Key points:

  • Social media is an effective, inexpensive way for small charities to convey information, interact with the public and generate support for their cause. But there are risks involved in its use.
  • Charities should use social media responsibly, in line with public expectations and in ways which do not compromise the charity’s reputation or community standing. And social media use must not result in a breach of ACNC Governance Standards.
  • A social media use policy can guide charity behaviour and help mitigate risks.

Social media benefits

Social media can provide smaller charities with a practical and cost-effective way to communicate with supporters, members, volunteers and the public.

Small charities can use social media to instantly inform audiences of news about their organisation, showcase their work, build their charity’s reputation and interact with the public.

But social media isn’t without its risks. Charities need to be aware of these risks and have measures in place to mitigate them.

Social media use

Before you begin using social media, be clear on why you are actually doing so.

Are you going to use it to inform? To advocate? To interact with supporters and the public? To attract support? A mix of everything?

Start by defining what your charity hopes to achieve through its social media use. This can then form the basis for your social media policy.

Social media – risks and issues

Over the years the ACNC has received concerns about small charities’ use of social media.

These concerns often centre on a few areas of problem behaviour, including:

  • using social media to conduct bullying or harassment
  • inappropriate responses to public comments on a Facebook or Instagram post, or to a tweet
  • internal disputes between current and/or past members of the charity playing out in public
  • inappropriate language or imagery in social media content

Some charities have seen their social media platforms 'hijacked' by staff or volunteers who have previously had access to the charity’s social media platforms but who have since left the organisation with some acrimony.

In other cases, the poor behaviour on social media has come from Responsible Persons or those in a leadership role.

The damage such problems can create are many:

  • loss of donations and support for your charity
  • damage to your charity’s reputation
  • an inability for your charity to carry outs its aims or effectively continue its work
  • breaches of ACNC Governance Standards.

The ACNC does not mediate in disputes within charities – including those played out on social media. However the ACNC will investigate allegations of Governance Standards breaches.

Developing a social media policy

A policy provides direction and a reference point on how your charity should behave on social media. Your policy should be clear, concise and lay out:

  • what social media is, and the platforms your charity uses
  • the social media activities your charity undertakes
  • a reminder of the risks of social media use, as well as a clear statement that your charity’s social media presence is professional and respectful
  • who can interact or post material on social media on behalf of your charity
  • the types of behaviour your policy prohibits
  • any procedures or guidelines if something does go awry, and how you will address these issues.

For more detailed information, including more on developing a social media policy, visit the NFP Law website. NFP Law provides free and low cost resources for NFPs. NFP Law is a program of Justice Connect - a communnity legal service that is also a registered charity.

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