Why Aren’t Charities Braver on Social Media?

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How many Twitter accounts do you follow that make you stop scrolling through your timeline as soon as you see them?

How many of them are charities?

Sometimes it seems non-NGO accounts are getting braver, brasher and bolder in their approach to social media. Politeness be damned – they know why they exist, and they’re calling out bad behaviour when they see it.

Accuse of them anything but being bland. And like it or not, their stance gets them attention.

So why aren’t charities taking the same approach on their social media feeds?

After all, charities stand for way more than corporates do.

They have even more misconceptions to deal with.

They’re under constant attack on social media – all media in fact – and from the public at large.

None of this can be dealt with using a meek approach, or by shying away from the big debates.

What’s more, they often spend big on campaigns that do pack a punch (check out Save the Children’s If Surrey Were Syria for just one example). But this doesn’t always translate into strong day-to-day social content.

But when charities are brave and bold on social, they do it better than anyone.

Take Medicins San Frontiers. Its Twitter account, @MSF_SEA reports from the seas where refugees are often taken on dangerous journeys to get to safer countries.

While their workers are busy saving lives, their digital team are busy changing minds. They deliver their charitable mission by campaigning for #safepassage, and challenge discriminatory and racist comments on Twitter.

Every day, they get more offensive tweets about refugees. Every day, they reply defending their work and rights of the refugees, while bravely attempt to educate their critics.

National Aids Trust

Being brave doesn’t have to mean being confrontational.

Another issue with plenty of stigma is HIV and AIDS.
National Aids Trust engage with their detractors with calm, factual arguments that challenge common misconceptions about the spread of HIV.

Human Rights Watch

American charity Human Rights Watch fills its Instagram feed with moving images and videos. Each one is accompanied by bold statements.

I bet this dinner table discussion caused a few family arguments on Thanksgiving this year – “Would the refugees of 1620 be welcome in the United States of 2017?”.


Mencap’s daily content is great too.

While the nation was caught up in Olympic and Paralympic fever in 2016, Mencap were once again flying the flag for learning disabilities, boldly questioning their exclusion from most paralympic sports.

Their excellent #HereIAm campaign didn’t shy away from the edgier questions about learning disabilities.

Charities experience understandable pressure that can affect their ability to be like the charities above.

They’re under pressure from funders and partners to not say anything that might make them look bad. They’re afraid of more bad coverage. Above all, social media can be pretty troll-y. Does it pay to feed the trolls?

If your cause is a short term challenge that doesn’t need anyone to change their minds about a cause, probably not.

But social change is part of most charities’ missions. Strong dialogue shows your charity to be transparent and confident in the value of its cause.

I believe that if more charity social media accounts were as brave and confident as @MSF_SEA, those qualities would spread throughout the organisation – and beyond.

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