Social media is an essential marketing platform for all organizations. Nonprofits increasingly find themselves needing to have profiles on at least some of the major social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, to be able to interact with donors, corporate partners, the press, and the communities they serve. Most organizations create policies providing clear direction to those responsible for their social media posts.

Mayo Clinic

The Mayo Clinic’s social media policy allows employees to participate in social media posting, as long as they are approved to do so by the clinic’s Center for Social Media. It stipulates that employees must first apply all applicable policies, such as preserving patient confidentiality and the organization’s proprietary information. It also requires that if the connection between the poster and the organization is obvious, the employee must post in the first person, and must clarify that she is posting personally and not on behalf of the organization. The requirement to abide by the clinic’s policies stands even when posting personally. The policy discourages friending of patients by staff in patient care roles.

Bread for the World

A faith-based nonprofit organization working to end hunger in the United States and abroad, Bread for the World adopted a set of social media guidelines in 2009, early in the history of the genre. The policy is based on a wheel concept, with a strong website at the center. The organization encourages staff, activists and volunteers to engage on social media, but stops short of inviting them to participate on the organization’s official profiles. It created an eTask Force to manage all online activities on its behalf. A central part of the policy is: “The more people we have Tweeting or talking online about hunger and poverty, the better it is for our mission.”

Red Cross

The international Red Cross organization created a social media policy specifically for the use of local units. Local units are encouraged to set their own social media philosophy and goals, based on the national policy. The policy dictates that each local unit must share its completed social media strategy with the organization’s social media center. The center will “cull” the strategy according to best practices, which means it maintains control over the social media activities even at grassroots levels.

Rochester YMCA

The YMCA of greater Rochester has a stricter approach to social media. The organization’s director of website development and social media has exclusive authority to create and maintain the social media profiles. Branches can implement branch-specific practices after receiving approval from the director, and all employee activity on the official profiles are subject to the organization’s rules, including avoiding friending individuals under 18 years old, or posting content considered inappropriate. Examples include photos containing alcohol or illegal substances, revealing clothing, and any form of disparaging or discriminatory language. Employees are not allowed to create any unofficial pages on behalf of the organization.