Brandraising: Blogging for Dollars
Earlier this year, I participated on a panel about blogging for nonprofits at the Ad Council. The room was full of nonprofit people trying to understand what blogging is, if their organizations should be doing it and how it's done. To prepare for the talk, the Big Duck staff and I reviewed dozens of sites hoping to find out how organizations use blogging to enhance their programs, advocacy and fundraising communications. We reached out to nonprofits via Twitter, Facebook, e-mail and, oh yeah, conversation. We looked at who is blogging in organizations of all sizes, how the blogs relate to their primary Web sites, who is commenting, and who is doing something fresh or unexpected.
Our scan of the nonprofit blogosphere revealed that:
● Most nonprofits that blog write in a fairly dry, often jargony way.
● The blogger often is the executive director or CEO.
● Comments on these blogs often are from other professionals who work in the field.
● The content is almost entirely about programs or advocacy; few organizations seem to consider the blog a fundraising opportunity, too.
The good news is this channel is wide open and ready for fresh approaches. One great example of nonprofit blogging innovation is Cool Green Science: The Conservation Blog of the Nature Conservancy (blog.nature.org), which takes a team approach to blogging. Instead of one person having all the fun, the organization serves up content from scientists and experts who write about timely conservation issues. There's a lot of substance, and many voices participate in a vibrant community. (One caveat: Multiple bloggers means someone to manage and coordinate them, too, which is, perhaps, a downside of this approach.)
The Nature Conservancy benefits from the Cool Green Science blog in several ways: first, by creating a place that's mission-relevant and multidimensional, and by not having to produce all of this content in-house. As much as I like this site, particularly the thought-leadership position it helps Nature Conservancy convey, there's no obvious fundraising here. Cool Green Science fans can follow the blog on Twitter, fan the Nature Conservancy on Facebook, subscribe to the e-news … but if I want to make a donation, I have to visit the organization's primary Web site, nature.org, which seems like a lost opportunity. (But can we take a moment to note that great URL — nature.org? Is your organization's URL as clear, simple and mission-connected as that?)
Sarah Durham is president of Big Duck, a New York City-based branding, marketing and fundraising firm for nonprofits. She serves on the boards of the National Brain Tumor Society and the New York Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP).