ronn torossian foundation

Sharing Dos and Don’ts for Nonprofits

Facebook is a world of cat photos and Instagram is a world of lunch photos. It’s something we all love to joke about. But sharing the right stuff, the right way, and at the right time is crucial when it comes to nonprofit organizations.

Here are some tips to help you figure it all out:


Get permission. Never share information without having obtained permission from those in question, whether it’s a person you refer to by name or a photo of a volunteer. Don’t share details about or photos of minors without parental consent. Don’t share gossipy news about people without making sure you can back up what you write with sources.

Even if you recount a story without naming names, you’re better off obtaining permission. If you think they won’t give you permission if you ask, maybe don’t write it in the first place! As for posting info on or photos of kids, you may very well be in violation of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). This is not a headache your organization needs. Getting permission first protects you and your organization, not to mention the children or people in question.

Get to know your followers. Each social networking venue has its own type of user. Learning about the social spheres at these varied websites takes time and lots of engagement. By learning about the circles on the different sites you’ll get a better handle on what type of stuff to post on each website. It can be a help to study how other nonprofits are using these social networking websites. Events may be better shared on Facebook while updates on fundraising efforts may be better received on Twitter.

Engage users by making them useful. Giving your followers a task or a tip can help energize your nonprofit’s social media campaign. For instance, during the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, the car donation charity, Kars For Kids, held a coat giveaway campaign for kids left without suitably warm clothing for winter as a result of the storm. Using the hashtag #HurricaneSandy on Twitter in conjunction with a call for volunteers to help with the giveaway could be an effective way to engage the public and make it take note of the charity’s work.


Spam with too much sharing. There’s a fine line between sharing and spam. People like to keep abreast of what your nonprofit is doing, but if you take over their newsfeeds with post after post after post, they won’t thank you. More likely, they’ll unfriend, unfollow, or unlike you or your nonprofit’s page. One 2014 study found that of 1,528 Facebook users who “liked” a page, 630 of them subsequently “unliked” the page because of its nuisance value after a campaign or giveaway was concluded. That’s 38%, nothing to sniff at. Make sure your posts are interesting and relevant. If not, stifle the urge to post. It’s just not worth it.

Break the law. Anyone who opens a social media account checks a box to show they agree to the website’s Terms of Service Agreement (TSA). Most people don’t actually read those terms. As a nonprofit, however, it’s your duty to not only read the TSA, but to follow it unswervingly. You don’t want to be liable to a nuisance lawsuit for some silly infringement that could have easily have been avoided. Hate legalese? Have your nonprofit legal team read it for you and give you the lowdown. You’ll find that each social networking venue has a slightly different agreement. It’s important to keep these distinctions in mind when running campaigns.

Delete or ignore negative comments. You may not like that comment sitting on your nonprofit’s page, but delete or ignore it at your nonprofit’s peril. Addressing complaints makes people feel you give a hoot. Ignoring or deleting them gives your nonprofit a bad rep. Validate the complainant and offer your assistance. Answer all feedback, no matter what form it takes.

All in all, social media can be a powerful force for branding your nonprofit and engaging your public. But there are dangers in misusing social media. It behooves every nonprofit to use social media wisely, so as to reap the benefits and avoid the pitfalls.