Wednesday, September 16, 2009

8 Ways Nonprofits Can Use Blogs

Next week I'll be teaching a session about blogging during a nonprofit social media webinar, We Are Media, presented by NTEN. As part of my preparation, it seems like a good time to update my 2006 post, 10 Ways Nonprofits Can Us Blogs, and my 2007 post, 10 Ways Nonprofits Can Use Blogs and Bloggers to Support Their Cause.

I've consolidated down to 8 Ways Nonprofits Can Use Blogs, and added new examples. What "ways" am I missing?

1. Share your expertise

Think about all of the brainpower and expertise within your organization's staff, board and volunteers. Why not share their knowledge on your blog?

Example: The Environmental Defense Fund's blog, Climate 411, "is the voice of the experts at Environmental Defense Fund, providing plain-English explanations of climate change science, technology, policy, and news."

Example: Volunteer Match's Engaging Volunteers blog is running a series about Boomer Engagement: Build Your Organization's Capacity, Even in Times of Scarcity.

Example: The Case Foundation's Blog includes posts from multiple staff members, including Jean Case, and guest bloggers.

2. Share breaking news within your field

Chances are someone on your staff is already bookmarking and forwarding news stories about your issue each day. Take it a step further and share their news story links on your blog.

Example: The Chronicle of Philanthropy's blog, Give and Take, provides fantastic daily roundups about nonprofits and philanthropy.

Example: Service Nation's Change Wire blog posts weekly, Monday Service News Roundups.

3. Share the story behind your brand

Whether you are a large, established organization, or a small grassroots project, you are constantly asking your supporters to trust that you will use their money and time to do good. One way to build trust is to write with an authentic and personal voice on your organization's blog. Share your challenges and successes. Share your reasons for working there. Share who you really are (photos from the staff holiday party excluded).

Example: When Kjerstin Erickson, Founder of FORGE, blogged about her organization's struggles on Social Edge, she received an outpouring of support, plus stories in the San Francisco Chronicle and Wall Street Journal.

Example: The Extraordinaries' occasionally publishes posts with photos of when their staff are waiting for something (i.e. post office line, doctor's appt.) as examples of when you could be using their micro-volunteer iPhone application.

Example: Echoing Green's Spark Blog, which usually covers news about social entrepreneurship and their Fellowship program, posted last spring how it took, "Three Echoing Green staffers, two good Samaritan cheerleaders, and one brave man," to rescue a cat hiding under a van outside their offices.

4. Share your community's opinions

For better or worse, your supporters have opinions. Why not provide a space for them to share their ideas and resources on your blog? There are two ways this can happen:. 1. allow comments. 2. allow the community to contribute to the blog.

Example: Anyone can publish a blog post on the NetSquared Community Blog and Social Actions' social network,

Example: The Acumen Fund blog recently posted that, "Based on some feedback from our readers," they are going to change the focus of their blog. "We have had conversations on and offline about the value of our blog series, and it seems as though we are becoming a little too didactic (fair argument). So as a result, we have decided to take your advice and focus on something a little more practical."

5. Share notes and photos from events

Each year one or more members of your staff probably goes to a conference, or perhaps your organization puts on events. Either way, share your notes, photos, and presentations from the events as a service to your supporters, and to document them for your staff.

Example: Diana Ayton-Shenker recently posted on the Fast Forward Fund blog, "I'm looking forward to the upcoming Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) where I'll be blogging both for FFF and on" She asked her readers, "What are the top questions or issues you'd like to see raised at CGI re: next-gen social investors, innovators, and change-makers? Who are the top people you'd want to meet?"

Example: The Craigslist Foundation announces podcast recordings from their Nonprofit Boot Camp on their blog each week.

6. Share notes and photos from the field

Although a lot gets done behind a desk in a nonprofit, usually the heart and soul of your work is in the field. Posting photos and stories "on the ground" can be an exciting way to engage your supporters in your work.

Example: Rainforest Action Network posted photos and videos from a banner drop at Niagra Falls on their blog, The Understory.

Example: UNICEF USA uses its blog, FieldNotes, to, "quickly report from the field, alert you to media coverage of interest, and share the success of UNICEF's lifesaving work around the globe."

Example: Interplast's volunteers publish blog posts and photos about the surgeries they assist with like the post, Fernando, by Loan Le, a volunteer anesthesiologist.

7. Share organizational news as it happens

The beauty of a blog post, unlike an e-newsletter or print newsletter, is that it can be written and published quickly and immediately. You can even go back into a post after it's published and add an update. Your blog shouldn't include only news about your organization, but it should definitely include some. Efficiency tip: Recycle the posts your write on the blog into your electronic and print newsletter.

Example: Green for All posted about how Green for All Supports Local Green Jobs Corps in Tennessee.

Example: First Book posted about Baking and Books: Baking for Good Supports First Book.

8. Use it as your website

Blogs can be a great website option for a small organization that may have limited funds and/or limited tech expertise. Plus, Google loves links and updated content, which is what blogs are all about, so having a blog can help your search ranking.

Example: Urban Sprouts uses a Blogger blog as its website. They use blog posts as website pages, and have links for supporters to volunteer, donate, and RSVP for garden tours in the sidebar.

Full disclosure: I have affiliations with many of the nonprofits mentioned above.
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  1. Britt, thanks for including My Social Actions in the many blog resources mentioned here. FYI we've just added "10 ways to make a difference on My Social Actions" to the wiki:

    Two suggested additions to your great list: share questions, reflections, and lessons learned (this is kind of like sharing expertise, but emphasizes leading-by-questioning rather than leading-by-making-statements); and share invitations to get involved with your organization and your cause.

  2. Anonymous9:35 AM

    My name is Bill Hawthorne, and I represent, a leading web resource for asbestos exposure and mesothelioma cancer information. Our organization is dedicated to increasing awareness of the terrible health consequences of asbestos exposure.

    I found your site through a search and decided to contact you because of its high environmental and green presence which is extremely important in our movement. Your viewers are extremely savvy and motivated. The promotion of how buildings should now be built using sustainable green products to avoid asbestos and mesothelioma as well as the awareness of past buildings and preventative steps in avoiding asbestos exposure are extremely important. My goal is to get a resource link on your site or even to provide a guest posting to be placed.

    I look forward to hearing from you. Please feel free to check out our website. Thank you for your time and consideration.

    Bill Hawthorne
    MAA Center is now on Twitter – follow us @maacenter


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