There is a new voice being heard on nonprofit Web sites. It’s the voice of Web site visitors stepping up, speaking out and taking part in their own online community spaces — blogs, discussion groups and more — and it’s changing the way nonprofits think about their Web sites, and about their strategic approaches to reach out and engage their constituents and supporters.
Many nonprofits have “brochure” Web sites with pages that present read-only information about an organization’s goals, activities and accomplishments. These sites may be attractive and informative, but they don’t actively engage the Web site audience. Because of this, they are giving way to more interactive sites that offer pages and spaces where Web site visitors can join in and add their own voices, comments, questions and advice.
Online “discussion” pages generally fall within two categories — blogs and discussion groups (also known as bulletin boards and forums).
Blog it out
Blogs have become familiar features of the online landscape in just a few short years. Many Web sites have added blogs, including numerous nonprofits and, most notably during the recent election, many political parties and candidates.
Structurally, blogs are organized like diaries, with individual entries written by the same author or group of authors. The most recent entries (posts) are displayed at the top and older posts are pushed down into archives, meaning that blogs are time based and especially well suited for presenting current information about a campaign, event or organization. A blog’s author (or authors) ensures that the posts are kept on-topic, and fit into the overall theme, issue or campaign. Some blogs allow visitors to post comments on individual articles. These comments appear below each article, and may form a mini-dialogue between readers and the author about that individual post, but the overall authorship and leading voice of the blog remains in the hands of the author(s).