Have your say on our consultation on charities’ use of social media
The Charity Commission is in the process of consulting with the charity sector, and the wider public, with a view to developing new guidance, in respect of the use of social media. This is aimed at obtaining views on draft guidance, which is intended to:
- help trustees use social media both appropriately and with confidence
- help trustees understand their responsibilities and manage the risks involved
- encourage trustees to adopt a formal social media policy within their organisations
- help trustees understand what to do if any issues were to occur, for example if problematic content is posted, either by the charity or by someone connected to the charity
The link to this guidance, which is relevant to charities in England and Wales, whether they are registered with the Charity Commission for England and Wales or not, can be found here.
Social media has become a powerful way for many charities to promote their work, engage their supporters and campaign for positive change in the sector.
The casework that the Charity Commission has conducted 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.
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 risks it can bring, as it is still the trustees that are accountable.
The aim of this guidance is to help trustees improve this understanding, and to encourage charities to adopt and implement a formal social media policy. The guidance is intended as an enabling tool, to support trustees, as they are not expected to be experts in this area. The guidance does not introduce new trustee duties but looks to clearly set out how their existing duties are relevant to a charity’s use of social media.
The guidance emphasises that those employed by, or working with, charities are free to use social media. However, sometimes there are risks that an individual’s posts are interpreted as reflecting the views of the charity. This draft guidance therefore says trustees should consider setting out what their rules are, and how they would respond if such activity brought negative attention to the charity. It is always better to take an initiative-taking approach, in preference to being reactive, by which time the damage may already be done.
This is of course not intended to prevent personal use of social media, but to help make clear those areas where the charity may have a legitimate potential concern, as an employer.
The consultation is the ideal time for trustees to feedback with their views on how the guidance currently stands, and how it could be improved. To response, trustees can use the online tool found here. If you need to supplement your responses with further detail or material, the Commission have set up an email address, being firstname.lastname@example.org.
Upon completion of the consultation period, the Regulator will consider all the responses received, and will use them to help develop the guidance for publication. A further publication shall be issued which analyses these responses. The final guidance is aimed at being released in the Summer of 2023.
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