Recently there has been concern about whether nonprofits need a "blogging policy" or not. And if one is needed, what should it say?
In her blog in April 2008, Beth Kanter talked about this issue and included a quote describing how one organization had developed its policy. After six months or so, the result was a guideline that "really just says,
(To see the whole story, and be linked to other comments and blogs on the topic, read her blog entry at http://beth.typepad.com/beths_blog/2008/04/the-urge-to-edi.html) As these discussions suggest, organizational guidelines for blogging raise all sorts of complicated questions about the boundaries between personal lives and the workplace. For nonprofits, where those boundaries are often already blurry -- for good reasons having to do with passion and commitment for the work -- it can be a challenge to come up with a statement that encourages social networking while cautioning about the various forms of care required when blogging about a workplace.
From my way of thinking, volunteer blogs can affect organizations both positively and negatively: On the positive side, they can be seen as neutral, uncoerced and very honest/sincere and personal narratives about both volunteers and those they are assisting. This can be more appealing to some people than official, "slick" web sites presenting volunteer narratives neatly packaged for PR purposes. It can most certainly enhance the official messages an organization is trying to promote regarding its programs. On the negative side, volunteer blogs can freely chronicle negative aspects of an organization and its activities, a volunteer may present something in his or her own words that the organization doesn't agree with, or a volunteer could present something inappropriate or untrue that the organization would have a hard time countering once it's "out there." Compounding this is if an organization were to ask a volunteer blogger to stop talking so publicly about their experiences, and the blogger reports this on his or her blog, readers could see this as pressure by the organization to cover something up or stifle discussion.
Jayne Cravens of the UN Volunteer Office
Note: One of the original blogs in the nonprofit sector is the work of Michael Gilbert in Nonprofit Online News. See http://news.gilbert.org Nonprofit Online News for October 12, 2003, reported that the Neiman Center at Harvard had published online a collection of sixteen articles about the phenomenon of blogging. See the online edition of Neiman Reports for Fall 2003 -- http://www.nieman.harvard.edu/reports/03-3NRfall/V57N3.pdf (this is a 110 page .pdf file; the section on weblogs starts on page 59).