Wednesday, January 10, 2007

5 Tips to Start a Nonprofit Blog

I am often asked for advice from nonprofits that want to start a blog. Here are five of the tips I most frequently give:

1. Read blogs.


I can’t tell you how many amazing, visionary nonprofit leaders I talk to who when I ask them if they read blogs say, “I read email.”

There are lots of theories about what is the best social media tool to first introduce to nonprofits. Newsreaders are my top choice. When I set up a newsreader for an Executive Director full of blog, news and search feeds related to their organization’s issues and show them how they can skim through it for the most updated information about their cause, their eyes widen.Before your organization starts to blog, set up a newsreader, whether it is Bloglines or Google Reader or something else, and see what is being written about your organization and the issues that it represents. Not only will this give you a feel for the different styles of blogs, but it will also provide content for some of your first blog posts.

2. The best person to write an organization's blog is the person who is the most excited to write it.

In other words, what is the point of telling the Development Director that they are in charge of writing a blog, if it feels like just "one more thing" to them. Being an organization's blogger involves not only writing for the blog, but also building relationships with other bloggers by reading them, linking to them, commenting on their blogs and inviting them to comment on your blog. You need a staff person who is not only excited to write on a regular basis, but also wants to immerse themselves in the "blogosphere."

A natural person to be the staff blogger is whoever writes the organization's newsletter or e-newsletter. If they write for the blog on a regular basis, when it comes time to send out the monthly e-newsletter, or quarterly newsletter, they will have a lot of content to pull from.

One thing I don't recommend is having an intern be the sole writer of your blog. Too many nonprofit blogs are set up by an excited intern, posted in diligently for a few months and then abandoned. Writing for a blog is like writing a column. Wouldn't you think it was strange if all of a sudden your favorite newspaper columnist just stopped writing without warning? It is also ok to have more than one blogger for your organization's blog, so have your summer intern contribute along with your regular blogger.

3. Post consistently.

There are all kinds of theories about how often to post on your blog. The most important thing is to be consistent. You don't have to write every day, but once a week is good. The rule of "quality not quantity" still stands. If you post often, but your content is not interesting, you will have less readers than if you post less frequently, but have higher quality content.

Quality not quantity doesn’t mean that each post reads like a press release, or a page from your annual report. Blogging is part of social media. It is interactive media made by regular people for regular people. Think of it as a conversation that you're having with your supporters, and with people who stumble upon your blog because they are interested in the issues that you represent. The best nonprofit blogs are a mix of true stories about their organization's work and its constituents, invitations for readers to check out other bloggers' post or news stories about related issues, organizational news, and editorials on the daily news as it relates to the organization. Two nonprofits that I think do a nice job of creating a variety of engaging content are People's Grocery, and Urban Sprouts. Check out 10 Ways Nonprofits Can Use Blogs for other examples.

4. Have an RSS feed and comments.

The number one mistake I see nonprofits make is to set up a blog that doesn't have an RSS feed or comments. In my opinion, a blog without an RSS feed or comments is not a blog, it is simply someone writing regularly on a web site. A blog allows interaction through comments, and an RSS feed allows readers to subscribe. For your less tech savvy readers, you should also allow your supporters to subscribe to your blog via email with a service like Feedblitz.

5. Just start.

My final piece of advice to nonprofits is to just start. If you feel that some of your supporters would like to receive news from your organization via a blog, or more importantly, that your organization has ideas to share with the world that might move more quickly through the blogosphere than through traditional media, set one up. Try it for a year and see what happens.

This post was originally written for the NetSquared blog.
Image Credit: Tidy Tips by Cliff Hutson.




49 comments:

  1. Anonymous1:26 AM

    Great post, Britt! Joitske

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  2. Thanks, Joitske, and thanks for the shout out on your blog!

