Keeping your Nonprofit Safe and Happy Online: Dealing with Harassment | Beth's Blog

Keeping your Nonprofit Safe and Happy Online: Dealing with Harassment

Digital Trends, Guest Post


Note from Beth:   Many nonprofit social media managers are also serve as online community managers, supporting communities of their nonprofit’s fans and supporters on social media channels.  Sometimes, they do encounter people online that are less than polite and cross the line over to online harassment.  Here’s some simple ways to handle these uncomfortable situations.

Keeping your Nonprofit Safe and Happy Online: Dealing with Harassment
guest post by Hannah Donald

It’s pretty well recognised that social media has become an essential tool for non-profits to reach those important to their organisation; whether that’s fundraisers, donors, volunteers or beneficiaries. In fact, 71% of non-profits agree that social media is effective for online fundraising. So the chances are your organisation already has a social media presence, and are using it in a variety of different ways to compliment your offline campaigns.

Sadly, online harassment is more prevalent that ever, with harassers using recent political events as a catalyst to target organisations helping vulnerable people. Because of this, online harassment if affecting the great work charities and nonprofits are doing, which shouldn’t be allowed to happen. Part of looking after the health and wellbeing of your organisation, including your staff, is making sure that they’re safe and happy online, and an important aspect of this is ensuring you’re dealing with online harassment in the most effective way. Although there’s no magic solution to stop online harassment, there is an easy and efficient way to deal with it that can minimise any negative effects.

In order to help charities, non-profits and social enterprises deal with unwanted abuse online Social Misfits Media have teamed up with their friends at Hollaback! to create a free, downloadable infographic. Social Misfits Media came up with the idea of putting together this guide in response to organisations that had voiced concerns over being unsure of how to handle any negativity online. Ignoring comments, or responding in an inconsistent way, could lead to further issues; this infographic is to be used in the moment, to make sure your organisation has a consistent way of dealing with online abuse, to keep your cause, and your staff, safe and happy. By sharing the infographic with your team you can be sure that you have a succinct policy in place and don’t get caught off guard by any unwanted comments.

The infographic has a simple-to-follow flowchart, which will first of all help you to understand whether a comment is online harassment, or whether it’s just a form of feedback. The flowchart will then proceed to advise you how best to deal with the comment depending on it’s nature, with outcomes ranging from acknowledging it with a reply, to taking a screenshot of it incase of escalation and then contacting the social media platform on which it was sent. The infographic advises that when you do respond to a comment you should always consider citing a source in your reply, being timely and responding as soon as possible, and keeping your tone of voice calm. Whilst these three pointers may seem simple, it can be difficult doing this when you feel angry or frustrated by someone else’s negative comments, so it’s important to keep these words of advice in mind.

For non-profits who struggle with time and resources, or who just need some help and advice around dealing with online harassment, this infographic is a handy tool to disseminate amongst your staff. Once you put the flowchart into use, you can hopefully feel in control of, and not deterred by, any negative comments you receive online, allowing you to focus on the good by reaching those who need your organisations help and support the most.

Hannah Donald is the Community Manager at Social Misfits Media, specialising in helping charities, foundations and non-profits better use social media to reach their goals. Follow Hannah and Social Misfits Media at @HannahDonald20 and @MisfitsMedia.

6 Responses

  1. Jill Waters says:

    This flowchart, while helpful, also exposes a blind spot in social media systems. Sometimes it takes three (or more) emails to clarify and then answer a question or address an issue. Especially when the questioner is outside the organization and may not know how to navigate and / or precisely phrase an inquiry.

    Example: I regularly buy baking ingredients from a mail order company that pushes out friendly emails *every* week urging customers to be ambitious bakers, try new things, and write with any questions.

    So I did, once, asking how to scale a cookie recipe in a specific way. The first response was, no pun intended, cookie cutter and not responsive. When I rephrased my request, they turned it down flat, saying that the information was proprietary. Since scaling guidelines, rather than trade secrets, was my mission, I wrote a quick note to apologize. No response.

    That exchange took the shine off a company that I had adored for many years. I no longer believe those friendly “try something new, we’re here for you” messages that come each week and I still don’t understand why a simple question (one I’ve since found answered on other blogs) was so misconstrued.

    I offer this example to show how a policy of only responding three times can go wrong. From a customer prospective, an organization that pushes out emails, week after week, but cannot tolerate a little back and forth, is holding itself to one standard (“We get to write to you, a lot!, and in a folksy, friendly way”) and its stakeholders to another (“but no more than three messages from you, and you aren’t going to know that that’s our policy”). Double standards don’t work well in human relations, whether conducted via new or old communications channels.

  2. I found this post to be very informative! In this day and age it is really common to see harassment and social media “trolls” so I admire that you took the time to show us how we can fight against that. The use of an infographic to share this information was especially helpful to me because I am a public relations student, and we are creating infographics in our class right now. Visual learning is always a plus. Thank you for sharing this with us.

  3. As a leader in an online nonprofit space that has been working to improve on equity, I have to say that this flowchart, while helpful in some contexts, does not challenge something very important.

    I am a white-privileged person, and it took several kind and patient people of colour (POC) to help me understand this. I am still learning this, and am struggling to share the knowledge in a way that communicates well, so please bear with me.

    Many white people can perceive POC who are calling out problematic behaviour as being aggressive. Once labelled so, the person who is trying to point out that harm is being done, gets punished (blocked, etc.). This is a recreation in an online space of the systemic oppression against POC that’s out there in the world.

    If we want our online spaces to be just for white people, we can ignore this. If a dialogue can happen in this comment space, I’d be happy to continue the conversation, and add clarity as needed.

    It really points to a need for everyone in a position of power who is white to get training on unlearning racism, to uncover the many ways that we unconsciously create spaces that are unjust.

  4. Beth Kanter says:

    Hi Vanessa,

    Thank you for your insights! I’m sure the guest post blogger will be interested in your observations, perhaps even adapt the flow chart.

    Meanwhile, would you be interested in writing a guest post about unlearning racism online?

  5. Erin Niimi Longhurst says:

    Hi Vanessa,

    I definitely agree with your comments, and believe that there is a sharp difference between someone who is calling out injustice or oppression (which we would say falls under the ‘genuine grievance’ category), and someone who is being offensive. We are a very diverse team, and we designed this flowchart in mind to have a wide application – but again, this flowchart is a guideline that we hope will help organisations engage in conversations that help to clarify (rather than just block or delete comments or worldviews that challenge our assumptions).

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