Never has it been more challenging (or, perhaps, exciting) for a charity to engage with its target audience. The range of options has never been greater and grows with each new social media platform! Charities looking to connect with potential donors have to analyse their target market (both the public and stakeholders) and think about how those individuals and organisations will respond and engage most effectively.
So once a charity has worked out what are the best routes to its target market, they need to consider their approach from a legal perspective. There are many legal aspects associated with online engagement, some of which may not be instantly apparent.
Whether a charity is connecting in person, online or in printed material, it is all a representation of the values, aims and objectives of the charity. With this in mind, a key focus remains on “brand protection”. When interacting online, charities should keep that key principle in mind, as any action that might have a negative impact on the brand is something they should avoid. Examples include not using third party IPR (photos, music, art etc.) without consent and not sharing confidential information about individuals or businesses without consent.
It is also true that news and stories spread faster than ever, with everyone online feeling empowered and being encouraged to share and to add their own comments and thoughts on any subject. Any charity that posts information must be prepared for the loss of control that comes with the use of online forums. As well as relishing in the good news stories that this will inevitably bring, there should be a plan in place to manage the risks associated with it. A charity should think about how it will deal quickly, effectively and publicly (if appropriate) with any interactions that the charity is not happy with.
Everyone who is permitted to use the charity’s online accounts needs to be trained so that they know how the brand is to be represented online. The online policy should be clearly contained within a handbook for staff and volunteers. This will then ensure consistency and train users in how to minimise risk through their digital behaviour.
There is a whole world of opportunity out there, but it is worth a conversation about the basics at an early stage, to make sure that the risks are managed effectively.