Social Media: A responsible art form

written by Lucy Owen

Social media is a great tool for a charity. It keeps donors in the loop while they sneak a quick Twitter break (generally around 11am – for a little light relief from the office). It offers a charity the chance to interact with their donors building a real connection. Internet usage is on the rise with 90% of people in the UK having used the internet in at least the previous 3 months and social media is the 4th most common activity offering a ready audience.[1] Social media is therefore an amazing resource for building donor support – especially as it is largely free.


free.pngNothing of course but social media is a very different skill to previous charity resources. Unlike direct mailing or phone advertising; social media is immediate. As soon as you press enter it is on your follower’s phone, laptop, or iPad. Every sentence, every space, every GIF transmitted to thousands of people in the time it takes to take a breath.


A post quickly typed can be misinterpreted. Anyone can make an accidental typo or spoonerism. The problem that charities and organisations can have is a complete failure to ensure that their posts are compatible with their aims.

genieThese posts can imply a complete lack of awareness and a lack of understanding of an important issue, which can undermine an organisation’s claim to authority. Supporters can find them awkward, funny or, even worse; tone-deaf. These posts can happen accidentally at any time but once it goes online there is no return. There’s no putting the genie back in the bottle. Certainly not when the genie has been screen-shotted and posted on all platforms invented.


policeLast month a police service decided to ask for help finding a suspect, taking advantage of a wide and engaged community audience – an excellent example of modern policing. The crime in question was a sexual assault. An appalling crime and a truly traumatic event for the victim. Unfortunately, this was overshadowed by the person who posted the tweet using the phrase that the victim was ‘unhurt’.

The insensitive tweet (now deleted) left many shocked at the lack of awareness for the aftermath that such an attack would leave a victim feeling. That a police force could tweet this, just as it has been revealed only 1.7% of rape or sexual assault cases are prosecuted, implied to many who saw the original post that the Police Service had little understanding of the seriousness of the crime.[2] This is a worrying implication to any victim who may have been considering reporting a crime and may put them off, frightened of not being believed.


pantsIt’s not just the police who can post a poorly considered social media campaign, NSPCC has recently been criticised by leading professionals in the field, survivors, and by donors for their ‘TalkPANTS’ campaign. What was intended was a fun awareness raiser for children to discuss consent.

Unfortunately, it came across as blaming victims for being unable to prevent their abuse especially with an inappropriate tagline of all ‘abuse is preventable, not inevitable’.[3] It implied that children should ‘prevent’ abuse from their grown adult abusers which horrified followers.

tweet.pngLeading professionals like Jessica Eaton responded to the tweet in disgust pointing out that “abuse is prevented by adults” not children. It is not just professionals in shock. One of the tweets was from a long-term supporter who had run sponsored races for the NSPCC – clearly a committed donor. He is also horrified and wanted a public response to the criticism of the tweet. An ill-thought through marketing campaign has potentially lost a loyal donor forever.


authentic.jpgThe ability to interact with events as they happen helps show a charity’s commitment to a cause and to its mission. It offers a charity to show its ‘natural voice’; granting an authenticity that donors appreciate. It is however essential that speed does not become more important than engagement, wider cultural awareness, and common sense. ”

tea.jpgIt’s important to think not only what you want to say and how it is being said but also how a reader will interpret what you are saying before posting. Asking a colleague or even taking the time to get up and make a cuppa will save all sorts of distress and embarrassment. It may even save a donor relationship.

With social media just remember as my nan always says, “less haste and more speed”. Oh, and always add an emoji. 😊


Lucy Owen is a Community Fundraiser at The Haven Wolverhampton. She can be found on Twitter using the handle @lucyowen95 and on LinkedIn here. 

The Haven Wolverhampton is a charity that supporting women and dependent children who are vulnerable to domestic violence, homelessness and abuse. You can find them on FacebookTwitter and LinkedIn, or visit there website here.


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