We all live in an increasingly digital world and social media forms a large part of this for many people. For charities it has opened new ways of engaging with service users, attracting volunteers and raising much needed funds. As with most things in life though there are risks that come alongside these benefits.
The Charity Commission, the independent regulator for charities in England and Wales, felt that there were some significant gaps in knowledge amongst the charity sector when it comes to social media. Paul Latham, Director of Communications and Policy at the Charity Commission noted that “trustees need to be alive to the risks it can generate, including to a charity’s reputation.”
To help trustees gain a better understanding around the use of social media and allow them to manage the associated risks the Charity Commission has now published new guidance on the use of social media.
The role of trustee is one that demands a lot and the Charity Commission accepts that not every charity will be able to have trustees involved in the day-to-day running of its social media accounts and campaigns. That said, the trustees need to understand their legal responsibilities even if the use of social media has been delegated to someone else at the charity.
One of the key points in the guidance is to encourage charities to have a social media policy in place.
Such a policy should cover;
- How the use of social media will help the charity further its objectives
- What content is acceptable
- When and how to get approval for posts
- How to manage the risks that content posted by people connected to the charity (such as trustees, senior staff and volunteers) may negatively impact it whilst acknowledging the individual’s right to exercise their freedom of expression within the law.
- Include signposts to where people can go if they have questions or need further support
The aim of the guidance is to support charities to use social media in the right way. Paul Latham noted that “it is the duty of trustees to act responsibly, in their charity’s best interests, and in line with the law. This includes when posting online. Our guidance will help charities to navigate their use of social media with greater confidence and will support the Commission to regulate this high profile and fast paced area in a fair and balanced way”.
The full guidance can be read here and Roythornes will be more than happy to support you with drafting or reviewing your social media, or any other, policy.