Social media and not-for-profits

Not-for-profit organisations are well-placed to succeed in social media. Their activities are of passionate interest to large numbers of people and they invoke considerable commitment among their followers. Many corporate brands operating in social media would love to have the same levels of engagement and dedication that charities and voluntary bodies garner – for instance, Save the Children UK has 276, 000 Likes on Facebook, Cancer Research UK claims a million followers on social media, and Oxfam International has 465, 000 followers on Twitter.

Yet despite this, many not-for-profit organisations still see social media as a risky and resource-hungry activity. Many are put off by scare stories about social media disasters after a number of brands and businesses have found themselves at the centre of social media outrage following a misjudged tweet or Facebook update. When British Gas, for instance, announced a steep price increase and said people should comment on Twitter, its hashtag #askbg was inundated with 16, 000 comments, largely vitriolic. At the same time, the sheer blizzard of information emanating from social media can be daunting. Some organisations worry about how their message will cut through the clutter.

Yet with 24 million people in the UK interacting on Facebook every day and Twitter claiming 15 million users, every organisation needs to take heed of this effective form of communication.

On the plus side, social media can be a powerful tool for fundraising, a cost-effective way of gathering data about your supporters and a gateway to strong engagement with stakeholders. Messages on social media can reach large numbers of people organically without your organisation spending a penny on advertising.

A benefit or hindrance?

So given these pros and cons, should social media be viewed as a benefit or a hindrance to not-for-profit organisations? This was the subject of the latest NFP Interchange, a forum for non-executive directors of not-for-profit organisations created by Grant Thornton and held in partnership with the Guardian.

Grant Thornton forum

Local police departments review social media policies  — WKYC-TV
Oliver says the tensions in Ferguson right now are a prime reason why trust is needed between the officers and the community they serve. He says that's why they have a social media policy.

Social media policies in the workplace  — Lexology
This is an ever-increasing area of litigation. In a series of recent decisions, the National Labor Relations Board (“Board”) has found social media policies unlawful because those interfere with employees' rights to act collectively.

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