Sunday, March 04, 2007

10 Ways Nonprofits Can Use Blogs and Bloggers to Support Their Cause

Last March I was on a blogging panel for an event put on by the Alliance of Technology and Women. To prepare for the panel, I wrote up 10 Ways Nonprofit Can Use Blogs.

Next week, I will be participating in a session entitled, "Reach Out and Blog Someone" along with Steve Swenson of the Bakersfield Californian at the United Way of Kern County's Professional Development Conference for Nonprofits. You can read Steve's blog at the Eye of Bakersfield.

A lot of nonprofit blogs have come on the scene in the year between these events and I feel like it is time to revise and update my "10 Ways" post to include not only ways that nonprofits can use blogs, but also engage bloggers to support their cause. Blogs fall under the category of "social media" because they are, well, social. They are a tool that allows for a conversation between the reader and the writer, and for information to reach people quickly all over the world. It only makes sense that if your nonprofit is going to include a blog in its communications strategy that it includes other bloggers too.

So here it goes . . .10 Ways Nonprofit Can Use Blogs and Bloggers to Support Their Cause

1. Include bloggers on your press list.

There are a lot of people out there reading and writing blogs.

According to the blog search engine, Technorati's, "State of the Blogosphere" in October 2006:
Technorati is tracking more than 57 Million blogs.
Today, the blogosphere is doubling in size approximately every 230 days.
About 100,000 new weblogs were created each day
According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project report, "Bloggers: A Portrait of the Internet’s New Storytellers" from July 2006:
8% of Internet users, or about 12 million American adults, keep a blog.
39% of Internet users, or about 57 million American adults, read blogs.
90% of bloggers say they have read someone else’s blog
That's a lot of folks who are including blogs in their media consumption list. When you are creating your press list, be sure to search on Technorati and Google Blog Search to find bloggers who are writing about your organization's issues and send them your press release as well.

2. Use Your Nonprofit Blog to Create Your Own Media Coverage

When the men accused of murdering Gwen Araujo, a woman they beat, bound and strangled after they discovered that she was biologically male, went to trial, the Community United Against Violence decided to use a blog to document the trial.

Because many of CUAV's volunteer bloggers were more knowledgeable about issues such as the trans-phobic tactics that were being used by the lawyers, they were able to address many issues that the mainstream media missed. The blog also kept people informed during the second trial, when media coverage had diminished, and eventually drew attention to the trial when the blog got news coverage.

3. Provide bloggers, and your supporters, with an RSS feed of news related to your organization so that they can spread the word for you.

Don't be afraid of RSS feeds. First of all, what are they? From Yahoo! News:
RSS stands for "Really Simple Syndication" -- it's a format for distributing and gathering content from sources across the Web, including newspapers, magazines, and blogs.

Web publishers use RSS to easily create and distribute news feeds that include links, headlines, and summaries. The Christian Science Monitor, CNN, and CNET News are among the many sites that now deliver updated online content via RSS.

Human Rights Watch doesn’t have a blog, but they offer RSS feeds of human rights news to supporters so that they can blog about, and share information with others, about human rights issues.

For more information, check out the Tech Soup article, "Easy Ways to Publish Your Own RSS: Use RSS to Help Your Constituents Stay On Top of News and Announcements," and the Social Signal article, "Make Your Nonprofit More Effective with RSS Aggregation."

4. Include outreach to bloggers as part of your online fundraising campaigns.

As I mentioned in my post about "extra-organizational activists", there are bloggers out there who would love to raise money for your cause:
Beth Kanter raised $800 for the Sharing Foundation using the ChipIn widget plus her blog, social networks, Flickr and video in 26 days.

Darren Rowse celebrated ProBlogger's two year anniversary by using his blog to raise $830 US ($100 AU) for Oxfam Australia with his Blogging for Chickens campaign.

Beth Kanter raised $50,000 for the Sharing Foundation using a Network for Good Badge and similar tools to the ChipIn campaign, in three weeks.

Chez Pim raised almost $62,000 with her Menu for Hope Campaign in 2.5 weeks using her food blog and an online auction.
Why not ask your supporters how many of them have a blog or web site where they would be willing to promote your fundraising campaign? Widgets like ChipIn and Network for Good Badges, and services like Firstgiving make it easy for them to support your cause. (Full disclosure: I am on ChipIn's nonprofit advisory board).

5. Use Your Nonprofit Blog to Raise Money

Many blog readers have money to give. Why not ask them?

According to BlogAds 2005 Blog Reader Survey, 43% of blog readers had incomes greater than $90,000. In 2006, BlogAds broke down the reader demographics even more:
The median political blog reader is a 43 year old man with an annual family income of $80,000. He reads 6 blogs a day for 10 hours a week. 70% have contributed to a campaign.

The median gossip reader is a 27 year old woman with annual family income $60,000. She reads 4 blogs a day, five hours a week.

The median mom blog reader is a 29 year old woman with an annual family income of $70,000, reading 5 blogs a day for 4 hours a week.

