Nonprofit Partner Blog

How to handle a troll.

Angry man yelling at laptop

Even nonprofits find themselves the victims of trolls. With as much good as your organization does it’s hard to imagine that there are those who would want to trod on your reputation with negative posts on social media. Twitter, Facebook and other social networks are highly public forms of two-way communication, so there’s always that risk.

When the conversation turns against you, there’s usually little recourse for getting the negative posts pulled. But the key is not in stopping the message, it’s all in how you respond to the message. It’s in learning how to constructively guide the conversation—from bad to good for your organization’s benefit.

How to develop your response strategy when faced with a troll:

Go for a positive spin and keep a positive attitude Yelling back is often what detractors want you to do. Don’t play their game. Responding positively puts you in control. If they’ve made misstatements, politely correct them. If their arguments have what could be perceived as an inkling of merit, try to turn the conversation positive with facts that whittle away at their argument. Pointing out the good you’re doing often shuts down the argument and encourages others to come to your defense. By taking the high road, both you and your cause will be seen in your best light, even when under fire.

Take the conversation offline Point out to a detractor that they’ve already voiced their opinion on a public forum. Now, if they really want their concern addressed, it’s best to take it private and not bore everyone. Make sure you follow through and contact them immediately or ask them to please call you. If you wait even an hour, they may be back online saying you’re not sincere about addressing their gripe.

Contact the individual Do it even if they made a single comment then left the conversation. Find out if they have even the tiniest legitimate reason for their comments or if they chose your organization at random. There’s a good chance they just need to be heard and their issue may even be about causes in general, not yours specifically. Let them talk and pay attention to what they’re saying. It can drain their venom.

Kill them with kindness It will make you look good and make them look more troll-like. The more you know about them and the more you politely reveal their identity, the more likely they are to just disappear. Trolls hate people knowing which bridge they live under. If you publicly or privately reveal their identity they know they’re not anonymous anymore. A little net-detective work in finding out their real identity is a simple defense in getting them to stop.

Offer to show them your charity’s work in action Showing them the good you’re doing can immediately change their opinion.

Don’t threaten Your private response can easily be made public. It’s simple for a detractor to forward an email, upload a recorded phone call or post your response in a public status update. Always respond offline as if you’re responding online.

Remove the conversation only as last resort While you want to make it look like the incident never happened, it did. Yanking down the conversation or closing comments can cause more negativity than the original comment did. If the comment triggered a series of responses and you remove them all, the comments still could keep coming since you may have removed those of numerous people. You could wind up having to explain yourself and maybe even have to restate what was said in order to justify your actions and keep the peace.

According to Andrea Frieder, Account Manager for DonorDrive, “Remember that it’s not personal, so address it professionally.” Andrea spent many years working for nonprofits responding to these issues before joining DonorDrive. “I’ve found that phone calls often work best. Things can get misinterpreted over email.”

In working for a nonprofit, you’re often experienced in facing difficult odds. The skills you’ve developed for presenting a convincing story for making an ask are the same skills required to turn a detractor 180°. If your goal is turning all foes into friends, you might be surprised how effective you can be at doing it.

About the Author: Kevin Wolfe is Social Instigator for DonorDrive Social Fundraising and Editor of the DonorDriven Blog.

DonorDrive Description: DonorDrive® Social Fundraising software increases online fundraising for nonprofits through innovations like built-in responsive fundraising tools, social integration and the industry’s first Fundraising Motivation Engine™. To learn more about how you can increase your organization’s revenue, visit: