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Nonprofit Strategies

7 issues your nonprofit social media policy should address

It’s all too easy to make a mistake online when posting from the company account. Learn how to craft a social media policy for nonprofits to avoid blunders.

Kylie Davis
September 29, 2023
May 6, 2021
Nerd Mr Butter

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Social media can be a powerful tool for nonprofits, but it's important to navigate social media carefully to avoid potential blunders.

By implementing clear guidelines and defining roles through a nonprofit social media policy, your organization can set boundaries, expectations, and roles within your organization and prevent a major oops! incident on social media.

Below, we explain seven issues to address and social media policy examples for nonprofits that your team should consider.

1. How will your nonprofit values tie into social media use? 💓

Social media is a communication tool. It's a way to converse with supporters, stakeholders, and board members outside a formal meeting or fundraising campaign. While the language used on social media channels is more casual compared to other mediums, the messaging shouldn't drift from your values.

Before you write a sentence in your social media policy, review your organization’s mission and values. This will set the tone for what is (and is not) acceptable to post, how you communicate with supporters, and how you respond to negative comments.

Some sample questions to ask:

  • Is humor appropriate? If so, when?
  • How do you handle constructive feedback? Do you ever ignore or delete rude comments/replies?
  • How do you handle social media posts during a public crisis or somber event?

2. What are the boundaries between the organization and personal accounts? 👯

This may be the trickiest section when writing your social media guidelines. Your employees are a reflection of your organization, and what they post on social could have ramifications on your cause. (Note: Some organizations find it helpful to write two policies—one regarding the organization's use of social media, the other regarding employees' personal accounts.)

Boundaries between personal and organizational social media accounts need to be firm. Let staff and volunteers know certain behavior will not be tolerated by the human resources department, such as:

  • Harassing or discriminating against individuals or group of people
  • Using any form of hate speech
  • Sharing privileged information, such as copyrighted documents

Disclaimer: You need to be extremely careful about telling employees what they cannot post on social media. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) gives employees the right to address conditions at work—even if they're not unionized. Always have an attorney or in-house counsel review your social media policy regarding personal accounts.

3. Who is in charge of your social media platforms? 🙋

Your nonprofit organization should have a team to handle your social media profiles and social media management sites. It should be clear who has access to passwords, who's in charge, and what the editorial process is. Write team roles and responsibilities directly into your policy, so there's never confusion about the following:

  • Who is on the social media team? What is the hierarchy within the team?
  • What is the editorial process?
  • Where are logins and passwords stored?

4. How will you engage with external organizations? 👋

Social media is not a silo. The purpose of social networks is to connect with vendors, partners, supporters, and other organizations within the nonprofit sector. Your social media policy needs to reflect exactly how you'll connect with them, including:

  • How should staff members handle friend requests from supporters on their personal Facebook pages or connections on their LinkedIn?
  • How do you ensure photos, logos, and other materials from external organizations aren't shared without permission?
  • What do you do if an employee from an external organization makes a negative comment about you on their personal account?

5. How do you handle negative comments? 😡

Negative, rude, and unsolicited feedback comes with having a social media presence. Your team needs to decide how you handle negative comments online, and where you draw the line between constructive and unproductive feedback.

Your nonprofit social media policy should contain a section explaining how you escalate negative comments. Before you create a PR frenzy, address these questions:

  • When, where, and why would you ever delete a negative or rude comment?
  • How do you reply to constructive feedback? How can you take the conversation offline?
  • If a negative comment gets repeated in your online community, how will you contain or address the situation?

6. What do you do when there's a mistake? 😱

As said before, mistakes happen. What separates good social media marketing from a PR nightmare is how you handle—and learn from—those mistakes. Your social media plan should outline how to handle unfortunate posts.

This includes typos, controversial press coverage, or a poorly worded (and misinterpreted) post. To plan for these events—and gracefully find your way out of them—ask the following:

  • What do you do when a mistake has been made?
  • How do you respond to unexpected situations, questions from the press, or public outcry?
  • What's the process for deleting, retracting, and posting an apology?

7. Is there ever a time when you shouldn't post? 🙅

Sometimes, silence is better than opening your mouth and worsening the situation. Your social media strategy and policy should contain a clause stating when posting is not appropriate.

If you do not have all the facts, are not an expert on a social movement, or are watching a disastrous event unfold, you might want to keep all fingers off the "post" button. These times include:

  • How do you handle social movements and advocacy not directly related to your cause? When should you bring in an expert from another organization?
  • How do you handle events where lives were lost or are in danger?
  • If a supporter comments on your silence while your team debates any of the above, how will you reply?

Social media policy for nonprofits is absolutely necessary

You owe it to your mission, cause, and supporters to stick to your values when posting online. To do this, you need a social media policy to set boundaries between personal and professional accounts, define an escalation clause, and handle negative comments online.

Instead of using a generic social media policy template for nonprofits, follow the questions outlined above to create a nonprofit social media policy tailored to your organization's unique mission and needs.

With a concrete policy in place, you can use social networks to spread the word on your good cause. Givebutter empowers nonprofits to utilize one-click social sharing—not to mention an entire suite of top-rated tools for fundraising, nonprofit marketing, and donor management—to make growing your reach online as easy as possible.

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