Social Media Policy for Nonprofits Program Resources

This morning, we led a full house of nonprofit attendees through resources and a process framework in our “Social Media Policy for Nonprofits” program.  Attendees provided thoughtful insight and prodding questions that emphasized the need to create a policy for your organization, setting the stage for institutionalizing strategy and procedural work. We got great feedback and are happy to share the information here!

Objectives for the program:

  • What a policy will do
  • Process for creating a policy
  • Policy components to consider
  • Resources for more information

We’re posting the presentation here, with handouts and session notes below.  Let us know if we can answer any questions about the material or direct you to resources.

Program attendees got a synopsis and highlights of the resources. In the name of giving credit where credit is due, the resource list is lengthy.  In class, we were better able to help our patrons sort the information than we are here. It’s a long list, friends.

Program notes:

Policy vs. Procedure

Policy is formal, broad, for board approval.

Procedure is specific, operational, and internal.

“Policy: The formal guidance needed to coordinate and execute activity throughout the institution. … Policy provides the operational framework within which the institution functions.

Procedures: The operational processes required to implement institutional policy. Operating practices can be formal or informal, specific to a department or applicable across the entire institution. If policy is “what” the institution does operationally, then its procedures are “how” it intends to carry out those operating policy expressions”

– “Policy vs. Procedures: A Guideline” by California Polytechnic State University

What will a policy do?

Clarify expectations, current practices, and set the stage for strategy.

The policy creation process itself makes you think through issues too easy to ignore, but far too important to.  It will also increase your organizational understanding of how use of these tools intersects with existing operating processes, and what may have to change.”

– Nancy Schwartz, Getting Attention Blog post, “Where’s Your Org’s Social Media Policy?”

Policy Process

  • Create a team of early adopters (folks who have started using social media for your org) with differing perspectives and roles
  • Review other policies
  • Discuss considerations in relation to mission, culture, special concerns


  • Established policies

For example:

  • Confidentiality
  • Code of Conduct
  • Internet Use Policy
  • Performance
  • Intellectual property rights and other legal issues

-Colin McKay (aka Canuck Flack) via Beth’s Blog post, “Social Media in the Nonprofit Workplace: Does Your Organization Need a Social Media Policy

  • Encouragement

Guidelines written from the perspective of coaching staff to use social media for the benefit of the organization will prove more helpful than a list of “don’ts.”

  • Common Sense Reminders

“In my experience, stringent rules and regulations encourage people to find ways to work around them. When companies come up with big lists of specific do’s and don’ts, too many employees use them as an excuse to skirt the rules (well, they didn’t say that I couldn’t do x, y, z). Broad guidelines based on good practices might be a better way to go. When I worked at Intel, we had frequent ethics training, and I remember an instructor saying that most things could be decided by thinking about the following 2 questions:

  • Would I want my mother to know that I did this?
  • Would I be embarrassed if I read about it on the front page of the Wall Street Journal?

As far as I am concerned, that just about covers it for me ”

– Dawn Foster: Fast Wonder Blog post, “Social Media Policy: Does your company need one?” via WeAreMedia Social Media Policy module

  • Personal and Professional

1. Disclosure or no disclosure?

2. Disclaimer or no disclaimer?

Sample language to consider in relation to your organization’s culture and values:

“Employees should not represent their statements in a personal online social networking community as reflective of official policy or position.”

-Anonymous example

Personal site guidelines

Be authentic. Be honest about your identity. In personal posts, you may identify yourself as a DePaul faculty or staff member. However, please be clear that you are sharing your views as a member of the higher education community, not as a formal representative of DePaul. This parallels media relations practices at DePaul.

A common practice among individuals who write about the industry in which they work is to include a disclaimer on their site, usually on their “About Me” page. If you discuss higher education on your own social media site, we suggest you include a sentence similar to this:

“The views expressed on this [blog, Web site] are mine alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of DePaul University.” This is particularly important if you are a department head or administrator.

Social Media Guidelines working draft by Depaul University

  • Organizational approval process

Is permission necessary at any point? Starting? Integrating? Closing?

Will established social media be “grandfathered’ in?

  • Use of work time

“For some reason when people are presented with an old problem in a digital format they focus on the format and not the problem.

