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Social Media Do's and Don'ts During Election Season

by Sarah Skillin Woodard

As part of our blog series focused on the theme How 501c3 Nonprofits Can Engage in Elections,today we’re highlighting Social Media Do’s and Don’ts.

501(c)3 Nonprofits should be careful with their use of social media during election season.

Typically, questions arise when someone posts something electoral on a nonprofit’s social media channels and when trying to navigate liking or following electoral social media.

Have a Policy

It’s recommended that nonprofits have a policy regarding how the organization will treat electoral content posted by someone else on their social media. For example, a nonprofit can have language indicating:

  • “As a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization, we are nonpartisan and cannot engage in electoral activities. As such, we will delete all electoral content posted on our social media.”
  • “As a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization, we are nonpartisan and cannot engage in electoral activities. As such, we will respond to all partisan/electoral comments with a follow-up stating that the sentiments expressed do not necessarily reflect the organization’s views.”
  • “As a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization, we are nonpartisan and cannot engage in electoral activities. We will maintain a general disclaimer on our social media sites indicating that we do not endorse candidates or otherwise intervene in political campaigns and ask that people refrain from posting comments about candidates on our sites.”
  • Your policy could also indicate that no action will be taken when someone posts political content.

Whatever policy is adopted, it should be shared publicly on your social media channels and applied consistently.

FAQs

Can nonprofits follow candidates? Must we follow all?

  • The guidance information indicates that nonprofits should not like or follow candidates or their campaigns on Facebook, Twitter, etc. even if you like all candidates or campaigns because your liking or following all will not be readily apparent to the public and it could be considered an endorsement.

Can a nonprofit like an electoral group such as a PAC on Facebook?

  • No for similar reasons as indicated above.

Can candidates post photos of themselves at your events on social media?

  • Yes – as long as the nonprofit is not doing it. What they do is beyond your control.

Additional Resources

Particular thanks to Nonprofit VOTE, whose materials we’ve referenced in developing this content.

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