Digital fundraising has escalated following the pandemic, with it fast becoming one of the primary ways for consumers to donate money to charities.
According to the report, Giving: A new landscape:
- 48% of consumers predominately donate through digital channels;
- 18-34 year olds remain the most frequent donors to charitable organisations; and
- 69% of charities have received donations via social media.
The Charities Aid Foundation UK Giving Report 2023 paints a similar picture, whilst it was still most common for people to report being asked to donate via television (25%), 23% of consumers reported being asked via social media.
Safely harnessing digital media
With social media becoming increasingly important for generating much needed funding, charities are understandably looking for guidance as to how they can safely harness this platform.
This is why new social media guidance published by the Charity Commission comes at such an opportune time, providing helpful insights into how this communication tool can be safely used by charities to both raise awareness and funds.
Charities and social media guidance
The guidance, published on 18 September by the Charity Commission, covers a range of important topics when it comes to charities and social media – setting a social media policy; managing potential risks; fundraising; and staying safe online.
Key considerations for charities using social media
- Have a social media policy that is clearly communicated;
- Ensure the policy is reviewed regularly to check it is working effectively;
- Check social media is working to help achieve the charity’s purpose;
- Comply with relevant laws;
- Ensure any campaigning complies with the rules on political activity and campaigning; and
- Have processes to help keep people safe online. Read the ‘operating online’ guidance for charities.
Compiling a social media policy
Charity Commission guidance makes it clear that if a charity uses social media, then they should also have a social media policy.
A policy gives substance to social media objectives and outlines the required conduct for those managing social accounts.
But what should be included within this policy? The answer to this really depends on a charity’s needs, the activities it carries out and the level of risk presented by how social media is used.
A charity’s social media policy should cover
- The conduct of trustees, staff and volunteers when using social media;
- How to engage with the public;
- Who is responsible for its management;
- Who should get involved if things go wrong; and
- How social media is used to deliver the charity’s purpose.
Managing risks on social media
It is important to remember that people behave differently on social media to when they are communicating in writing or in person, particularly when it comes to responding to criticism.
A social media policy needs to give clarity to the acceptable use of content – this content should
- Be consistent with the charity’s purpose;
- Not be harmful (the UK Safer Internet Centre defines harmful content in simple terms as anything online which causes a person distress or harm);
- Be lawful and comply with UK GDPR rules;
- Be compliant with privacy laws; and
- Be compliant with copyright law (specifically if using images and artwork).
There should be a shared understanding over what is suitable content to post on social media, accompanied by a clear course of action should a post risk significantly damaging a charity’s reputation.
Where there has been an apparent breach of the law, the charity should act immediately by deleting or removing the content and reporting the matter to the police or other relevant body.
Fundraising on social media
There is a significant opportunity to boost charity funds through social media campaigns. However, these campaigns need to be carefully planned, taking into account the content and platforms used.
The Code of Fundraising Practice is a helpful guide – outlining both the legal rules that apply to fundraising and the standards designed to ensure it is an open, honest and respectful process.
Further guidance for using social media
There are several websites and organisations that provide guidance around the use of social media for charities.
Ensuring a charity’s use of social media is safe and secure is key, as is knowing how to identify and report any fraudulent activity.
You might wish to take a look at the National Cyber Security Centre’s guides on this topic