Archive for January, 2012

OMG! Is Social Media Putting Your Nonprofit Organization At Risk?!

Posted on January 15, 2012. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , |

Social media is EVERYWHERE!  One can hardly take a casual walk to the corner store or attend a business meeting without encountering people using smart phones and tablets to post updates on Facebook (www.facebook.com ) or tweet on Twitter (www.twitter.com ) about everything from the best price on apple juice to the exportation of diamonds from Zimbabwe.  Individuals are not the only social media users.  Nonprofit organizations also use social media as a way of connecting, networking, fundraising and staying relevant with clients, stakeholders and board members.   Social media can be a valuable tool for nonprofit organizations.  And while many social media users’ posts may be harmless, there are still the all too frequent posts that can not only result in an employee being terminated but can also jeopardize the nonprofit organization.

That’s why Kenneth E. Liu, an attorney/owner at the Virginia-based law firm of Gammon & Grange, P.C., (http://www.gg-law.com/ ) advises nonprofits toformulate a social media policy to guide … employees on acceptable online behavior”,  thus avoiding “potential legal traps in the online world.”  In his article on Legal Risks in Social Media Use by Nonprofits, Liu discusses several potential traps that nonprofit employees and organizations can fall into by using social media and suggests how these traps and liability can be minimized if not altogether avoided.

The best way to solve a problem is to never create it.  Liu states that nonprofits should advise employees not to post anything on their personal social media accounts that they “would not want to see on the front page of the The New York Times or hear on a witness stand.”  Employees should be advised that social media posts can be used as evidence in law suits.  And employees shouldn’t be so naïve as to think that hitting the delete key removes a post.  Once the post is released into cyberspace, it can always be retrieved.  The last thing an employer wants is to have details of its employees’ personal lives or disparaging comments made by an employee about a competitor retrieved as part of the information that makes its way into a law firm’s electronic discovery document review project.  Even worse is when the information makes its way into the courtroom for a jury or judge to consider as part of a lawsuit.

Employees also need to know that the laws in the real world apply across the board.  Therefore, employees should treat the virtual world of social media the same as the real world.  As Liu states, “Social media may be more casual, but that does not excuse illegal activity.”  For example, Liu says if a nonprofit is governed by the laws of a state that require it to register in order to solicit funds and the organization is not properly registered, an employee’s casual request in a social media post for donations may constitute illegal activity and result in problems for the organization.  Similarly, just as employers can be held liable in some instances when employees harass or discriminate against a co-worker because of attributes such as race, gender, disability or religious beliefs, employers may also be exposed to liability by employees who post harassing and discriminatory comments about co-workers on personal social media sights.

It is imperative that organizations educate employees on what is acceptable with regard to the use of social media.  Liu advises, “One key step in protecting your organization is to have a written policy that provides guidance on what your employees can and cannot do in social media, both in their role as employees and in their personal use.”  He also advises that, “It may be prudent to include certain provisions governing social media use in employee contracts.”  Even after employees have been advised, and written policies and contractual language is in place regarding the proper use of social media, there will still be employees who push the envelope.  Liu points out that “many employees of charities and advocacy groups are passionate about their work, so they naturally speak out publicly on issues relating to their field… If an employee posts an offending statement against another organization on a… social network, the statement could be attributed to the employer, even if the employee posted [the comment] on his or her own personal account.”  The solution is to include in the written policy a requirement that employees must include disclaimer language in personal postings and blogs that are related to the employer’s field.  The language should clearly inform the reader that the views and opinions expressed are those of the individual and do not represent those of the employer.

For additional information on developing policies regarding the use of social media, call the HR4NON-PROFITS team at 630.830.4443 or visit our website at http://www.hr4nonprofits.com. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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Nonprofits and New Year’s Resolutions

Posted on January 1, 2012. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , |

It’s a new year and the resolutions have already started.  At the beginning of each new year, approximately 40% to 60% of Americans make resolutions to eat healthier, exercise more, stop smoking, spend less money or make some other improvement in their lives.  And just like people, nonprofits also find themselves making resolutions each year.  Nonprofits generally make resolutions to increase funding.  But like people, many nonprofits find themselves unable to fulfill their resolutions.

Karen Eber Davis of Karen Eber Davis Consulting (http://www.kedconsult.com/ ) says that, “Listing resolutions to increase your non-profit funding is easy but setting ones you can accomplish is tricky because fulfilling income resolutions requires multiple actions, unknowns, unexpected steps, and frequent recommitment.  Funding resolutions that involve actions like these are impossible to keep.”  Therefore, Eber Davis advises that nonprofits “shouldn’t set resolutions to increase funding.”  Instead, she says that in order to avoid the negative experiences of failed funding resolutions, “do something better.  Instead of setting resolutions, set goals.”

Eber Davis says that, “Goals identify specific results; require learning and refining actions as you work; and require more than a firm commitment.”  She recommends to non-profit organizations the following steps in order to accomplish goals in the New Year:

1. Identify a list of outcomes you seek, like creating a more engaged fund-raising board, implementing a planned giving program or a developing a balanced budget.  For most non-profits one goal will usually include increasing funding.

2. Prioritize your list based on which outcomes are most important to you.

3. Select No More Than Three Outcomes. At least one goal should be something fun.  No need to make your work life torture.

4. Identify Next Steps. A step is a specific action you write on your calendar with a definite beginning and a definite ending. ‘Start planned giving’ is not a specific step.  It is too general.  An example of a specific step is, “Meet with Joe to ask him to be on the Planned Giving Task Force.” Once you complete the step, check it off and move on to the next step.

5. Plan for Realistic Incremental Progress. Avoid setting unrealistic steps, like trying to visit all twelve board members in January. If you completed seven visits last year, undertake a realistic plan of three visits per quarter.

6. Create Your Own Motivation. When you have a choice, motivate and please yourself.  Take time to think about what will motivate you to accomplish steps necessary to meeting your goals.  For example, if your goal is to spend more one-on-one time with your board members, find meeting spots that you enjoy and that energize you. And once you identify your incentives, write them on your calendar in ink.

7. Eat Peas First. Certain steps will need to be completed before others.  But when possible, complete the steps you like least in the beginning.

8. Evaluate Your Progress. Assess your progress briefly each week and in-depth at the end of each month. The evaluation process is a good time to identify and schedule additional next steps.

9. Resolve to Achieve Your Goals. Nonprofit organizations should steer clear of making resolutions.  But if you must make a resolution, resolve to do whatever it takes to achieve your goals.

For a free consultation and more information on setting goals for your non-profit call the HR4NON-PROFITS team at 630.830.4443 or visit our website at http://www.hr4nonprofits.com. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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