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Beth Canter's post about nonprofit blogging policies reminded me of a post I made about Robert Moffitt, the Communications Director for the American Lung Association of Minnesota in 2005 when I worked at Backbone Media. My post referenced one of [Read More]

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Beth Dunn

Add me to the list of people who would dearly love to see some existing examples. I'm going to have to create a blogging and social networking policy over the next couple of months for my org, so would love to see what others have done!

Hans

This is something we're working on too - or rather I'll be working on it this summer. Our angle on it was to let individual people and departments engage with the tech as they saw fit (alumni & development w. facebook, teachers w. blogging, me w. youtube etc) until we had 3-5 different people doing different things and we reached a point where we all realized it's about to get bigger, our organization wants to do more but we won't be able to unless we draw some boundaries / guidelines / best practices.

I'll follow this conversation with interest and share what we have later this summer.

Hans

PS. our organization has a rather lengthy AUP for our students, but we felt it didn't do a good job of talking about how to engage since it's more of a laundry list of things not to do.

We came up with a different kind of AUP which was more about how to engage appropriately. Here's a link to that: http://juniorurbanadventure.blogspot.com/2006/10/jua-technology-guidelines.html

Those two documents will probably form the starting point for our organizational policy.

Beth Kanter

@hans - thanks for sharing

Anne

So fitting! I am actually working on a piece this morning about the challenges around using social networking for youth-serving nonprofits - and what boundaries/policies should be in place for both staff and consumers of services. (Examples: summer camps, youth service bureaus, high school leadership programs - i.e. should staff be allowed to accept friend requests on FB from students participating in programs? Current or alumnae?) Although teenagers have their virtual lives, should these youth-oriented organizations also have a Web 2.0 presence and what are the guidelines? Would love to also be on the list of examples that you are able to identify...

Donnie Peterson

Greetings Beth,

I just added you to my Google Reader & blogroll yesterday; Hope everything is well with your Washer..! ;)

Last March 12, I delivered the keynote speech at my local North Valley Community Foundation Council Meeting Titled "Trumpeting Your Mission Service & Success; Web Technologies for North Valley Nonprofits." (NVCF.org) Essentially it was a primer for blogging and Social Media aps that (when deployed appropriately) ought to expand philanthropic efforts for our regional charities. In our case, in Northern California, we are close to some prime urban areas like SF and Sacramento that get all the glory ~ in order to 'bring fire to our cave', our community needs to speak out, speak loud and share in our successes together... At least that was my call to action--so far our local Execs are slow to act upon the simple and wonderful opportunities that exist when Social Media is a part of the plan.

I was confronted by the very same concerns you mention above:

1 Do any nonprofits have a formal blogging policy?
2 How do you determine when a blogging policy is needed?
3 What kind of polices are there?
4 How do organizations create policies?

1) Do any nonprofits have a formal blogging policy?

Of course there is a "formal blogging policy" out there; its just changed names since it was first adopted: Its the "Newsletter" policy and/or the the "PR" policy. Although the technology is different, more dynamic in scope and immediate, blogging is essentially journalism on steroids. Now individuals and orgs have more power than a TV station to deliver and interact with messages & consumers. We ought to be mindful that the messages have not changed as much as our ability to deliver them in more artful and complex ways. Therefore, when modeling a "blog policy" (I will attempt to draft one in my blog in the coming days), I am certain it will look a lot like something we have all seen before.

2) How do you determine when a blogging policy is needed?

Common sense ought to prevail here. Of course, anything off topic and not related directly to an org's mission should stay private. AND of course there are concerns that advocacy for a particular legislation or candidate may complicate nonprofit status; but again, these are concerns that existed BEFORE "blogging" became a thing. There are technological concerns like spambots sending links to pornography in the comments section--but a competent developer should be able to mitigate these concerns outright. For those orgs with limited budget and no developer to handle these things, self-teaching and research ought to help solve the problem. WordPress has an excellent solution built-in to its platform, other programs that one buys should also have these spam filters.

