foundation, Open Society Foundation, and Mozilla Foundation launched the NetGain initiative in 2015 to jointly address the challenges and opportunities of the digital age. The partnership aims to strengthen digital society, guided by a set of principles acknowledging the role of the Internet and technology in advancing the public interest. Coming out of this partnership is a new guide, Digital Security & Grantcraft Guide: An Introductory Guide for Funders.

This guide is to help grant­makers both assess and address digital security concerns. It explores the types of digital threats against civil society and the obstacles to addressing them. It explains how to conduct a digital security “triage” of grants to elevate the digital security of your whole grant portfolio; while playing special attention to the highest risk grantees. And it provides suggestions for pathways to think more systematically about digital security.