Do finance chiefs need to sign up for social media?

Helen Verney of the Diocese of London looks at whether finance directors have spent enough time worrying about Facebook and Twitter

Should charity finance directors be social media savvy? It's easy to think of many reasons why fundraising directors and chief executives need to get down with the social media programme, but what about finance directors?

Many aren't aware of it. My experience has been limited mainly to Facebook, LinkedIn and podcasts (which I am not sure even fit under the heading). Facebook, though, is a hothouse of charity pages: the majority of the top 100 charities now have at least one page on the site, and hundreds of small, agile charities use it innovatively and provide an example to the rest of us. With millions of potential global users, charities can scarcely afford to ignore it. One WWF Facebook page has 420,886 people showing their support.

However, the institutions that FDs interact with have had less impact. Search for "Charity Commission" on Facebook and you find a message saying "2 people like this", which is a bit harsh. In fact, the commission says it did not set up this page, which is a bit of a mystery, but also reinforces my point - why hasn't it done one, given that its website is so good? Neither HM Revenue & Customs nor the Charity Finance Directors' Group are there yet.

Most of the charity activity on social media has focused on campaigning and fundraising. Social media about finance matters is still waiting to take off - for example, the Charity Finance discussion forum on Facebook has only 19 group members.

Yet it is still relevant to us. If we want to keep on top of the lively, controversial debates, then social media is likely to deliver the fastest reactions from people to the issues. The furore last year over chief executives'

expenses was started by a blog on a website, for example. Hard copy, in whatever form, will not give quick enough response rates. And charity sector gurus are tweeting and blogging and chatting and poking, minute by minute.

Let's not forget, also, that most charity FDs are now responsible for IT, among other areas, so they should, at a minimum, make sure they understand what it is, what the organisation's strategy is for its development and what policies might be needed to ensure its correct use. If you are also overseeing HR, then this is particularly relevant when putting together a policy for employee usage.

I am certainly looking forward to the training session in social media later this year with my fellow board members of the NCVO. We will be hands-on and get our sleeves rolled up. I don't see any way that even finance directors can escape it.

Helen Verney is finance director at the Diocese of London

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