Tips to Consider Before Navigating Social Media

So your not-for-profit organization has decided to enter the world of social media.  Social media encompasses a broad sweep of online activity, with Facebook, Linked-ln, Twitter and YouTube among the most commonly used and known.  These social media outlets can offer a not-for-profit organization many opportunities at little cost.  New opportunities can range from increasing online fundraising to gaining access to new volunteers.  However, with these opportunities comes significant risk that social media content of a damaging, inappropriate, or confidential nature may be disclosed or transmitted, resulting in potential legal or unfavorable media focus on the organization.  Not-for-profit organizations need to protect themselves from the dangers of social media and the best way to do so is by implementing a social media policy.  The organization’s policy concerning the use of social media should address the social networking by employees and board members in their capacity of representing the not-for-profit organization.  The policy should provide guidelines on sharing information and photographs of the organization’s programs, developments, and events.

The following are tips to consider before getting involved with social media:

1. The most important step a not-for-profit organization can take before stepping into the social media world is developing a social media policy.  A social media policy outlines the principles for employees, board members, and the leadership team to follow when interacting with the social media community.  The internet provides access to a number of examples of social media policies of organizations.  Many larger not-for-profit organizations post their social media policy on their website.
2. Create a social media plan.  Which social media outlets will be used? Who will be responsible for social media content?  Who will monitor the social media sites?
3. Your online presence reflects your organization. Be aware: Actions captured via images, posts or comments, even if on a personal site, can impact the organization.
4. Never be false and misleading in your online posts or comments.
5. Never use or disclose confidential or proprietary information about the organization or its contributors, clients or consumers.
6. No staff or board members should be allowed to host or maintain a blog, social media website or webpage, or online account that is in the name of the organization or any affiliated entity or that in way creates the appearance that such blog, social media website or webpage, or online account is affiliated with or sponsored by the not-for-profit organization without prior approval.
7. Content that staff or board members publish on personal social media sites should never be attributed to the organization and should not appear to be endorsed by or originated from the organization.
8. Where no policy or guideline exist employees, board members and the leadership of the not-for-profit organization should use their professional judgment and take the most prudent action possible.

While social media may be an opportunity for your not-for-profit organization to grow and reach a new level, be mindful of the risks that come with it.  Take the proper steps to ensure your organization is protected from possible harm to its brand that can come from social media.


Brian Collins is an Audit Manager with over 10 years of public accounting experience. He performs audit, review, compilation, and tax services for a wide range of clients in various industries, including not-for-profits and automotive dealerships.

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