Posted by: danielrashke | December 21, 2017

Why TPAs Must Hire Leaders in Cybersecurity

A few months ago I talked about the importance of investing in cybersecurity with a systematic and thorough approach. Besides stepping up your level of security, I advised you to create a rigorous crisis management plan that’s regularly reviewed, tested, and updated. And while these technical solutions are important, your approach to the human side of cybersecurity is also a vital part of the equation that determines your success when responding to new threats.

Before you put a plan in place or invest in any new tools, be sure you have the right team in place. The occasional security audit and outside security service cannot do what a mature and dedicated security team does: know the business, constantly monitor threat levels, and swiftly respond to challenges and crises.

A recent cybersecurity threat intelligence report makes my message more urgent than ever. According to the report, at more than $37 billion in assets, Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) look like gold mines to today’s criminals, with fraudsters and hackers now zeroing in on accounts they deem likely to be the most valuable. Especially vulnerable are account holders who fail to check their balances regularly, meaning fraud can go undetected for months.

In this watch-your-back atmosphere, third-party administrators like TASC are at a higher risk than ever. And this is why we’ve been investing more and more into our security program. As part of this commitment, we took a few big steps…

We hired an experienced security professional to lead development of a robust program that can respond to new threats as they arise. Tasked with driving the strategy and vision for our security program, our new Director of Information Security, Riad Armo has already created a charter document that describes our security program and how it fits into our organization. And because cybersecurity is not a one-person job, we have also boosted our security team with four additional security engineers and coordinators.

Now that I’ve shared what we’ve done at TASC, what about you? Cybersecurity requires far more than a suite of high-tech monitoring tools you buy from a vendor, far more than junior-level staff working under the IT department. Yet all too often business owners fall for impressive product demos, spend a lot of money on tools, and then enjoy a false sense of security. Only with a strong team in place to manage the tools you’ve invested in can you be sure the countless technical settings are appropriate, adequate, and configured to respond to a security landscape that’s ever-changing and bound to remain so.

A mature cybersecurity program demands a fine-tuned team and deserves the same respect and access to funding as any other department. The severity of the threats we face demands nothing less.

Posted by: danielrashke | November 30, 2017

Workplace Giving

I invite you to read my last blog post, if you haven’t already. In it, I discussed the Greater Give, a new way to make it easier and less expensive for Americans to support charities. This innovation creates Flexible Giving Accounts (FGAs) using existing architecture (i.e. pre-tax payroll deductions for accounts such as dependent-care, transit/parking, etc.). With the FGA, employees will fund their giving with pre-tax payroll deductions, and then direct grants from their accounts to the charities of their choice.

Giving through the workplace is well-proven as a secure and convenient vehicle for charitable giving, and in 2016 accounted for around $4 billion. Besides helping the greater good, companies use workplace giving to communicate the company’s values, promote employee involvement, and attract the best and brightest individuals.

While often perceived as solely the work of large multinational corporations, it’s a mistake to overlook the small and mid-size company’s crucial role in community-oriented giving. When we look at percentage of profits donated, it’s absolutely clear that small businesses are far ahead of their larger counterparts, often making tangible social impact in the community. Also true is that most mid-size companies engage in corporate citizenship for the purpose of impacting their communities, not their bottom lines. Regardless of size, corporate mega-donors and “everyday philanthropists” alike can make meaningful, community-scale impacts.

A charitable FGA system would be great for employees and great for employers. Participating businesses will be building a culture that’s sought after by potential employees, with positive benefits appreciated in many communities. The charitable FGA program will make it possible for even the smallest businesses to promote philanthropy and charitable giving. And of course, participating employers will save funds because they’ll offer this simplified program on a pre-tax basis, thereby also enjoying the payroll tax benefit that accompanies cafeteria plan benefits.

Recently, a Los Angeles Times article about workplace giving caught my attention. The authors discuss current trends in workplace giving. (Click here to read the article by Genevieve Shaker of the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy and Robert Christensen of Brigham Young University.) Authors Shaker and Christensen list several ways to ensure the success of a workplace giving program. One item on their list falls right in line with the Greater Give: “Let employees choose from a range of charities.” In fact, that breadth is absolutely core to the Greater Give, via which employees choose from a wide range of pre-vetted and pre-approved charities.

