Strategies for Creating a Compelling Blog
Blogging can be a cost effective, credible way to show your organization’s voice to — and interact with — your constituents, and to start a two-way conversation that elicits their comments and thoughts.
Laura Quinn, founder and director of Idealware, provider of reviews and information on nonprofit software, says while she’s somewhat skeptical of the Web 2.0 craze — social networking sites, wikis and other online communication tools that stress online collaboration and sharing among users — she thinks blogs in particular are typically very useful for nonprofits. For one thing, they’re a fairly inexpensive way for organizations to proliferate updated content. Quinn says this can be especially useful for small nonprofits that often have rather static Web sites.
“Having a blog gives them the capacity to post, for instance, information about what they’re doing programmatically day to day, experiences, stuff like that,” she says.
Quinn sees blogs as particularly powerful tools for advocacy organizations.
“Advocacy organizations obviously have things to say, opinions they’d like to share, and it can be a really nice soap box to do that and then also engage the blogging community,” she says, adding that a blog created by a well-known executive director of an organization or a celebrity spokesperson, or even just staff members and volunteers in the field, can be compelling to constituents.
“I feel like a lot of nonprofits, especially bigger ones, begin to feel very large and bureaucratic from a donor or volunteer perspective,” she say. “So actually just showing that there are real people on the ground doing real work can be useful just from a branding perspective.”
Nonprofits can also engage their client populations to contribute to the blog. If your organization supports artists, Quinn says, it can be compelling to ask some of the artists you support to blog and discuss their work. If you are running a writing seminar for homeless women, what could be more compelling to constituents and potential donors to your organization than seeing the writings of homeless women on the blog?
Some examples of compelling blogs by nonprofit organizations and/or their constituents are:
* Interplast (http://interplast.blogs.com). An international organization that provides free reconstructive surgery in developing countries, Interplast features surgeons in the field blogging about the work they’ve done, what they’ve seen, etc., including photographs.
* Greenpeace (http://members.greenpeace.org/gpblog). Greenpeace’s Web site features a number of blogs by constituents/activists sharing comments, ideas, etc., concerning global environmental issues.
* Share Your Story by March of Dimes (http://www.shareyourstory.org). Share Your Story, as described on its Web site, “is an online community for parents of babies born prematurely or who have spent time in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).” It offers parents a place where they can participate in discussions, create their own blog and connect with one another. “It’s a very sophisticated implementation of blogs,” Quinn says, “but it’s a really compelling way essentially to get their constituency in to tell their own stories and share.”
Blogs can be an additional means for an organization to cultivate constituent relationships, which can result in increased support.
“You’re going to have a lot more effectiveness with an appeal if your constituents feel connected and feel like they know what you’re doing and there’s actual humans who are working hard at your organization,” Quinn says.
It’s important to define your organization’s intentions for creating a blog. Determine what type of information you’re going to include, why you’ll include it and who it’ll be targeted to.
“Think it through as you would any other content source,” she says. “You certainly wouldn’t decide ‘I’m going to do an e-newsletter’ just for the sake of doing an e-newsletter. A blog is basically the same thing. You should define who it’s for, what it’s for, who’s updating it, how long it’s going to take and all those organizational thoughts.”
There are some key things to keep in mind when creating a blog. The big, first question is which blogging software to use, a topic that is the focus of the Idealware report Getting Started With Blogging Software.
Quinn says organizations should consider whether they’ll create the blog in house or hire someone specifically with html knowledge and technical expertise. A basic blog does not require the blogger to have much technical knowledge, but Quinn says if you want the blog to match your organization’s Web site, colors, show your logo, etc., these things are hard to do without technical knowledge. The blogging software that doesn’t require technical know-how doesn’t allow for this level of tailoring.
Other things to think about are the ease of creating posts; the ease of posting photographs; the level of moderation; and the level of support you want. Quinn says some blogging tools offer a high level of support, while others are supported by a community.
“You can go to a forum and get an answer, but there’s no guarantee that anybody will be out there to answer your questions,” she says.
Laura Quinn can be reached via www.idealware.org
To download a copy of the Idealware report Getting Started With Blogging Software, visit http://www.idealware.org/blogging_software/