Managing a nonprofit is already more than a full-time job. Often, when operating on shoestring budgets to make a dent in large-scale, intractable problems like poverty or human rights, writing up a few hundred words for a blog post can seem like the least important of the myriad to-dos.
But that couldn’t be farther from the truth! For your supporters, your organization’s blog is a window into your world. It showcases what matters to you, how you’re achieving your mission, and provides insight into the type of organization you are or want to be. Perhaps most importantly, it’s a critical marketing tool to spread knowledge of your work and the issues you prioritize to millions of potential supporters.
Yet, too often, nonprofit blogs look like an afterthought, with infrequent posts, poor editing and lack of a unified voice. Rather than give up and let your blog collect digital dust, try a few of these strategies to make sure your blog reaches its full potential:
Define your objective up front
The first step is to determine what you want your blog to do. Is it a place to showcase your research, field projects, and other activities? Are you hoping to use it as a platform to raise the profile of your issues and experts more broadly in the media world? Both? Answering these questions can help you figure out exactly what your blog looks like.
Organizations that rely on gifts may want to show donors what their money has bought, or encourage passive supporters to become active funders. In that case, readers may be your existing audience and the tone may be convivial and community-oriented. The Alameda County Food Bank in California uses its blog to highlight community action and features volunteers and recipients, nurturing both the community of volunteers and the organization’s place within the community.
Groups working on under-the-radar issues or developing large coalitions may strike a more journalistic tone aimed at non-supporters and the general public. The UN Foundation’s blog educates readers about their programs and features on-the-ground stories that connect readers with people benefitting from their work.
Harness your staff’s creativity
Think for a second about Buzzfeed. While quizzes like What Flightless Bird Are You? and listicles like 17 More Smells ’90s Girls Will Never Forget may not seem that important to your work, there’s actually a lot you can learn from them. Buzzfeed is the most notorious purveyor of a new style of online content geared toward catching people’s attention and providing information in easily digestible snippets. The lesson here is about creativity: while a painstakingly edited executive summary may be the right way to start a report, long paragraphs and lots of jargon may not be the best way to reach a blog audience.
Think about how you can best tell your story. It may be that a short video clip, a photo slideshow, or listicle conveys the information better than a traditional article. The most successful blogs—both for-profit and non-profit—have a personality and aren’t afraid to try something new.
Write something you’d like to read. Not every post will work, but they all provide a chance to learn about what works for your audience, your brand, and your mission.
Incorporate blogging into people’s jobs
Your staff, from assistants and temps to program managers and executives, is doing a lot of great work to further your mission. But part of making their work as meaningful as possible is sharing their success stories, issue briefs, and opinions. While the communications team may manage the blog day to day, relying on just a few people to provide content can be limiting. Having multiple voices sharing their real expertise adds excitement to your blog.
The Natural Resources Defense Council’s staff blog Switchboard does a great job of integrating the organization’s diverse work portfolio by letting employees tell their own stories about their challenges and successes. There may be some push back at first, but developing a smooth editorial process and providing guidance about writing subjects and style can actually make blogging fun for employees.
Recruit guest bloggers (and their guest audiences)
Blogs are a critical part of outreach and a great tool for connecting with other organizations and reaching out to new people. Guest bloggers can offer a fresh perspective on issues that your organization covers. It’s easy to see how publications benefit from high-profile writers that bring an audience with their name. But even featuring local folks (perhaps the beneficiaries of your work) and relaying their experience in their own voice can add depth and engage your supporters. You can also use these relationships to cultivate dialogues among practitioners and develop on- and offline relationships.
Develop a promotional strategy
The worst-case scenario for a nonprofit is to devote time and energy to a blog post that no one reads. The internet is a big and complex place, so you can’t just rely on Google Search to direct folks to your page. Integrating your blog into your other points of outreach can drive readership. Your blog is a trove of great content for your official social media accounts. Don’t be afraid to ask your employees to tap into their own networks. Blog authors should want to share their work on their personal accounts, especially your employees who’ve created a strong online presence around their professional work.
Beyond social media, you have a lot of other ways to push your content out. Make sure to feature your blog on your own website and link heavily within it. That means not only links to the blog as a whole from around your site, but also connecting posts together to give readers a chance to delve deeper within an issue and learn more. New posts are also ripe for inclusion in your newsletters to engage your existing supporters. And don’t forget to practice good SEO, so that when people are searching key terms, your post has a better chance of showing up in the results.
Don’t forget fundraising
Behind every successful and influential organization is a team of people finding the money to fund great work. While your blog shouldn’t only be a vehicle to support the development team (after all, who wants to read 5 posts in a row asking for money?), every post is a good opportunity to turn a casual observer or activist into a donor. Consider building a donation button into your blog’s layout to take advantage of reader’s excitement about your organization and desire to contribute to the change you’re making every day.
Eric Rardin is the Vice President of Business Development at Care2 and the ThePetitionSite, where he advises on donor lead acquisition and multichannel conversion strategies. He has helped nonprofits in over 100 countries, including here in the U.S..Eric has an MBA from the Carey School of Business at Johns Hopkins University, an MA in government and international studies from the University of South Carolina and a BS in political science from the University of Wyoming.