This article was published in the January-February 2011 edition of Board Member, a publication of Board Source.
With ultimate authority for guiding and advancing the mission of the organizations they serve, effective boards need to pay close attention to the risks the organization embraces, manages and avoids. The array of risks your nonprofit faces include some with legal implications. This article offers a glimpse of the top legal risks facing nonprofit boards as well as practical tips for addressing risk at the board table.
Exposures from social media use, misuse and naivete.
From listserves and blogs, to employee Blackberries and work-related Facebook posts, social media and online networking are integral aspects of the nonprofit world today. However, utilizing new technologies carries with it new risks. For example, posting materials from presentations can lead to copyright and trademark infringement; taking advantage of available social media to ensure that present and potential employees fit within an organization’s culture may create privacy violations and discrimination claims; and allowing free reign for employees to express their views on a nonprofit’s websites or blogs—or on social media while identifying themselves as employees of the organization—can expose the nonprofit to liability for defamation, tortious interference, or otherwise reflect poorly on the organization. While risk will always be present, the solution is not to turn a blind eye to the inevitable. With proactive planning by nonprofit boards—including the development and communication of internal and external policies—risks can be managed and the rewards of social media can be prudently and effectively harnessed.
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