Charity regulator seeks input into new draft social media guidance.

The Charity Commission is consulting with charities, sector organisations and the public to develop new guidance for charities when they use social media. The regulator is seeking views on its new draft guidance, which is intended to help trustees use social media appropriately and with confidence. The new resource is designed to help trustees understand their responsibilities and manage the risks; it encourages them to adopt a social media policy for their charity and outlines what can be included in the policy. It also aims to help trustees understand what to do if issues occur, for example if problematic content is posted either by the charity or by someone connected to 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sometimes there are risks that an individual’s posts are interpreted as reflecting the views of the charity and the draft guidance therefore says trustees should consider setting out what their rules are and how they would respond if such activity brings negative attention to the charity. As part of its consultation the Commission is inviting comments on how the draft currently frames this.

The draft guidance does not introduce new trustee duties but seeks to make clear how existing duties apply to charities’ use of social media. It is a response to the ever-growing relevance of social media to many charities’ work, increasing levels of complaints to the Commission and resulting Commission casework, as well as encouragement from within the sector to produce clear guidance.

Paul Latham, director of communications and policy at the Commission, said:“Social media is a powerful communications and campaigning tool for charities, but it comes with its own risks.We know from our work that some trustees have limited oversight of their charities’ use of social media and can have limited understanding or confidence when it comes to digital channels. Whilst it is reasonable for trustees to delegate day-to-day operation of social media, as with other matters, we want to ensure they feel empowered to take charge of their charity’s approach by adopting a suitable social media policy, and know what to consider should issues arise.”

“We appreciate that this can be tricky territory, and one where personal and professional lives and opinions can overlap, which is why we are consulting widely to make sure we get this right”, concluded Latham.

Want to get involved? The consultation will run for 8 weeks closing at 5pm on Tuesday 14th March, with the final guidance due to be published in the summer. Responses can be made via an online survey and additional information or responses can be made via a dedicated mailbox.