3) What kind of polices are there?

There are two kinds of policies out there: the ones that work and ones that don't. IF an org is so worried about liabilities and controversy that they hesitate to join the parade of other orgs that 'see the light' regarding Social Media they will simply have to wait and watch until their confidence level arises to the extent that they can take the risk. IF on the other hand some protocol is required by the board (like for everything these days) consider using an approach similar to the "gatekeeper" method in Journalism where an article is generated by the beat writer (anyone in the org with a mission-critical message to deliver) & passed on to an editor with responsibility and accountability (and hopefully a flare for great communication) to vet the content appropriately. Chances are there are people on staff that can wear these hats as needed. Again I urge common sense rule.

4) How do organizations create policies?

Well, we just created the policy together. Keeping in mind that Social Media applications such as blogging are new tools for the age old efforts in PR/Journalism/Advertising/Networking etc., we have cut through the "mystery" that surrounds these technologies and re-defined them in task terms. The approach to these communication tasks is based on a common sense approach that includes the guidelines you site above, but most importantly the tasks are mission-critical. To beat the horse dead: Anything that is not "mission critical" ought to remain a private post for a private person. I can imagine how a young staffer on facebook might wax on lyrically about love for a particular candidate. I can't imagine how that has any place in a 501(c)(3)'s Internet Identity or blog. Separation between private and public is a line best drawn in absolute terms--again common sense prevails.

The mystery of these new Social Media technologies for Baby Boomers is a gap that needs to be closed. I can't tell you how many times people's confidence interferes with their understanding; on a daily basis I hear people say things like: "I am totally ignorant of.." or "I don't have time to learn X/Y/Z.." If we (as consultants) institute a less jargon-y and more practical approach toward instructing about Social Media, Boomers will realize that they really can make it up as they go, its OK to learn on the job and every time they learn something new, they have added to the quality of their personal lives and that translates into improved organizational outcomes.

I would be re-miss if I didn't let you know that Alexa Valavanis CEO of the NVCF.org is a HUGE fan of yours and without meeting her I wouldn't have been turned on to your blog as soon. (I like to think I would have found you eventually!) But I too, have become a big fan. Cheers!

Donnie

Chico, CA

Wendy

We've got a policy. It's about a year old now so could probably use a brush-up, but I'm happy to send it over. I also made an "elementary" glossary of terms to go with it for our employees who haven't had the Koolaid yet.

Anne

Beth -- yes, I think it's a sticky issue for some organizations to dip their toe in the space and figure out how to navigate through it...here is the posting I referred to - got it up this afternoon.
http://tinyurl.com/5gn6th
Anne

Anne Gentle

Great post, Beth! Inspired me to look up an older (2/06) blogging policy I worked on for an association newsletter that we took onto a blogging platform. Had to get out the external hard drive and everything. :)

Specifically, this was for the Society for Technical Communication, and we were one of the first chapters to write a blog for the chapter.

To answer your questions, we wrote the policy in reactionary mode - one of our members had posted a blog entry to the "newsletter blog" that we felt was inappropriate for the voice we wanted for the blog. There wasn't a formal policy in place. So, we wrote and circulated a document to the local chapter board members that talked mostly about the voice and style for our blog, not for all blogs written by members representing themselves as individuals. Plus, I wanted to ensure that no anonymous posting could occur on the newsletter blog, that each post had a name and face associated with it. So, looking back at it now, it was more of a blogging style guide than a blogging policy.

I suppose associations are a special category of non-profits, and I also think that it's great to have a blogging policy and an overarching "social networking/social media" policy as well. As an individual association member, I would have appreciated guidance from the central association, but we were early adopters I suppose. I'll have to check around at work (ASI) to see if we have other examples as well for associations and other non-profits.

The Easter Seals example policy is an excellent one, thanks for posting it!

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