Social media has become a powerful way for many charities to promote their work, engage their supporters and campaign for change. The public is also using social media to engage with or debate the work of charities.
Our casework suggests that some trustees have limited oversight of their charities’ use of social media compared to other aspects of their communication and engagement strategy. This might be due to a lack of confidence or understanding, or because uptake of social media has developed through staff or volunteers.
Whilst it is reasonable for trustees to delegate the day-to-day operations of social media, it is important that there is an appropriate shared understanding of the charity’s use of social media and the particular risks it can bring.
The aim of this guidance is to help trustees improve this understanding, and to encourage charities to adopt a policy on social media as a way to set their charity’s approach. We intend this guidance to be enabling and to support trustees, who we do not expect to be experts in this area. The guidance does not introduce new trustee duties but seeks to make clear how existing duties are relevant to a charity’s use of social media.
The guidance sets out that social media use can raise issues and risks for charities, relating to problematic content:
- posted or shared by the charity on its own social media channels
- posted by the public or third parties on a charity’s social media channel
- posted on a personal social media account that can be reasonably associated with the charity
The guidance emphasises that those employed by, or working with, charities are free to use social media in their own right. However, sometimes there are risks that an individual’s posts are interpreted as reflecting the views of the charity and the draft guidance therefore says trustees should consider setting out what their rules are and how they would respond if such activity brings negative attention to the charity.
This is not intended to prevent personal use of social media but to help make clear those areas where the charity may have a legitimate concern, for example as the employer.
We would like feedback during the consultation period on how the guidance currently stands and how we can improve it. We would particularly welcome views on the consultation questions.
The guidance is relevant to charities in England and Wales, whether or not they are registered with the Charity Commission for England and Wales.
Who do we want to hear from?
We welcome responses from charities, their trustees and representative bodies and the public.
How to respond
If you need to supplement your responses with further detail or material, please send it by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
What happens next
We will consider all of the responses we receive during the consultation period, and these will help us to develop the guidance for publication. We will publish an analysis of the responses and the final guidance in the Summer.