Using Social Media for Nonprofit Outreach
Social media is an essential tool for not-for-profit outreach, engagement and fundraising. But social media also poses a reputational threat if your organization doesn’t clearly communicate rules for its use and prepare for “emergencies.” If you haven’t already, it’s time to implement some best practices.
Rules of the Road
The line between employees’ personal and work lives was already blurry, and the shift to remote work has only exacerbated this effect. This raises the risk of inappropriate posts on personal and organizational accounts.
The best defense is a formal social media policy. The policy should set clear boundaries about the types of material that are and aren’t permissible on both kinds of accounts. For example, it should prohibit employees from posting nonpublic information they’ve learned on the job. Also share the policy with board members and volunteers and emphasize that they could possibly harm your organization with their personal accounts.
Around the Clock Attention
Social media is 24/7, and incidents can escalate quickly. So be sure to devote the necessary resources to monitor your accounts and others that refer to your nonprofit.
With organizational accounts, check the posts and comments. Both can go viral and create trouble. That said, don’t get drawn into an exchange with a troll who’s posting in bad faith and simply trying to stir things up. Give your staff guidelines to help them determine when to engage and when to let it go. You can establish a zero-tolerance policy for offensive comments or disable comments altogether.
Consider subscribing to a “social listening” tool, such as Sprout Social or Brandwatch, that will alert you when your nonprofit’s name is trending on social media. These tools help you follow what people are saying about your organization and respond to them directly when appropriate.
Ready to Respond
Mistakes — or intentionally damaging posts — can occur despite comprehensive policies. Create a formal response plan so you’ll be able to weather such events. The plan should assign responsibilities and include contact information for several spokespersons. Identify a specific trigger when it’s time to involve the executive director and board and include a list of potential responses, such as issuing a press release or bringing in a crisis management expert.
After a situation has resolved, you’ll want to sit down and review your plan’s effectiveness. Ask what worked and what didn’t.
You’ve probably seen other organizations mishandle ill-advised posts and attacks from outsiders on social media. Take their experience as an object lesson and put policies in place to help prevent the same from happening to your nonprofit.