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Three ways to protect your organization's reputation

Your organization is very important — to you, your staff (both employees and volunteers), and the community it serves. You make a unique contribution to your community - it is a sanctuary where people can learn and connect with others who share their same interest. Your organization benefits the community educationally, by providing unique settings for social experiences; and it contributes to your community economically.

Below we'll address three risks that may impact your organization's reputation and provide ways you can protect what you've worked so hard to develop.

  1. Use social media wisely

    The power of social media is undeniable, and the number of users is staggering! According to, Facebook has reached one trillion page views. Twitter now has 100 million monthly users. LinkedIn grew 63% in the last year. YouTube is now the second largest search engine behind Google. Social media provides a colossal opportunity to interact with your supporters by allowing them to share their voice.

    Community organizations such as yours are increasingly taking advantage of social media to advance their cause. But if not used properly, social media could pose risks such as defamation, negative PR, and privacy violations. Below are some tips to help you protect your organization’s reputation:

    • Implement social media guidelines for staff and volunteers. Outline responsibilities and expectations for the use of social media sites. Determine and guide your staff as to when social media relationships are appropriate and when they are not. Update your guidelines regularly as technology and social media site protocol changes.
    • Direct your staff and volunteers to only post to social media sites what they would want to see on the front page of your local newspaper. Employees need to realize they represent your organization every time they post and should maintain a level of professionalism by following the guidelines in place. Consider limiting who can post on behalf of your organization and train them properly.
    • Monitor the posts made by your staff, as they can be held against your center. Any offending statements posted by staff about another organization could be attributed to your organization and create a potential liability.
    • Establish a small response team to monitor and manage feedback and loyalty to your organization. Do not underestimate YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and other sites. Social media gives you an opportunity to interact with the public and your supporters, and when you promptly respond to feedback, you increase your ability to build loyalty and trust.
    • Remind staff of prohibited activities on social media sites. This includes divulging intellectual property, engaging in harassment, discriminating, and creating a hostile work environment.
    • Use “social etiquette.” Don’t post everything. Instead, post information that is meaningful to your organization.
    • Set up alerts on Google, Bing, or other search engines. This allows you to be notified when your organization’s name pops up in articles, posts, blogs, and websites that you do not monitor on a consistent basis.
    • Have fun!

  2. Put policies in place for volunteers

    Although not your employees, volunteers play a vital role in your organization. They help to promote an understanding, appreciation, and stewardship of your mission. Volunteers can also expose your organization to risk. Just as policies and practices are adopted for your staff, policies and practices should also be adapted for your volunteers. Generally speaking, policies and procedures for volunteers should at least be “light” versions of your organization's employment policies. Like your staff, volunteers need to be selected, screened, oriented, and trained to their tasks. Be sure to verify information provided on their application, including confirmation of any licenses held.

    Volunteers should also receive performance evaluations and be given the opportunity to provide feedback regarding their position. This is done to ensure that their performance meets the needs of your organization and protects your reputation.

  3. Keep safety top of mind

    Safety should obviously be within the risk management realm of every organization. How would your reputation be affected if people were regularly injured on your premises? To protect your organization, you should determine the general types of risks faced by your employees, patrons, and the community served. These risks can vary greatly from one organization to another and may include workplace violence, risks in the community (if it is an unsafe community), emergency preparedness, occupational risks such as slips and falls, chemical risks, and medical risks.

    To protect your organization you should have a methodical understanding of the typical risks being faced. You should ask:

    • How frequently do safety incidents arise?
    • How will we deal with them?
    • Who is responsible for mitigation efforts?
    • What costs are associated with the actual events?
    • What costs are associated with the initiatives to mitigate them?
    • What safety and legal regulations are applicable to my organization such as OSHA, unions, and funder contracts?

    Organizations serving vulnerable participants (youth, elderly, disabled) should give safety procedures special consideration. Written protocols should be developed, communicated, and available to all staff. Pay particular attention to supervision guidelines with respect to adult and child interactions. There should be no circumstance where one-on-one interactions exist. Any actual or potential abuse requires a uniform, consistent protocol applied for reporting that is consistent with federal and state laws.


You have spent a lot of time building your organization’s reputation, so it is important not to let any risks drag it down. Taking the time to incorporate risk management practices can yield great dividends in your longevity.