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Pro Tips for Creating a Rock-Solid Social Media Policy for Your Nonprofit

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Social media can be a great way to stay connected to program participants, donors, and supporters of our organizations – or it can be a minefield of potential disaster.

A blonde woman nonprofit board consultant looks at her smartphone while seated in front of windows in a sunny room. She's wearing a white blouse and a dark skirt. By her side is a small table with laptop, coffee, and notebooks. A white board easel is just behind her. Creating a nonprofit social media policy is the best way to connect with your community while avoiding the pitfalls of social media use.

From embarrassing typos and factual errors to bad judgment calls and problematic commenters, the specter of trouble can overwhelm even the most seasoned nonprofit pro.

You need a social media policy for your nonprofit.

Even the smallest nonprofit team can benefit from a social media policy. It can keep you out of hot water by defining what is and isn’t representative of your organization. Setting parameters early on can be invaluable when it comes time to make a decision about what to post.

A quick Google search makes it clear, though, that “social media policy” exists on a wide spectrum of possible structures.

How do you know where yours should land? Should your policy spell out the most minute details? Will it be a broad set of guidelines for personal decision-making? Or will it be something in the middle of those two?

You should have both internal and external social media policies for your nonprofit.

An internal social media policy for nonprofits should guide how staff, board members, and volunteers manage their behavior on social media.

It should cover posting on behalf of the organization or under the organization’s name; interacting with visitors to the organization’s social media pages; and employee conduct on personal accounts where the organization is involved.

An internal social media policy should include basic information:

  • Who has access to your social media profiles and can post as your organization
  • The chain of oversight and who remains ultimately responsible for what’s posted there
  • The voice and tone your organization will “speak” in online, including general policies on addressing things like social issues
  • A list of “never-posts,” like donors’ or staff personal details or other private or proprietary information
  • What kind of user comments or posts get deleted and when
  • What happens when any of the organization's policies are violated

An external policy communicates expectations for people outside of your nonprofit. This covers circumstances under which you reserve the right to delete someone’s comments or even block users from your social media profiles.

You can’t control the behavior of Internet users, but with an external social media policy, you can cover yourself in the event you need to remove comments or even block a user from accessing your social media profiles.

Do this by setting clear boundaries for what will and will not be tolerated on your pages. Racist remarks, homophobia, or abusive language – if you won’t allow these, say so. What about privacy or confidentiality? Perhaps your organization doesn’t feature faces in your marketing photos. If someone visiting your social profiles identifies someone in the photo, you can delete their comment and refer them back to your written policy.

You can pin your external policy to the top of your Facebook or other social profiles. If that isn’t possible, provide a link to the longer policy on your website.

Your team is in it together.

There’s no getting around it – social media is important now, and people take what you do and say there seriously. Managing your social profiles can be a big job, but remind your team that you’re all in it together.

And make sure your nonprofit social media policy reflects that! By maintaining a warm, friendly tone throughout your document, you’ll avoid alienating staff by coming off as accusatory or punitive.

A solid social media presence can win big supporters of your organization, as well as a much closer connection with your community. Creating a social media policy for your nonprofit can help keep the waters calm so you can focus on what matters!

For access to the extended version of this article (including sample language!) and lots of other great resources, join THE LAUNCHPAD – the NPO Centric’s membership program brings regular tips, tricks, and best practices to nonprofit leaders across the country. Sign up today!