Social media offers nonprofits of every kind expand the reach of their message, stay in touch with donors, and promote their work. A well-executed social media plan is arguably an essential element of a modern nonprofit’s public outreach. But along with the benefits come a range of pitfalls that nonprofits should work diligently to avoid.
Operating without a social media policy.
A well-crafted social media policy is essential for any organization that will make active use of the platform. It helps the organization avoid many of the other mistakes that come with social media use and enhances its role as a branding tool.
The specifics of a policy will depend on the organization, but likely will include a range of rules to guide employees and volunteers in their interactions with the organization’s online presence. Among many other things, a policy typically lets everyone know who has authority to post official content to the organization’s social media sites, what content is prohibited (i.e., what could potentially get an employee fired), and what content is subject to management approval. It will also cover what to do in case of accidents and emergencies.
Failing to account for threats.
No organization should wade into the social media realm without a clear plan for addressing potential cyber threats. The organization’s policies can address some of these concerns. For example, passwords should be changed whenever parting ways with employees or volunteers who had access to accounts.
Hacking poses a different type of threat than disgruntled employees do. A hacker could post damaging materials, or could steal contact lists and other valuable, confidential information. Organizations need to have a plan in place for when such things happen. Improvising a public response or hastily looking for expert advice could wind up making the damage worse or more expensive than it needs to be.
Depending on how a nonprofit is organized and how it is treated for tax purposes, a solicitation for donations using social media could be unlawful. Organizations need to be especially careful about how “the ask” is worded. Promises about how donations will be used, gifts donors will receive, and other matters can get the organization into trouble legally as well as reputationally.
Social media can also get an organization into trouble if posts violate a third-party’s legal rights. Information posted in violation of a confidentiality agreement, or posted in violation of a person’s privacy rights, could get the organization into needless legal trouble.
Talk to a California nonprofit law firm about your social media use.
These are just a few examples of the mistakes a nonprofit can make in the social media realm. Many of the more common problems are technical: failing to understand how the platform works, failing to optimize for search engines, that sort of thing. But some mistakes are best avoided with help from an attorney rather than a website guru. At the Church Law Center of California we work with religious and secular nonprofits to organize and operate efficiently and effectively. Call us today at (949) 689-0437 or reach out to us through our contact page.