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  3. thanks for that. I have been writing a blog documenting my experiences in Hanoi Vietnam as a volunteer worker on a street kid project www.ourmaninhanoi.com

    I am about to start a similar fundraising position in Granada, Nicaragua and they are asking me to blog my experiences and to use the blog as a fundraising tool.

    I'll be referring to your tips.

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  4. I'd love to hear about your successes and challenges using your blog as a fundraising tool either in the comments of this blog, or as a post on the NetSquared blog, another blog I write for. It is a community blog where anyone can write a post about how nonprofits can use the social web for social change.
    http://www.netsquared.org/blog

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  5. Thanks for this great article. I am trying to follow this advice on my new blog. :)

    Jeremy Gregg

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  6. Great tips! I just started my own non-profit's blog thanks to you. It's blog.ideasworld.org.

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  7. Great tips! I work for a marketing agency helping NP's raise money and stated my own blog on fundraising. I am hoping to do something similar for our company and will pass on your tips to my boss to make the case that I should write the content!
    http://dollarsforsense.blogspot.com

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  8. Hi Josh,

    Do you have an good examples of nonprofits or green businesses using the social web for marketing that you can share in the comments of this post:
    http://havefundogood.blogspot.com/2007/02/how-are-green-businesses-nonprofits.html

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  9. In addition to starting a blog there are a lot of good ways to use online marketing to promote a non profit.

    I've recently started Help Roberto focusing on online promotion.

    http://www.helproberto.com/pressRelease.php

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  10. Great to find this article. I am still learning.

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  11. I think it is great that your blog focuses on the Vietnamese non-profit community! Keep up the good work!

    Britt

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  12. Anonymous6:30 AM

    Love your article. Enjoy all your tips and advices. http://BookOfTips.BlogSpot.com

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  13. Great Advice!

    >>>Quality not quantity doesn’t mean that each post reads like a press release, or a page from your annual report.

    I happen to be a fan of Wordpress as a platform, given the community around it and the spam protection.

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  14. Anonymous11:08 AM

    Thank you for your help! Here's a quick and easy way to help non-profits. I came across an online retailer that generates funds for non-profits. The web address is http://www.giveline.com. On this site, you can donate a percentage of your purchase to any of the 19,000+ charities and organizations listed. If you can’t find the NPO you want to donate to, there’s an option to add new organizations at http://www.giveline.com/signup. It’s a really innovative concept; a place where you can shop online and do something good.

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  15. I JUST started a blog for my non-profit and I've been finding so much great info out there. In your experience, how long should I wait before I start publicizing the blog? As in how much critical mass of posts do I need before it's worth someone's while to check it out.

    Thank you in advance for any advice you can give me

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  16. Thanks so much for the help! I am an intern at a non-profit organization in Seattle and I am looking to start a Weblog.

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  17. Hi GiveIndiadotorg:

    I think there isn't a certain amount of time that necessarily needs to pass. It is about quality, not quantity. If I see a new blog, I'm most likely to read the post on the home page. If I like that post, I might look at others to decide if I want to link to it or add it to my feed reader. If you have 3-5 solid posts that the audience you are writing for would enjoy, you should be good to go.

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  18. Thanks. it's been 15 days and 9 posts so I'm off to a solid start. I've started to publicise the blog internally first to other staff and volunteers. Our organisations next NL will go out by May 10 so I'll probably have a little article in it about our blog.

    Your blog has been very helpful. Great job!

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  19. I'm so glad it was helpful (:

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  20. Great Post. I like your simple blog because its informative.

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  21. How about blog directories and drawing traffic, any tips?

    www.charitynetusa.com/blog

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  22. charitynetusa.com - I don't have any stats to prove that submitting to blog directories improves your traffic, but it can't hurt. I'd definitely submit it to Technorati, at a minimum.

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  23. Justin2:35 PM

    Great post Britt! Very informative. I think one of the hardest steps (besides just starting, is to post consistently) But hey, if your really excited about it, then it shouldn't be that hard. I think blogs and many other social networking tools can be a great addition to any non profit!

