Virtual meetings: Risk management guidance for charities and voluntary organisations

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The coronavirus pandemic, and resulting ‘social distancing’ measures, has led to a number of unique challenges for charities – one of which is how to safely and effectively conduct meetings when everyone is working from home.

Holding meetings virtually requires a different approach and presents some unique challenges in terms of risk management – particularly in terms of cyber security. With so many new apps and services now available for video conferencing, it can be difficult to know which one is best for your charity or organisation.

Below we have listed some of the most popular video conferencing services, and provided more information regarding their safety and privacy concerns.

Popular video conferencing options

There are many different video conferencing apps and platforms available – many of which are currently free to use.

As with all forms of new software you are downloading, it is essential to carry out your own due diligence when it comes to the security of the apps you use – which includes becoming familiar with their privacy settings.

For charities, the dangers in using video conferencing software lie in the potential disruption of important meetings, the security of any data stored by the platform and how secure any file sharing and screen-sharing functions are.

Below we take a closer look at some of the most popular video conferencing platforms, and provide links for your further research to help you decide which is best for your charity or voluntary organisation.

Zoom

zoom

Zoom has grown in popularity since the lockdown, with everyone from school children to the Government using it to conduct virtual meetings.

Its popularity stems mostly from its ease of use and ‘freemium’ payment model – it’s free for anyone to use, but free accounts can only run meetings for 40 minutes. To host longer meetings, you’ll need to pay for a subscription which start at £11.99.

As the popularity of Zoom has increased, so to have the privacy concerns around using the video conferencing platform. Perhaps the biggest concern for councils is “Zoombombing” (where uninvited attendees break in and disrupt meetings). There has also been recent suggestions that Zoom could be open to foreign surveillance, as well as bugs that could open users up to password theft and question marks over Zoom’s use of end-to-end encryption.

Over the past month, Zoom has been working hard to improve the security of its platform – and has paused all product development work to focus solely on security. New security features include:

  • The meeting ID is now hidden so it cannot be accidentally shared if a participant posts a screen shot
  • Meeting hosts now see a security icon which allows them to control all the in-meeting security options
  • A new ‘waiting room’ function has been implemented, so the meeting host has to manually allow each participant into the meeting – which Zoom hopes will eradicate “Zoombombing”

Before using Zoom, we recommend you read-through Zoom’s own advice on conducting safe and secure virtual meetings on its platform: Best Practices For Securing Your Zoom Meetings

Microsoft Teams

Another popular choice is Microsoft Teams – which was previously only available to organisations that used Microsoft’s 365 suite of office tools, but has now been made free for anyone to use.

Teams can be used to host video and audio meetings, as well as web conferences and includes  features such as scheduling assistance, meeting note taking, screen sharing, meeting recording, and instant messaging.

Although it is widely viewed as more secure than Zoom, Microsoft Teams isn’t totally immune from cyber threats. The BBC recently reported on a security flaw within the platform, which Microsoft moved quickly to fix.

Due to the increased focus on Zoom’s security flaws, Microsoft have doubled-down on their own security offering within Teams and introduced several new features. See a full list of the security features within Teams here: https://www.microsoft.com/en-gb/microsoft-365/microsoft-teams/security

Google Meet

Google Meet

Google Meet – the rebranded version of Google’s Hangout Meet app – has seen a huge surge in usage over the past few months. In their latest earnings call, Google CEO Sundar Pichai revealed that Google Meet is currently adding three million new users every day and now has around 100 million active participants per day. That figure is sire to rise, as Google have just made Meet free for everyone to use.

Google Meet is a simple but effective solution for running virtual meetings, with Google adding new features all the time to help businesses and organisations conduct effective virtual meetings.

In terms of privacy and security Google says it is working proactively to combat abuse and hijacking attempts on the platform, as well as encrypting all data by default to make Google Meet secure and reliable for all users.

Read more here: How Google Meet keeps your video conferences protected and read Google’s full privacy and security settings for Meet here: https://support.google.com/a/answer/7582940

Virtual meeting tips for charities

Moving to virtual meetings requires a different approach for charities and voluntary organisations, with new procedures and processes required to ensure the smooth and effective running of meetings.

Tips and advice for planning a virtual meeting:

  • Make sure meeting participants have a clear understanding of their roles
  • Remote meetings require a different approach to the agenda and participant behaviour than face-to-face meetings
  • Set an agenda that ensures all participants are able to actively contribute to the meeting
  • Establish a clear focus on the intended outcome of the meeting
  • Take more time to prepare for virtual meetings, particularly the agendas and expected outcomes
  • Plan to cover less – as well as keeping the risk of miscommunication low, this will also provide more flexibility within the meeting

 

Note: Any views or opinions expressed above are for guidance only and are expressed in generic terms. They are not intended as a substitute for readers taking appropriate professional advice relevant to individual circumstances. We would always encourage readers to seek professional advice.

About BHIB Charities Insurance

BHIB Charities Insurance specialise in providing tailored cover for community groups, clubs, societies, voluntary organisations and hobby or special interest groups. We offer more than just insurance and we are passionate about supporting local communities.

To find out how we can help your charity or not-for-profit organisation, email us on hello@bhibcharities.co.uk or call 0330 013 0036 to speak to our friendly, expert team.

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Luke Glassford

Luke Glassford

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