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The Ultimate Guide to Developing a Nonprofit Social Media Policy


Having a social media presence is an essential part of marketing a successful nonprofit these days. However, things can get tricky when it comes to deciding what your organization’s voice will be on social media. It gets even more problematic when you need to determine who is responsible for using that voice, and how they use it.

A nonprofit social media policy outlines the types of content that will best help the organization achieve its goals along with what rules and guidelines members of the organization must follow when posting that content. This involves things like conduct, language, and tone, and much more. Curious? Good to hear! Let’s get started.


What Is A Social Media Policy And Why Does Your Nonprofit Need One? 

A social media policy is a guide to the standards for all posted content. Think of it as a set of "Do's and Don'ts" for employees of businesses or members of the organization where social media is concerned. But a social media policy can also provide some style guidelines for content posted by the organization.

There are several reasons why having a policy is important. First and foremost, a social media policy offers protection for your organization’s image. The public’s perception is extremely important for nonprofits. You want people to trust your organization and having a well-regarded reputation online is a big part of that.

A social media policy also strengthens your organizational image online. Ensuring that all content posted by your organization is respectful and "on-brand" is only an added benefit to all of your hard work!

social-media-policy-for-nonprofits-what-isPeter knows having a social media policy will make him feel at peace.

Lastly, a strong social media policy helps ensure a consistent tone and voice regardless of which internet platform (for example, the blog on your organization’s website, LinkedIn, or YouTube) you are posting on. If multiple people have access to social media accounts, it can be difficult to have a naturally consistent voice. Even professional social media managers struggle with this. But a social media policy provides everyone with guidelines for how to speak and behave online. This allows the content team to adhere to an organizational tone, rather than worrying about how each individual's voice might differ.


How To Create A Nonprofit Social Media Policy

Now you know why it matters, the next step is to brainstorm and actually create your social media policy. On a practical level, you want to make sure your policy is written down. Do not let your organization follow a set of "unwritten rules." Instead, make a concrete, documented policy that anyone can access at any time. If you have a guidebook for newcomers to your organization, be sure to include your social media policy in it. This ensures that everybody who speaks for the organization knows how to do so. 

But even if every team member is not going to be posting on the nonprofit’s social media accounts, they should still be aware of the social media policy. Public perception is important, and it is crucial that everyone is aware of this! Even content posted from a personal account can be perceived as an extension of the nonprofit organization.

Pro Tip: If you have a large community of volunteers, members or other constituents, you can make your policy more cost effective (and clear) by taking on the task of creating two different policies, one for professional and one for personal use. One set of guidelines will instruct members how to behave when posting on organizational accounts, as members of the organization. The other set will guide members on how to behave publicly when posting to their personal accounts. The goal is to offer a useful resource that will turn all members into social media ambassadors for your nonprofit.

Word of warning, keep in mind is that you cannot legally instruct employees or volunteers on what they can and cannot say. It always pays to have a lawyer review your policies before sharing them with other members of the organization. Once you have the policy in place, you should discuss it with your team members. This way they can understand why the policy is in place, and what the consequences are in the event of a violation. You want everybody to feel informed and respected and understand what will or will not happen if a policy is violated.


What To Include In Your Nonprofit Social Media Policy

Now it is time to determine what should go into your social media policy. When thinking about using social media, nonprofits' best practices center around being respectful, responsive, and courteous. Nonprofit social media strategy templates can offer tips on what to include for your own organization. In addition, ensure the following five elements are included as well.

Password And Access Policy

Security is important for both organizational and personal accounts. Communicate the importance of keeping passwords safe, and having secure access to accounts. You do not want anybody accessing company accounts when they are not supposed to. This is true regardless of whether or not that person is a member of the organization. Set guidelines for logging into and out of organizational accounts, and make sure your passwords are strong and secure.

social-media-policy-for-nonprofits-passwordAnthony knows social media security is no joke.

Responsibilities Of Each Nonprofit Social Media Account

Identify who is responsible for what gets said on each account, who checks work, and what the goals should be. Do you have a team of writers and editors who approve and check all posted content? Or is this responsibility left to nonprofit influencers operating each account? Having a clear "chain of command" when it comes to your social media accounts makes management much simpler.

This section also allows you to outline a style guide for different types of content. You can include nonprofit social media calendar examples here as a template for how posts should look to the followers for each account.

Describe The Tone And Image You Want For Your Nonprofit

As we have already discussed, public relations are crucial for nonprofits. The image you convey on various social media channels is one of the very first steps to good public relations. Your social media policy should clearly convey the desired tone for all social media content posted to your accounts.

You generally want your organization to be perceived as respectful, good-natured, and responsive. This step also incorporates elements of your social media strategy. It is important to note how the policy and strategy should complement each other whenever possible.

Set Some Golden Rules To Keep In Mind

Certain elements of the policy will be specific to your brand image and voice. But others are straightforward guidelines that all members should follow when representing the organization. 

These include rules like:

  • Create value in conversations

  • Use humor only when appropriate

  • Do not share member, volunteer, or donor information of any kind without consent

  • Honor all differences and do not discriminate 

  • Do not speak on behalf of the organization from your personal accounts

  • Ensure copyright "owners" for posted text or images are credited as appropriate

You want employees and members of your organization to be strong ambassadors. This means behaving appropriately in all situations where they might be associated with the organization.

Examples To Illustrate Your Rules

Last but not least, make sure you have a space to include an example that illustrates each rule. This can be a written set of examples as part of the physical guidelines. But it can also be highly constructive to have an open dialogue for discussion of examples. Remember again that members of your organization are all free individuals. Having a clear line of communication about your rules helps everyone to better understand why the policies exist and to determine whether they are comfortable being a part of an organization with those expectations.

Illustrations can include guidelines on how to respond to constructive criticism, answering questions, providing feedback, or more. For instance, responsiveness should be one of the pillars of any nonprofit social media strategy. This means that members should always make an effort to respond positively to constructive feedback from others on social media or to respond to comments, chats, or DMs.

At the same time, not all criticism is constructive. Illustrating how to differentiate between constructive and unconstructive criticism, and how to respond to each, can be very helpful.

Ultimately, your nonprofit’s social media policy should serve as a guide to help members effectively use any social media platform for good. If effective, this policy can help optimize your social media strategy by creating a cohesive style and tone across all posts. This puts every member of the organization in a position to feel valued and successful. We hope that this guide has provided helpful insight into creating an effective social media policy for your nonprofit organization.


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