    Justin
    - Check Us Out -
    www.koinoniasolutions.com

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  24. Anyone have good examples of individual non-profits who are doing a good job blogging? It seems like there are a lot of "non-profit isssue blogs" but not a lot of great "organization specific blogs".

    Our Emily Krzyzewski Center blog is www.emilykblog.org and we want to connect/share with other education oriented orgs that are blogging. Suggestions?

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  25. LG - Here are a few examples:

    http://www.casefoundation.org/blog
    http://urbansprouts.blogspot.com/
    http://blogs.oxfam.org/
    http://blog.amnestyusa.org/
    http://www.sierraclub.org/blogs/

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  26. Oh, and if you want to find other education focused blogs, I would search on alltop.com, technorati.com and Google Blog Search.

    Also check out the Education blog on Change.org http://education.change.org/

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  27. Hey thanks for this! Have just discovered your website and am finding it to be a good resource :) I've recently started up a blog for my nonprofit at http://helpachildtostudy.wordpress.com and I suspect that it's going to take awhile for me to learn how to best maximise it!

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  28. Hi Andrea - Your blog looks great. You might want to experiment with making your posts shorter to start -- 250-300 words--about what a person can read in a minute. Good luck!

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  29. Great post, I would like to see more non profits writing blogs.

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  30. YAY! I can stop googling "how to start a nonprofit blog" because I found this extremely useful post and now feel like we can at least get off to a great start with our blog for a cancer support nonprofit. Thanks for your help.

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  31. Thanks for all this information! My name is Sarah and I am working with a non-profit called Hopelink in Washington state and we have been trying to get our blog up and running. Your insights will be extremely useful for us! Thanks again!

    --Sarah

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  32. Thanks, Joitska, and thanks for the shout out on your blog!

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  33. Very useful. I'm still unclear how to incorporate an RSS feed into a blog. (I'm New) But still thanks for the article.

    Chris,
    3MinuteCharity.com

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  34. Hi Chris,

    Most blogging platforms (i.e Blogger, TypePad, WordPress) will create an rss feed for you. You'll just want to "burn" your rss feed with Feedburner (feedburner.google.com) to help you track how many subscribers you have.

    Britt

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  35. Good information for philanthropic nonprofits.

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  36. This is terrific information for a non profit. Thanks for posting! I too am often asked this question. A blog is a terrific way for an organization to get visibility in a community.
    www.nonprofitcompanion.com

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  37. Thanks for the info. It helps. ^_^

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  38. If you want to start blogging for free but don't know how - read some Blogging ABCs here. It's a good place to start for beginners -
    http://ninjarabbits.blogspot.com/2010/06/blogging-blogs-for-free-abcs.html

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  39. All right, you've inspired me to try this. Here goes nothing. =)

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  40. You said that a nonprofit should try blogging for a year and see what comes of it. www.silentnomore4teens.org has been up for a year and we've even run a successful PSA contest. Still, our numbers seem low. Any suggestions?

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  41. Hi Sean,

    Because evaluating nonprofit blogs is what I do for a living it's hard to sum it all up in a comment (: but here are three questions I would ask you if we were working together:

    1. How are you spreading the word about your blog (e.g. are you importing your blog posts to your Facebook page? Do you link back to blog posts in your newsletter?).

    2. What *is* working? For example, do you have more engagement on Twitter? Facebook? YouTube? E-newsletter?

    3. How much time do you spend reading, commenting on, and linking to other blogs?

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  42. I am a newbie as it goes for creating a blog. Our group is looking to help non profits. We will start our blog at the end of the month. Thanks for the advice.

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  43. how to create new wordpress blog is better explained @ http://www.nichewp.com/how-to-start-new-blog.html

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  45. Thanks for sharing the good Post..Really it’s a wonderful post..I like this post ..Keep Sharing..

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  46. Thanks for sharing your ideas.your readers including me could benefit by reading this article,good job!

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