Nonprofit’s Online Gaffe Spurs Guidelines for Communicating Online

Nonprofit's Online Gaffe Spurs Guidelines for Communicating OnlineThe ePhilanthropy Foundation is taking the lead in urging nonprofit’s to police their online communications practices and fix any problems immediately. Take this quick online test to see how your organization fares. This initiative is largely motivated by the recent online shenanigans of staff members of GiveWell (a nonprofit that, ironically enough, was establish to ensure the accountability and transparency of the nonprofit sector. Two GiveWell-ians participated in multiple online communities using aliases, hoping to boost the image of the organization. Blow up…as one would anticipate.

Jointly funded by Cisco Systems Foundation, W.K. Kellogg Foundation and Convio, Inc., the one-page code, which about 100 organizations have endorsed, requires groups to "employ practices on the Web site that exhibit integrity, honesty, and truthfulness and seek to safeguard the public trust."

According Bill Strathmann, president of Network for Good, as quoted in the Chronicle of Philanthropy (accessible by subscribers only), "if more charities consider adopting such policies, the GiveWell episode might have a silver lining."

In other words, don’t say what you do, do what you say.

But frankly, it’s a no brainer that every organization today, must have standards that cover online and offline communications and branding. Remember, the credibility your organization builds up over years could disappear in an instant via a misguided comment or blog post. And online communications always leave a trail. Make sure that trail leads to the right place so your image and your relationships remain strong.

Get your style guide/brand book 2008 into place today, and make sure it covers who, when and how to participate in online conversations, as well as where to place the logo and what typeface to use.

Start here to craft a basic style guide for your organization (you’ll have to add online communication guidelines):

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Nancy Schwartz on January 22, 2008 in Case Studies, Nonprofit Communications, Nonprofit Marketing News | 1 comment
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