The median music blog reader is a 26 year old man with an annual family income of $60,000 reading 5 blogs a day four hours a week.
According to the 2005 article, "Blog Readers Spend More Time and Money Online,” by Sean Michael Kerner:
Blog readers tend to make more online purchases. In the first quarter of 2005, less than 40 percent of the total Internet population made online purchases. By contrast, 51 percent of blog readers shopped online. Blog readers also spent six percent more than the average Internet user.
6. Use Your Nonprofit Blog to Involve Volunteers and Supporters

Nonprofit workers often tell me that they don't have time to write a blog. Depending on your organization's work and audience, you may not have to. I write for the NetSquared blog each day (it takes me anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour depending on the topic), but it is also designed to be a community blog, so any registered user can post on it about how nonprofits are using the social web for social change.

Interplast, an international humanitarian organization that provides free reconstructive surgery in developing countries asks their surgical volunteer staff to upload posts to the blog from their worksite.

Urban Sprouts
, a school gardening program, allows volunteers, as well as staff, to post on their blog.

The Best Friends Animal Society
allows its supporters to create blogs on their Best Friends Network around animal, and animal adoption issues that they care about.

March of Dimes' Share Your Story blog allows families with children in NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) to share their experiences with one another.

7. Use Your Nonprofit Blog to Report Back From an Event, Trip or Disaster

Do you have staff or constituents going to a conference that your supporters would be interested in hearing about? Ask them to blog during conference sessions and post photos. For example, here is a post that I wrote from Aspiration Tech's Nonprofit Developer's Summit for NetSquared blog readers.

Perhaps your staff makes a lot of international trips. Witness for Peace has a blog for their team in Mexico and for their team in Nicaragua to report back on their work there.

Blogs can also provide ways for people to find out information about loved ones if your organization works in disaster relief situations. Gregg Swanson, the Executive Director of HumaniNet, blogged and uploaded photos to HumaniNet's Flickr account using a satellite connection as part of a disaster response simulation exercise in Asia.

8. Use Your Nonprofit Blog to Work Smarter

Would you like to avoid the crunch when it comes time to write the annual report or quarterly newsletter? If you post organizational news on your blog regularly, when it comes time to pull stories together for other publications, you will already have a lot of the material written.

For example, for this post, and to prepare for this session, I am drawing from other posts that I've already written. When we publish the NetSquared e-newsletter, we often draw from the NetSquared blog for material.

You can also use reader comments, or posts by volunteers or constituents in grant applications. Urban Sprouts Executive Director, Abby Jaramillo, brought her laptop to one meeting with a funder and showed them the positive comments written on a post by teachers and students who were being served by the program.

9. Use Your Nonprofit Blog to Build Trust with Supporters

In a time when donors are being asked for money from more organizations than ever, when nonprofit scandals are in the news, and when funders want more accountability for where their money is going, it is important that they trust your organization and see that there are real people, like them, working there. A blog can give them a glimpse behind the scenes, and provide a transparency and authenticity that an annual report or brochure may not.

Dave Rochlin, the COO of TransFair USA, the only third-party certifier of Fair Trade products in the United States, recently started a blog for their organization. In his first post entitled, "A Fair Trade blog . . .so why now? Rochlin writes, "So why start blogging? We decided that since we're more than just a label, it would make sense to let you see what's behind it."

If your organization decides to start a blog, I highly recommend that you allow readers to see who the individual or individuals are who write each post, rather than saying, "posted by organization x."

Blogs also build trust because readers can write comments and correspond with the writer(s). In a world where web sites offer only an anonymous address, or make you go through a maze of automated messages and "press 2 now" in their phone system, the value of human connection can't be underestimated.

The Ann Arbor District Library System uses a blog for the front page of their site. Library users can ask questions and make suggestions about library news, announcements and events in the comments of each post.

10. Use Your Nonprofit Blog to Build a Broad-Based Movement

There is a lot of talk these days about nonprofit "silos." There are groups that are working on environmental issues, groups that are working on women's issues, groups that are working on disability issues and groups that are working on poverty issues, but really, aren't all the issues connected? Aren't we all trying to create positive change?

Part of a blog's structure is something called a blog roll, a list of blogs in the sidebar that the blogger reads, or feels is related to the topic of their blog. Something I don't see enough of is nonprofit bloggers listing other nonprofit blogs in their blog roll, referencing other nonprofit bloggers posts in their posts, and commenting on each other's blogs. Cross-referencing between organizations' blogs can add supporters to both organization's lists and paves the way for future collaborations.

Take a look below at this quick round-up of nonprofits blogs. Are there any you could add to your blogroll? (Big thanks to the Have Fun * Do Good and NetSquared readers who sent me some of these links).

