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.