Ask some important questions – is this employee getting their work done? If the answer is yes, well then you need to decide if you really have a problem or if you just a problem with Facebook. … If the answer is no he is not getting his work done, then blocking Facebook won’t solve your problem. This person will find another way to spend their time, walking around, playing solitaire, watching last nights episode of Lost, reading the news.  You need to address the problem not the symptom. Blacklisting Facebook will only cause more problems.”

– Bobbi L. Newman, Librarian By Day Blog post: “Employers, You Don’t Have a Facebook Problem, You Have an Employee Problem.

  • Social Media Team – Strategy, procedure and coaching

Who is responsible for training?

How will information be shared internally? When is this necessary?

Who can help with difficult situations?

Who can I seek general guidance from? Who will show me how to Tweet? Who’s good at it?

Who will create, coordinate a strategy?

How will we measure success?

Resources and Works Cited


  • Offers examples, links and further resources for nonprofits

Sacha Chua’s Corporate Social Networking Mind map

  • Gives examples of considerations, options to guide your process
  • Move the map by dragging, and expand categories for more information

(via Beth’s Blog post, “Social Media in the Nonprofit Workplace: Does Your Organization Need a Social Media Policy”)

Social Media Policy Generator:

  • Answer 12 questions to generate a generic policy to begin the process

(via Beth’s Blog post, “Got Social Media Policy?”)

Kanter, Beth. “Got Social Media Policy?” Beth’s Blog. 8 March 2010.

  • About using the Social Media Policy Generator
  • Links to her other Social Media Policy posts and resources
  • Links to various Nonprofit Social Media Policies’
  • Links to other resources

SocialFish.Org Whitepaper: “Social Media, Risk, and Policies for Associations.” 2009.

  • 14 page PDF outlines process and policy sample with alternative language

Social Media Governance

Database of Social Media Policies, filtered for Government or Nonprofit

Download free report analyzing 100 policies

Human Resources Perspective:

Fyfe, Pamela. Facebook + Employees = Yikes!” Ask Rita in HR column, Blue Avocado Blog. 2 April 2010.

Works Cited:

Foster, Dawn.Social Media Policy: Does Your Company Need One?” Fast Wonder Blog. 13 July 2008. 

Joslyn, Heather.Social Media Policies Can Help Charity Workers Navigate a New World.” The Chronicle of Philanthropy. 6 January 2010.

Joslyn, Heather.Few Charities Have Social Media Policies, Survey Finds.” The Chronicle of Philanthropy. 6 January 2010.

Leaman, Rebecca.Creating a Social Media Policy for Your Organization.” Wild Apricot Blog. 8 January 2009.

Newman, Bobbi L. “Employers, You Don’t Have a Facebook Problem, You Have an Employee Problem.” Librarian by Day Blog. 21 April 2010.

Policy vs. Procedures: A Guideline” by California Polytechnic State University

Schwartz, Nancy.Where’s Your Org’s Social Media Policy?” Getting Attention Blog. 23 April 2009.

Meyer, Brett. Tips for Writing Your First Social Media Policy. NTEN Blog. 2 February 2010.

Mashable: Ten Must Haves for Your Social Media Policy

Legal resources:

The law firm of Reed Smith, LLP; made available by the American Association of Advertising Agencies. “Network Interference—A Legal Guide to the Commercial Risks and Rewards of the Social Media Phenomenon.

Citizens Media Law Project Legal Guide

Electronic Frontier Foundation Blogger’s Legal Guide

Local Social Media Resources:

Social Media Breakfast Fort Wayne Facebook Page

Bonus Resource:
Posted just this morning;)

Heller, Andrew. Social Media and Privacy: Best Practices for Managing Your Personal and Professional Identities.” NTEN Blog post. 28 April 2010.

– Lettie

5 thoughts on “Social Media Policy for Nonprofits Program Resources

  1. Great deck, thanks for sharing that.

    On the subject of access to social media, right now about 1/3 of U.S. companies are blocking employee access to social media apps on the enterprise network. If yours is one of them, here’s a helpful resource. It’s a whitepaper called “To Block or Not. Is that the question?”

    It has lots of insightful and useful information about identifying and controlling Enterprise 2.0 apps (Facebook, Twitter, Skype, SharePoint, etc.)

    Share it with the IT Dept.


    • Doh! Would have loved to have you in class. We’re sorry we missed you!

      If you have questions about the materials, we’re happy to help!

      Follow us here, on Twitter, Facebook and/or sign up for our newsletter to keep up with our programs:) (You can sign up for the newsletter at the link on the far right —> )



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