Updated Social Media Guidance for Trustees

by | Nov 7, 2023 | Governance

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I don’t know about you, but I have a love-hate relationship with social media.

I love the fact that today I can keep in touch with friends, see what other people and businesses are getting up to and offering, and I can connect with people beyond email.

Social media has provided us with a much larger platform to promote our businesses, highlight the great things we’re achieving, give a shout-out to those who have and are helping us, we can reach more users with even more great services, and we can even ask questions and gain instant responses from those who have similar experiences.

But, and there’s always a but.

Social media can also be a minefield. From ensuring that your privacy and security are continuously protected, to managing online trolling and fake accounts, to identifying fake reports and news stories….online risks are everywhere and always changing.

However, businesses, including charities of all shapes and sizes, need social media. It’s not something we can run from, and nor should we want to; instead, it’s an area that we need to continue learning from, and with recent social media guidance now published by The Charity Commission for ALL charity Trustees, is now the perfect time to brush up on your digital skills and policies?

Charities and social media

For all social media has been available to us for a number of years now, it was during the pandemic that in order to survive every business turned to online platforms as a means to effectively, efficiently, and continuously stay connected with their target audience.

For many charities, social media quickly became a lifeline. Allowing us to reach larger audiences and build supporter networks, as well as providing opportunities for users to still access services through virtual workshop sessions and even online video content.

Now that the storm has passed charities must continue to use social media and maximise the benefits it brings, while also recognising risk.

We live in a fast-paced world, and even when our audiences take time out and slow down, they will be slowing down with a cuppa and most likely their phone in hand, scrolling through Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, or should we say, X, formally known as Twitter?

Readjusting messaging and how we communicate with various stakeholders is key for many small charities in order to keep going.

Charity Commission Guidance for Trustees

The recently updated social media guidance for charity Trustees highlights how important social media has become for charities and users to stay connected and for charities to reach larger audiences, which, with a lack of available funding, is now crucial.

The new guidance focuses on supporting charities’ use of social media and how charities can maximise the benefits these platforms bring while also managing the risks.

And it is the area of risk that is most important to note for Trustees.

Going forward, the Charity Commission has made clear that charities using social media MUST have a social media policy in place; all employees and volunteers should be aware of this, and it is the Trustee’s responsibility to ensure it is followed.

However, the guidance accepts and understands that Trustees don’t have to be involved in the day-to-day running of the charity’s social media, but Trustees do need to understand their responsibilities linked to the risks associated with social media use to avoid leaving the charity vulnerable.

This means having a clearly defined and detailed social media policy in place. One that has been created from informed conversations between trustees and management that provides:

  • The reason why you’re using social media – aims and objectives.
  • How social media helps to meet your charity’s purpose – everything should revolve around this.
  • Charity expectations of employee, trustee, and volunteer conduct online (guidelines on how to manage risk relating to content posted by individuals connected to the charity in their personal capacity, yet still allowing individuals the right to exercise their freedom of expression within the law).
  • Strategies on how to manage risks and address any issues quickly and in a standardised approach.

As a small charity, you don’t want anything to negatively affect your reputation, that’s why this guidance acts as a support for charities, providing templates, further information and insight into a trustee’s legal duty, and signposting to resources and organisations that can further help trustees improve their social media skills.

Social media has opened up many opportunities for smaller charities to effectively engage with new and existing supporters, communicate and campaign, and ultimately get your message out there. And when linked to what you want to achieve and incorporated into marketing strategies, social media platforms can be your most powerful marketing tool.

This means your trustees must stay up to date with new guidance, plan for the risks associated with its use, and act responsibly and always in the charity’s best interests, protecting your charity at all times.

Providing us with a heightened level of confidence – social media – it’s a love-hate relationship.

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Trustee Week runs from the 6th to the 10th of November this year, following the theme: Many voices. Working together. With purpose. This is a great time to connect with like-minded people, share experiences, and boost your knowledge and skills through their events and training.

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