Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Nonprofit Blogging Burning Questions and Answers

I originally wrote this post for the NetSquared Blog.

Earlier in the month I taught a Nonprofit Blogging 101 workshop at the 2008 Making Media Connections Conference. At the beginning of the session, I asked folks what their burning questions were. Below are their questions, and my quick answers. What questions and answers would you add?

1. How do we decide if our organization should have a blog?

Answer these questions:

1. What is the goal you want to achieve?
2. Who is your target audience?
3. What are the communication tools you could use to achieve that goal?

If a blog is one of the tools you think would meet your goal, ask yourself:

4. How often do you want to post on your blog, and when?
5. What are the topics you want your blog to cover?
6. What platform will you use? Who will set it up?
7. How much time, staff and money do you have to put into setting up your blog, writing your blog, answering comments, reading other blogs, and leaving comments on other blogs?

Once you've answered those questions you'll have a better idea if a blog is the tool for you, and if you have the time, money and staff to make it work over the long run.

2. How do you make the case to your Executive Director that your organization should have a blog?

Do the steps in question #1. Present your ED with the goal a blog will achieve, how you will measure its impact, who will set it up, who will write and maintain it, how much time it will take, and how much it will cost.

Talk to other nonprofits whose blogs you respect. Ask them for success stories that you can share with your boss.

3. Should your organization's blog have editorial guidelines?

In general, a blog is a different communication tool than say, a newsletter. Should it have correct spelling and grammar? Yes. Should the content be appropriate to your audience? Yes. But blogs are all about authenticity, transparency and the voice of a real person. Don't stifle blogs' most precious qualities.

4. How do you handle a blog with multiple voices?

Provide rss feeds to the whole blog, and to individual bloggers' feeds so readers have a choice of how they want to subscribe. Provide formatting guidlelines for a clean, unified look. If there is cross-over in expertise, make it a practice for writers to check in before posting to make sure they aren't writing about the same thing. You may also want to make a posting schedule so that you have at least one post a day, and everyone doesn't post at once.

5. Who in the organization should blog?

Whoever is excited to do it, but please, no interns. The interns can be contributing bloggers, but they shouldn't be the lead blogger. I've seen way to many nonprofit blogs with tons of posts between June-August, and then the intern leaves and it's a ghost town.

6. How do you encourage comments?

• Make it easy to comment. You will definitely get more commenters if they don't have to create a login and password on your site to participate, at least in the beginning.
* Title the post with an open-ended question.
• Be controversial.
* Ask for comments.
• Answer comments that people leave.
• Comment on other people's blogs.

7. How do you deal with issues of fear and control?

Blogphobia often manifests itself in a fear of comments. Here's the thing:

1. You can moderate comments.
2. If someone writes something bad about your organization, I'll betcha that they are saying it to other people, and that other people may have the same feelings. Wouldn't you rather address the complaint out in the open, where everyone can read your response, instead of having talk about you behind your back?
3. Everyone wants comments, but not bad comments. You don't get to choose what the comments are about.

8. How can you use a blog to fundraise and mobilize people to action?

Content and trust. People will read your organization's blog because they want to know about your organizations' news, news related to your cause, and your opinions as thought leaders in your field. Once you have a base of established readers who are interested in what you have to say, and who trust you because you are being authentic, transparent, and real, they'll be more likely to say yes when you ask for their money, or time.

One of the most popular tools for raising money on blogs are fundraising widgets like ChipIn, Network for Good and Global Giving.

9. How do you increase traffic?

  • Write interesting, relevant, useful content.
    Post regularly
    Link to other blogs
    Comment on other blogs
    Participate in blog carnivals
    Let folks in your social networks know when you've written a post that might be of interest to them
    Write about thing related to current news and events that people might be searching for
    Use titles that you think people might be searching for (i.e. How to Start a Nonprofit Blog)
    Tag your posts in, ma.gnolia, etc.

10. What are the ethics of blogging?

There isn't one code of ethics that all bloggers follow. Here are three examples:
Rebecca Blood's Weblog Ethics
Cyberjournalist's A Blogger's Code of Ethics
Groundswell's Blogging Policy Examples

11. How do you reach out to other bloggers to write about your organization?

I wrote about this a while ago: 10 Tips for Asking Bloggers to Write About Your Cause.

12. With the number of blogs increasing each day, how do you compete?

• By creating content that is of interest to your supporters, and to people who care about your issue, even if they aren't an active supporter (yet) of your organization.
• Following the steps in #9 to increase traffic.
• Advertising your blog in your email signature, e-newsletter, printed newsletter, annual report, social networks, business cards, etc.
• Figuring out what niche information need your blog can fill. I often think of all of the boxes of toothpaste that there are to choose from at the drugstore. Look how many kinds of toothpaste Crest has. Why do you pick one over the other? Many times you choose the one that meets your specific needs. What is the niche of information that your organization can provide that no one else can?

Phew. That's the end of the list. What are some of your burning nonprofit blog questions? How would you add to the answers above?


  1. Anonymous6:08 AM

    I agree with you. In the end, its about rallying people to start writing and telling their stories. Sometimes it is just one or two posts per blogger. It doesn't matter that much - you just need to get moving to find your voice and establish a rhythm.

  2. Anonymous7:39 AM

    Thanks for the great post! We have just started blogging, and it's always good to know that many other people have the same questions that we have. I think the power of blogs to open ourselves up to donors and potential donors is what is so exciting, and perhaps a little bit nerve-racking, about blogging.

  3. Thanks for your comments, fm days and Sarah (:

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