Social media platforms are excellent vehicles for storytelling and creating awareness, yet, without a nonprofit social media policy in place, your board could be in for some unexpected problems.
Just under 4 billion people use social media in the world. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest give you multiple places to spread the word about the good work your nonprofit is doing in your community. That said, social media is a double-edged sword. People occasionally make mistakes or render bad judgment when creating posts. It’s easy enough to type fast and hit send without thinking or double-checking the content.
One post can reflect poorly on your nonprofit, and viewers aren’t always so understanding. Before an unsavory post goes viral on the internet, we encourage you to take a look at our step-by-step plan for creating a nonprofit social media policy.
Social Media Risks and Concerns for Nonprofit
Your board members should be aware that there’s no way to prevent a bad or questionable social media post from going viral even if the content was only up for a short time. Posts can be copied, saved, or shared within seconds creating reputational risk for your nonprofit. A retweet or share magnifies an already bad situation.
There are three main ways a social media post can go wrong:
- Employees or volunteers say bad things about your organization online.
- Customers, stakeholders, or constituents say bad things about your organization.
- Employees, board members, or volunteers disclose trade secrets or other confidential information online.
Bad posts can include typographical errors, factual errors, false representations, bad jokes, controversial opinions, or any other comment made in poor taste. Take steps to ensure everyone that works in or with your organization understands that anything they post on behalf of or about your nonprofit could cause problems that reflect badly on your organization.
Fortunately, your board can take steps immediately to prevent social media posts and comments from portraying your nonprofit in a bad light.
A Social Media Policy Sets the Standard for Appropriate Postings
A social media policy provides the guidelines and standards for social media postings, whether someone generated them internally or externally. Just to be clear, an internal post refers to staff, volunteers, or others who publish a post on behalf of your nonprofit. An external post refers to staff, volunteers, or others who post something about your organization on their own social media accounts. To encourage buy-in, be transparent with everyone in your organization about why you need to establish a social media policy.
Social media posts present notable risks that cause legal or reputational damage. Such issues could cause your nonprofit to lose funding. You also risk losing the hard-earned trust and integrity your board has worked so hard to earn within your community. Beyond the problem of reputational risk, your organization likely collects confidential information. If someone were to leak confidential data accidentally or intentionally, your nonprofit could be facing legal ramifications, as well.
A social media policy is the first step toward reducing the liability associated with social media posts.
A Nonprofit Social Media Policy: Step-by-Step
The following 8 steps will give you a good start to writing a nonprofit social media policy.
- Choose a committee. A social media committee might be responsible for researching social media policies, creating a social media policy, and presenting it to the full board.
- Explore social media templates and examples. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Search the internet for templates and examples of social media policies that other nonprofits are already using.
- Set the preferred tone and voice for all channels. Set the expectation for the tone and voice of all posts so they’re in keeping with your nonprofit’s mission, vision, and values.
- Incorporate a system of checks and balances into the policy. Your board should be aware of who has access to each social media platform and be sure the login credentials are being stored in a secure location. In the interest of accountability, create a system of checks and balances where more than one person reviews posts before publishing anything.
- Determine who’ll be responsible for enforcing the policy. Assign someone the task of investigating social media policy infractions. You also need to incorporate wording for disciplinary action or termination when social media posts warrant action.
- Decide who will be responsible for responding to complaints, allegations, and accusations. Designate an individual to monitor, review, and delete posts as necessary. This person may also be responsible for responding in kind to negative feedback or comments and making public apologies when a problem calls for one.
- Put your social media policy into writing. The committee should write up a final draft for the full board and ask for approval. You may opt to ask a lawyer to review your policy and provide feedback.
- Make your social media policy accessible and transparent. Your social media policy should be accessible to all board members, staff members, volunteers, and stakeholders. Make it available on your website and be prepared to share copies of it with those who ask for it.
Tools for Creating a Nonprofit Social Media Policy
The right tools will make light work of the task of creating a social media policy for nonprofit organizations. A nonprofit social media policy template, nonprofit social media policy examples, and a board management software system will smooth the path for your committee’s work.
A social media policy template typically begins with a statement that recognizes the right of employees to use social networks. The following paragraph may be a narrative that describes how online comments carry the potential to damage your nonprofit’s reputation.
The next section should list the types of activities that could lead to a violation of the policy. A description of how the nonprofit intends to take corrective action comes next. Finally, the policy should state how to report violations.
Of course, the most secure platform for doing the legwork to create your social media policy is the BoardEffect board management system. Your nonprofit’s reputation is on the line every day, and the issue of social media is a serious, contemporary issue that warrants protection.