Industries: Nonprofit

When was the last time you thought about your nonprofit’s social media policy? Maybe you wrote one several years ago when your organization set up a Facebook page or a LinkedIn profile. Since then, not only has your nonprofit likely changed, but new social media platforms have emerged. At the very least, the established sites you use have probably revised their terms of service.

The basics
A social media policy helps ensure that staffers, board members and volunteers use your nonprofit’s online accounts to promote and enhance — not damage — your nonprofit’s reputation and fundraising efforts. Without a policy, you risk confusing and offending stakeholders, inviting lawsuits and even incurring financial costs, such as the loss of your exempt status.

To prevent such negative outcomes, your policy should address several topics, including:

  • Which sites you’ll use,
  • Who in your organization has access to them,
  • What subjects they’re allowed (and not allowed) to discuss, and
  • Whom they can “friend.”

Also specify whether staffers and board members can discuss their work on their personal social media accounts. If so, require them to post a disclaimer saying that their opinions about your organization are their own.

Evaluate site use
As you revisit your social media policy, consider the sites your nonprofit currently uses and whether they still enable you to reach your target audience. Do your staffers post frequently enough to be effective? Is your follower base actually growing? If not, you may want to shift resources elsewhere — for example, to one of the newer social media platforms.

Twitter may have been on everyone’s lips five years ago, but today’s hottest social media platforms are photo-sharing apps like Snapchat and Instagram, whose users are primarily under 25. Nonprofits such as the Ocean Conservancy and Los Angeles County Museum of Art have used Snapchat effectively. However, such sites may not make sense if your organization primarily communicates its message with words or is trying to extend its outreach to older donors.

Another consideration is whether the social media outlets you use have changed their terms of service. In the past couple of years, many sites have expanded their rights to share user account information with third parties. Such changes may raise privacy concerns within your organization.

Other updates
Also review who has social media account access and whether you want to restrict or increase it. As a general rule, the fewer people with access, the less likely someone will post something damaging. But, if your nonprofit is struggling to maintain a regular posting schedule, it might benefit from adding new, enthusiastic staffers or volunteers to the account.

Just make sure that, whenever you remove a user from an account, you change the password. Social media sites increasingly are being hacked, so it’s a good idea to mandate longer, more difficult passwords that, for example, employ a mix of letters, numbers and symbols.

Another policy that you may not have originally addressed, but can’t afford to ignore now, is intellectual property (IP) rights. Contrary to what some believe, nonprofits aren’t immune from IP infringement lawsuits. Make sure that, before your nonprofit posts third-party images, videos, music and text, you have permission from IP holders and properly credit them.

Fast-moving target
These are only some of the many issues that may require you to revisit your social media policy. Social media is a fast-moving target and, to use it effectively, your nonprofit must pay attention to evolving developments.  

BPM for Nonprofits
BPM is one of the largest California-based public accounting and advisory firms, ranked as one of the 50 major firms in the country. With six offices across the Bay Area, we serve emerging, mid-cap, and closely-held businesses as well as high-net-worth individuals in a broad reach of industries. Our Nonprofit services group consists of over sixty professionals who employ a full-service approach to accounting for nonprofits. One of our founding goals was to make a significant difference in the way nonprofits were served by those in our industry. We assist with auditing and tax preparation, consulting, outsourcing, technology, and investment consulting. For more information, contact Daniel Figueredo at (415) 288-6284 or Shannon Winter at (408) 961-6308.

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