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Charity use of social media

Social media is rarely out of the news these days, often with adverse consequences for those that have misused it or failed to take proper precautions over its use. The charity sector has not been immune to this, with the RSPB being the centre of a political row after a tweet it published accused Government ministers of being liars, for which the RSPB chief executive had to subsequently apologise for.

It is timely therefore that CCEW has recently published guidance on the use of social media by charities. They acknowledge that there are many benefits to be gained from using social media, from raising awareness when campaigning, fundraising or advertising for employees or volunteers. The guidance makes clear that charities are entitled to campaign online in support of their objectives and beneficiaries, and shouldn’t be afraid to engage in activity in sensitive areas such as immigration, even though it risks triggering controversy. The guidance does not change the position that a charity cannot support or oppose a particular political party, but it does make clear that the law permits charities to undertake political activity in support of their charitable aims.

The CCEW has identified that there is a knowledge gap, and that charities and trustees are not always aware of the risks that may arise from using social media. The guidance aims to fill that gap to help trustees understand those risks and how their legal duties apply. The key messages from the guidance are below:

  • Although trustees may not be involved in the day-to-day running of their charity’s social media, they must understand their legal responsibilities when delegating tasks.
  • Charities should have in place a social media policy that sets out how the use of social media will further the charity’s purpose, and include guidelines for those that use social media on the charity’s behalf. The guidance has a checklist that can help in formulating that policy.
  • Guidelines should also be put in place to manage the risk that content posted by individuals connected to the charity in their personal capacity may have a negative impact on the charity by association, although it is acknowledged that individuals have a right to exercise their freedom of expression within the law.

The guidance also includes details of organisations and resources that can help charities and trustees to improve their social media skills

Guidance: Charities and social media – GOV.UK (

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