Move fast and break things – but not charities: proposed new social media guidance for charities

The Charity Commission has today (17 January) begun a public consultation on proposed new guidance for charities’ use of social media. It encourages charities to adopt a social media policy which is right for them.

Social media presents charities with great opportunities to campaign and comment, to communicate the value they create and to fundraise.

But these channels also present serious risks for charities. Two years ago the commission concluded a compliance case involving a Muslim relief charity after serious concerns had been identified about historic anti-Semitic posts made by one of its then trustees and other individuals, which led to all leaving their roles. As a result of its intervention the commission oversaw significant improvement to the recruitment and oversight of trustees and senior staff at the charity and was satisfied with ongoing oversight of the charity’s social media activities.

Nevertheless, the regulator knows from its casework that some trustees have limited oversight of their charities’ use of social media and it aims to help trustees set out what their charities’ rules are to be, and to understand what to do if issues occur, if for example problematic content is posted by a charity or by someone connected to it.

The draft guidance suggests the following areas to cover in any policy, obviously to be tailored to the particular charity:

  • how the charity will use social media;
  • what oversights/controls are to be in place;
  • required conduct for those managing the account (in the above case the trustee had posted comments contrary to the charity’s code of conduct);
  • relationship to other policies (e.g making sure people know where to go if they are unhappy in their role or have concerns about anything they have seen in the organisation – which is the preserve of a grievance and/or whistleblowing policy, rather than of a social media one); and
  • responding to incidents.

This is clearly an area of risk for a large number of charities and which needs to be managed appropriately. The commission’s draft guidance provides plenty of food for thought for those who want to tap into the power of the digital age without falling into the common traps which the unconsidered use of social media present.

The consultation will run until 14 March.

“The Charity Commission is consulting with charities, sector organisations and the public to develop new guidance for charities when they use social media”

Charity Commission


This information is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information given. Please contact us for specific advice on your circumstances. © Shoosmiths LLP 2024.



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