Wednesday, August 5, 2020

LESSON 31 – Where Two or Three Are Gathered on Social Media

Welcome to More Lessons From the Nonprofit Boardroom Blog, a 40-week journey through the new book, More Lessons From the Nonprofit Boardroom, by Dan Busby and John Pearson. Each Wednesday, we're featuring a guest writer’s favorite snippet from the week's topic. John Ashmen is our guest blogger this week for the fourth of four lessons in "Part 8: Boardroom Worst Practices.”  And during this COVID-19 era, the role of the board becomes even more critical. We pray that your board will have God-honoring wisdom as you spiritually discern next steps.

LESSON 31 OF 40: Where Two or Three Are Gathered on Social Media
Conflicts of interest always sound more questionable on the internet and social media.

THE BIG IDEA FROM THE BOOK: If there is any chance that a decision made by a nonprofit board could be perceived as advantageous to one individual, family, or group of people—or, for that matter, even disadvantageous to a certain party or parcel—an engagement or commitment resolution should be avoided like a deadly virus. Social distance from such a notion. 

MY FAVORITE INSIGHTS from Lesson Lesson 31, pages 166-170:
• In the course of board deliberations, if you find yourself asking if you could justify a certain decision later on if you had to, know that you favorably can’t, even if you logically can. 
• Seemingly defendable good intentions will never win over misperceptions that have momentum.   

Social media is like a scratched and smudged magnifying glass, and almost everything that happens publicly passes under its largely distorted lens for all to inspect and interpret. The facts might not be seen clearly, but who has time for fidelity these days when the goals are to get heard quickly and to sway opinions inexorably.

This complicates a board’s already difficult job of avoiding impropriety and the appearance of favoritism, even if it’s not related to an insider’s gain. It seems that everybody with a smart phone wants to be a fairness cop these days—whether they have the facts or not.  

A Conflict of Interest Policy is necessary, and signed Conflict of Interest Disclosure Forms should be collected from every board member annually and reexamined semi-annually. But I think every board should also have Calibration of Perception Guidelines that are reviewed prior to every vote taken where money or power is bestowed to a certain individual or group. 

How will this decision be seen by antagonists? How might it play out in the media if an opponent to your purposes is the reporter? What, in the way you are handling this, could generate a flurry of furry on social media? If your case is not ironclad, you might want to rethink your decision. A single online post can penetrate good intentions and seemingly solid plans, then multiply and wreak ruin. It happens every day. 


JOHN ASHMEN is president and CEO of Citygate Network, an organization that equips, promotes, and protects some-300 life-transformation ministries throughout North America that serve people in desperate situations and in destitute conditions. His book, Invisible Neighbors, is considered by many to be a how-to manual for followers of Jesus who are serious about meaningful engagement with poor and powerless people.

John previously served as vice president with Christian Camp and Conference Association. He is a National Association of Evangelicals board member and on the steering committee of the Circle of Protection, an alliance of national Christian leaders focused on ending hunger and poverty.

• Review your Conflict of Interest Policy to see if it needs to be retooled or tightened up in light of this lesson.
What If? In addition to a Conflict of Interest Policy, have your board governance committee come up with Calibration of Perception Guidelines—a series of what-if questions that could be asked any time a vote is scheduled that will see money or power bestowed to a certain individual or group. 
Consider having a Social Media Response Policy that addresses how you reply (or don’t reply) to negative comments about your organization on Facebook, Twitter, and elsewhere. It should answer the who, how, and when questions.  
Visit the ECFA Knowledge Center and read and share the short chapter, Lesson 31, “Where Two or Three Are Gathered on Social Media.”  

On Aug. 12, 2020, watch for the commentary by Cameron Doolittle on Lesson 32, “There Are Two Things You Should Never Joke About—#1: Prayer. The last one with your thumb up says grace.”

BULK ORDERS: Click here. For more resources and to download the book's Table of Contents, visit the book's webpage.

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