Recent studies* looked at companies that switched to models with more charitable choices for their employees.  These studies revealed that more than 79% of companies increased donor participation rates and 73% raised more money!  TASC has been paying attention… And we’re pleased to be recently on board as service provider for the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC), the U.S. Federal Government’s workplace giving program. Now with a streamlined approach and wider options for giving, we realistically forecast a similar boost in giving for CFC.

I’ll say it again. Workplace giving is good for your employees, your company, and your community.

*(Source: LBG Research Institute, 2010; “Workplace Giving Works! Make it Work for You.”)

Posted by: danielrashke | November 21, 2017

The Greater Give

Give BackOur philanthropy philosophy at TASC is now as it has always been: if more individuals increase giving—even by small amounts—a significant difference can be realized in our communities. Yet the current charitable income tax deduction falls far short of the ideal, and the number of individuals contributing to charities has steadily decreased over the past 35 years. Have Americans become less generous during the past half-century? Have we made it more difficult for Americans to support charities? Can we pinpoint impediments to individual giving? If so, what can we do to get these barriers out of the way?

TASC, with The Greater Give, is proposing a solution to make it easier and less expensive for Americans to support the charities of their choice. By streamlining the gifting process, our plan spurs employees and employers alike to “lean-in.” It simplifies record-keeping, because it uses an existing architecture (i.e. pre-tax payroll deductions for accounts such as dependent-care, transit/parking, etc.). Employers can be confident of their compliance, and more middle-class Americans can become everyday philanthropists.

So what are we talking about? We are proposing the creation of the Flexible Giving Account (FGA), an employee fringe benefit account that’s funded with pre-tax payroll deductions and managed by the gifting employees, who direct grants from their accounts to the charities of their choice. You might ask, “Aren’t charitable donations already tax-deductible?” The answer is “no” and “yes,” because these contributions are deductible only for some taxpayers: those who itemize their deductions. According to a study by the Tax Foundation,* of returns with an Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) below $50,000, fewer than 20 percent itemized. Relegating the deduction to such a small segment of our population—to those who itemize only—is no favor to would-be givers or charities across our nation.

It’s important to clarify that establishing this pre-tax deduction is not intended to change charitable giving’s current tax status. In fact, this change will complement the current system by adding a pre-tax deduction as a new way to realize the tax advantages of charitable giving. (Similar to Section 129 creating the Dependent Care Flexible Spending Account to complement the Dependent Care Tax Credit.)

So you’re thinking, “Hey that sounds great! What now?” The answer is simple yet challenging at the same time. It involves legislative change. To implement creation of an FGA, Congress must amend the regulations governing fringe benefit plans. But the actual change is relatively straightforward. Congress simply needs to add a Flexible Giving Account to the existing list of qualified fringe benefits. That’s it! Easy, right? Then again, considering the current situation in Washington, it seems nothing is easy these days…

Who does this affect? Employees. Employers. Non-profits. Communities. I can think of very few who wouldn’t be impacted by providing charitable tax incentives to significant numbers of non-itemizing taxpayers. And because many non-itemizers have relatively lower incomes and hence pay less tax, donations—subsidized by tax rules—will have tax costs below the revenue loss from taxpayers in higher brackets.

Obviously, the largest impact of the Greater Give would be appreciated by our nation’s charities. With a more predictable income stream, they’ll be able to plan better and do more. Boosting individual giving—at any amount—will foster positive change for people, companies, and society.

So you see, there are no losers in the Greater Give, only winners.

*Source: (Tax Foundation – Most Americans Don’t Itemize on Their Tax Returns – July 23, 2007)

Posted by: danielrashke | October 25, 2017

Cybersecurity: It’s Everyone’s Concern

I cannot overly stress the importance of protecting your online information, especially considering all that has been in the news lately—from Russia hacking election sites to the Equifax cybersecurity incident. TASC is serious about meeting the challenge, and recently hosted a cybersecurity forum in Washington, DC. The discussion emphasized two main points: the convergence of cybersecurity and privacy, and how to respond when attacks happen.

