Social media allows the public to connect with events, causes, and organizations like your nonprofit. While having a social media presence is important, it is even more important to manage your organization’s social media presence.
Developing a strong social media policy that is able to anticipate potential issues without infringing on employee’s rights is important.
What does my nonprofit need to consider?
Creating an effective social media policy for your nonprofit requires that you take a two-fold approach:
- Managing the organization’s social media presence, and
- Considering employees’ personal use of social media and its reflection on the organization
Your organization should evaluate the potential issues associated with both aspects as you develop your social media policy.
- What are the unique characteristics of your organization that will affect your policy?
- How does the organization utilize social media?
- How can they better utilize social media?
- Do employees use their personal accounts to promote the organization?
Your nonprofit may use social media sites to post pictures, recruit volunteers, or share updates on programs and activities.
Nonprofits involved in disaster relief may utilize social network to engage volunteers, solicit donations, or share news on the disaster event.
Getting a firm grasp on your organization’s use of social media, including who interacts with the organization online and the types of information the organization shares online, will help as your write your policy.
What are other organizations doing?
Writing a social media policy from scratch might seem daunting. It may be helpful to look at the social media policies of other organizations.
- One site, socialmediagovernance.com, has a database of social media policies from a variety of organizations such as government agencies, nonprofits, and corporations.
What specific issues should we consider when drafting our policy?
Your organization’s social media policy is meant to protect the organization. However, you must still respect your employees’ right to free speech. The language you use should convey this balance. Policies with overbroad statements can infringe on employees’ rights.
Your social media policy should clearly communicate to employees the importance of keeping the organization’s reputation in mind and how their behavior can affect the organization. Social media sites allow the organization to reach out to donors, board members, volunteers, and other potential partners. An angry status update or tweet from an employee can harm the organization’s reputation.
Employees should also know who speaks for the organization and what they can and cannot say. Specifically identify the types of information regarding confidential issues or proprietary information that cannot be shared. You may ask that employees include a disclaimer for statements on issues your nonprofit is involved in to prevent any confusion. This allows the employee to still share their opinion while making it clear that the opinion is his own and not necessarily the organization’s.
Your organization’s social media policy should also include examples. Employees will have a clearer understanding of the policy if they can see what is acceptable, what is questionable, and what is unacceptable. Before rolling out the policy, you may also want to gather feedback from employees to ensure that it is clear and helpful. The better your employees understand the policy, the more likely it will be honored.
The Cullinane Law Group works exclusively with the nonprofit sector. We set up and maintain strong and legally compliant nonprofits that have solid bases for long-term success. We provide risk management and offer practical solutions for sound governance. We help nonprofits, foundations, religious organizations, and social entrepreneurs throughout the United States who seek to create positive change.