How important is social media to a charity chief executive? » Charity Digital News

How important is social media to a charity chief executive?


If a charity leader is on social media, they are praised as “digital pioneers”, and “applauded for their online efforts”. But social media is now so commonplace that an online presence should be part and parcel of a charity chief executive’s role.

Or so an anonymous charity professional writes for the Guardian’s Voluntary Sector Network.

“In today’s digital world a charity chief executive, a leader who represents an important cause, should be accessible and accountable to their charity’s supporters,” they write.

“Yet, there are many charity leaders who won’t go near social media or new forms of communication, including my boss. And, frankly it is holding us back.”

Eight out of 10 people are more likely to trust – and therefore buy – from an organisation whose chief executive and leadership team are active on social media.

“This shows that, increasingly, stakeholders expect leaders to act as an ambassador and point of contact for the organisation on platforms such as Twitter.

“It can be a useful and cost effective way for charity leaders to talk directly to our stakeholders and raise their and our profiles. It really is a no-brainer.”

But many charity leaders ignore the need for a presence on social media, often arguing that it is the sole realm of the communications department.

Communication with supporters and on behalf of stakeholders is a requirement of a chief executive’s job, the charity worker writes, not an add-on.

As a “custodian(s) of an organisation”, senior leaders “need to embrace new technology and communications and be a proud face of the organisation and brand.”

“Their lack of buy-in is harmful to the organisation and we will be left behind in what is already a fast-moving world,” they warn.

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  • Very good post! I’d like to add a ‘counter point’ to one aspect. In the post it’s mentioned how [paraphrased] ‘ a CEO should be accessible on social media, as the go to person, the ambassador, for the group on social media’

    While I agree I think that is inadequate. My small organization [ The CYC Foundation: ] was founded before social media exploded. We started with a strong emphasis on “team work” and “sharing the responsibilities” for different aspects of what we do. That way no one person is responsible for this or that, but the team is! [Although each team DOES have a leader]

    That mentality, that we ALL have a shared responsibility for our organization to succeed has carried over to social media and our website itself.
    Twitter: We have 2 people with access, who can post tweets and reply to messages.

    Facebook: We have a team of 5. 2 “admins” for our page, 3 who are “moderators/editors” and one of the admins also is building a team to oversee/run the chat.

    Google Plus: A team of 2 [soon to be 3 or 4]
    Website: A team of 3

    My point, even though we are a small charity, we don’t want to risk any of our leaders going in to “burnout” and being “overwhelmed” … so I believe it should be more than just the CEO’s responsibility … they should have a team under their leadership, with each able to be an ambassador!

    Great article, glad we subscribe to the newsletter!
    The CYC Foundation
    Co-Founder / President / Director

  • Paul Robinson

    Interesting item but I would be slightly hesitant to endorse this approach completely. I am a CEO of a small charity but I don’t see my role as ‘being a contact point for the organisation…’ I’d never do anything else! My primary role is to lead my team and the organisation in the fulfillment of its mission. When that involves communicating with supporters then I’ll do that but to suggest that the CEO role is to be tweeting supporters is stretching it a bit. Do I expect David Cameron to tweet me how he has spent my £500 income tax this month? I think not.

  • Chris Ellis

    Should @David_Cameron tweet about your £500 income tax? No. Should he tweet if he intends to change the rate of income tax? Yes. He (or his team) tweets about once a day. I would think a charity CEO should be commenting and setting a vision on the things that matter most to their organisation in a similar way.

  • Right on! Our CEO tweets at @LanceLinares and sees the value of engaging with others through social media. Focus on the “why,” your goals and the right tool and dive in to the social media waters. Mistakes will happen, but that’s life.