Making a Difference Online: Charity Commission’s Fresh Advice for Charities on Social Media

The Charity Commission has released new guidance on the use of social media by charitable organisations, emphasisng both its potential benefits and associated risks. The guidance, published on September 18, 2023 via the Charity Commission’s website, underscores that social media can be an effective tool for engaging with audiences and communicating about a charity’s work, but it also poses potential risks that trustees should proactively address.

Below are the summarised points from the article published on September 18.

Key points from the guidance include:

  1. Importance of Social Media Policy: Charities using social media are advised to establish and enforce a social media policy. This policy should not only be in place but also actively followed, helping charities avoid problems and respond swiftly to issues.
  2. Trustee Awareness: The Charity Commission highlights a knowledge gap among trustees regarding the risks of using social media. The guidance aims to bridge this gap by helping trustees understand the potential risks, the application of legal duties, and how to address issues that may arise.
  3. Trustee Responsibilities: While not every charity requires trustees to oversee day-to-day social media activities, trustees are expected to comprehend their legal responsibilities, even when tasks are delegated. The guidance emphasises the need for a policy explaining how social media aligns with the charity’s purpose and includes guidelines for trustees, employees, and volunteers using social media on the charity’s behalf.
  4. Managing Risk: Charities are encouraged to have guidelines for managing the risk that personal content posted by individuals connected to the charity, especially high-profile figures like CEOs, may negatively impact the charity’s reputation. It also affirms the right of trustees, employees, and others to express themselves within legal boundaries.
  5. Resources and Support: The guidance offers an easy-to-use checklist to facilitate informed discussions among trustees and senior employees about the appropriate social media policy. It also directs charities to resources and organisations that can assist in improving social media skills.

The guidance underwent a formal consultation from January to March 2023, receiving 396 responses. While many respondents welcomed the guidance, some sought greater clarity on trustees’ expectations. In response, the Charity Commission made several revisions to clarify regulatory expectations and emphasised the benefits of using social media to boost charities’ confidence in utilising these platforms effectively.

Paul Latham, Director of Communications and Policy at the Charity Commission, stressed the importance of balancing the benefits and risks of social media. He encouraged trustees to carefully consider their goals when using social media and apply the guidance to protect their charities’ interests while ensuring compliance with the law.

The full guidance, along with the consultation response, can be found on the Charity Commission’s page, alongside their consultation response.

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