AARP Issues Blog
Amnesty International Death Penalty Blog
Ann Arbor District Library System
Brown Bagging for Calgary’s Kids
Center for Global Development
Ella Baker Center for Human Rights
Environmental Defense
First Book Blog
Foothills United Way Blog
Generation Why/Oxfam Blog
iAbolish-American Anti-Slavery Group
Jane Goodall Institute’s Gombe Chimpanzee Blog
Jubilee USA

Mile High United Way Blog
ONE Campaign Blog
People’s Grocery
Poverty Initiative at Union Theological Seminary
Rainforest Action Network
Streetside Stories
SOS Community Services
Sustainable TableTransFair USA
Urban Sprouts
Unitarian Universalist Service Committee
United Way of Central Florida
Walker Art Center
Witness for Peace Mexico Blog
Witness for Peace Nicaragua Blog
WITNESS Video Hub Blog

What are some other ways that you have seen nonprofits use blogs?

If you are excited to start a blog for your nonprofit, check out 5 Tips to Start a Nonprofit Blog.


  1. Anonymous1:51 PM

    Excellent piece!

  2. What an absolutely fantastic article. Congratulations to you. I'm going to have a bit more of a peek and lurk around. I am so glad I found you (came through the blog roll of Tactical Philanthropy so blog rolls definatly work).

    Megan from Australia who has worked in and for non profits for ever.

  3. What a neat, but comprehensive summary of effectiveness.

    I am in the midst of all this, with my blog about the School of St Jude in northern Tanzania where I share news about the school and discuss issues and events in the area of international development and End of Poverty.

    I'm currently using the Chipin tool on the blog - it's interesting to see how it will go.

    Your list gives me ideas for extending and networking more deeply. Thanks!

  4. Anonymous1:19 AM

    Simply marvellous post...Thanks a lot for this helpful post that is going to help many bloggers like me who may be blogging with a purpose. Great work! Do drop by my blog too coz am sure you'll have fun reading the same.

  5. Anonymous4:39 AM

    The library is invited to blog for free in the community blog
    Contact me for an application

  6. Terrific article. Thank you for the resources. I've shared it with several people and written about it on two sites.

  7. Anonymous11:08 AM

    Very comprehensive, Britt. Nice work.

  8. Thanks for all of your kind words!

  9. Anonymous9:01 AM

    Thank you for sharing your knowledge. I am graduating from college in May and have considered non-profit work. I'm curious about how to get an organization interested in blogging if they are not already. I understand showing them all of the positives will help but you also must address the other side of what can happen. Auburn is pretty small, but many of the non-profits are national as well. How could I peak the interest of a prospective employer?

  10. Great article! We're volunteers using our new blog ( to raise funds for Genesis Home - a transitional shelter for homeless families in Durham, NC - among the triathlon sports community.

  11. It was great meeting you today--thanks so much for your inspiring words and work. Just posted this up at

  12. Thanks Britt - great article, great blog. I'm a new blogger Count Me In and am looking forward to reading more of your inspirational posts.

    Have added you to my blogroll!

    Count Me In Calendar

  13. Wow, thanks Britt, this information is very useful... keep up the excellent work you do! :)

  14. Thanks for all of your comments everyone!

    Anonymous, in regards to:

    "I'm curious about how to get an organization interested in blogging if they are not already. I understand showing them all of the positives will help but you also must address the other side of what can happen."

    What is the "other side"? What are the negatives that you are worried about? That would help me address them.

    Probably the best way to get an organization interested in blogging is to show them blogs written by organizations that are similar to theirs to help them imagine what a blog for their organization could be like. You could also contact those organizations and ask them about what good things have come out of their having a blog, what their challenges have been, and how they have handled those challenges.

    One link I didn't include is a post by Charlene Li about ROI (return on investment) for business bloggers. I thought some of the metrics would be good to use for a nonprofit as well:

  15. Anonymous6:52 AM

    These comments have been invaluable to me as is this whole site. I thank you for your comment.

  16. I am an Advisory Board for an interesting non-profit that provides health care for poor and isolated communities in Nicaragua. The Roberto Clemente Santa Ana Clinic staffed by the ever-patient and caring Dr. Julio Flores and nurses Martha Miranda and Carlos Peña, supplies free and low-cost medical care to the isolated villages of Limon, Rancho Santana and 41 surrounding communities in southwest Nicaragua.
    The Clinic is named for Roberto Clemente, who played baseball for the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1955 to 1972, when he died trying to help the victims of the devastating Nicaragua earthquake.
    Launched in 2004, the Clinic is the result of generous donations, and also the volunteer efforts of the Rotary Club of Pittsburgh, The Oxford Club, the Granados family and International Living Properties.
    The Roberto Clemente clinic strives to educate the community on better health, as well as prevent diseases, cure viruses, and treat injuries and the chronic health problems endemic to this part of the world, where running water and flushing toilets are still quite rare.
    The Clinic's new schedule of 24-hour availability, 7 days a week has greatly increased the number of services we have been able to provide to the locals and visitors of the region.
    If you feel that this project is of you interest or know people that can contribute in some way (logistically, technically or monetary) please feel free to contact Juan Munoz at: or call us at 410-505-5551 or 973-687-4676. Please visit our website to make a contribution.


If you are having trouble commenting, please let me know.