Both elements must be approached together, and all businesses must take this risk seriously. It’s absolutely mandatory that you create a crisis management plan. You need a plan that’s intact, one that’s reviewed, updated, and put into real-life practice regularly. And because it’s a plan, you must work hard to develop components before you face a situation. Have it ready, on the shelf, and tested; it will save you valuable time and effort in the long-run. And it might save your business as well!

At TASC, this all ties back to our strategy. When it comes to security and privacy, what’s the number one concern that comes to me? Naturally, it’s the physical and mental well-being of people in our care. What follows are our customers’ funds and data, followed by TASC’s funds and data (our trade secrets).

TASC sponsored this forum because we wanted to share advice that we’ve acquired from the experts themselves. One best practice, as stated by Jason Maloni, a seasoned crisis communications professional, is to ask yourself “Is this something we really need?”

At TASC, we constantly ask ourselves that question when touching any level of data. Whether it is internal data, customer data, or interaction with vendors…  Is the information/data in our possession absolutely necessary to complete the objective? If we have anything beyond that, it is too much. So we work hard to grab what we need and nothing more, to capture the necessary information only. Beyond that, we must ask “What level of privacy/security does it need?”

Like TASC, you should wrap that captured, single element of private data that you have with every effort you can to make it secure. Then, you must put yourself in the very best possible position, ready for when a breach threatens. They come in many shapes and forms, and not all breaches involve damaging your infrastructure. It can be as simple as a phishing email designed to collect contact information, or as complex as ransomware that takes your whole system hostage and won’t let it go until you pay. So be on the offense, be prepared with your security, and have your plan ready to go.

Fortunately, we are far down the cybersecurity road here at TASC. We are in a good place. It all comes down to three things: privacy, security, response. I advise that you count on experienced, professional assistance to achieve the level of the crisis management that you need. This should consist of legal representation, reputation management (strategic advice), and cybersecurity (technical security).

As the police sergeant on the 1980s Hill Street Blues television program used to say: Let’s be safe out there!

Posted by: danielrashke | September 20, 2017

Visit from Representative Mark Pocan

US Rep PocanRecently, TASC President Cliff Mason and I had the pleasure of hosting U.S. Representative Mark Pocan at TASC’s headquarters. While we touched on any number of topics during our conversation, we kept coming back to one central theme: philanthropy.

During the first part of the meeting we brought Representative Pocan up to speed about our Combined Federal Campaign (CFC), our ongoing development and upgrade of the workplace giving program. To date, more than 13,000 charities are enrolled and ready to go on the new system. In addition, we are just about ready to start rolling this out to 6+ million federal employees and retirees.

We then discussed how working with the country’s largest employer (the Federal Government) has ramped-up TASC’s need for additional employees and office space in the International Lane area. Rep. Pocan pledged his support in any way he could, stating “We need to keep TASC and its jobs here in Madison.”

The conversation then moved to a new initiative of which I am very proud. Something that I think will make the world a better place: The Greater Give. This innovation will truly maximize employer and employee philanthropy, because it will open the door to charitable giving that’s tax exempt to the giver.

The benefits of workplace giving are already making a difference for individuals and the community. And The Greater Give will multiply those benefits even further. Here’s how it would work. By changing one sentence in the Internal Revenue Code, workplace giving would be treated much like the transportation benefit. In other words, with this change employees could set aside pretax funds to donate to the charities of their choice.

Personal, tax-exempt charity savings accounts will encourage regular, predictable giving. With each paycheck, employees will have a unique opportunity to save—for the purpose of supporting their community. Automating savings into a separate account gives visibility and options. And it simplifies charitable giving.

People feel good giving. Giving in the workplace attracts and retains talent and strengthens teams by promoting inclusivity. This innovation will boost corporate citizenship, individual wellness, and recognition. It will boost community charities’ bottom lines and enable employers and charities to leverage projected gifts to maximum effect.

For his part, Rep. Pocan was interested in TASC’s initiative, but was realistic about getting it done. “I am not seeing a lot getting done right now, but there is some room for tax reforms,” he stated. “We can’t do the big things, so we may opt for doing some smaller things.”

The Greater Give is one small thing that could have a huge impact.

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