If you’ve been reading Clairification you know by now that I’m a huge blog booster for nonprofits. If you don’t have a blog yet, you should get one. Pronto! Yup, I think they’re that important.
And don’t tell me you don’t have the bandwidth. You absolutely do. You just have to rethink your modus operandi. You know you have to communicate with folks, right? Well, do it by blogging rather than what you’re doing now.
I’ll wager your blog will outperform every other communication strategy you have in terms of driving folks to your site, informing them about your cause and getting them actively engaged in what you do.
But…don’t just slap crap up there. If that’s what you do (or have done) it won’t work. You’ll have wasted your precious time.
Luckily, it’s pretty easy to avoid wasting your resources if you know what to look out for. So let’s take a look at some key blogging mistakes (don’ts) and tips (do’s) on how to avoid them. I’ve got a baker’s dozen for you for good luck; today we’ll begin with the first six:
Don’t 1: You think of topics with no thought to the value to your reader.
Perhaps the most common problem bloggers must address is valuable content. A study by Sirius Decisions shows that around two-thirds of B2B content doesn’t get used. What a colossal waste of these businesses resources!
If you want content that will “go viral” it’s got to have practical value to your constituents. They must find it meaningful and they must be able to act upon it immediately, without too much effort. When people care they share. If folks don’t see the need to open or share your content, you’ve wasted your time writing your post.
Do 1: Think from the perspective of your reader: Will this post be useful to them?
You’ve got to be honest here. The fact that your organization won an award is not useful to your donor. The fact that they can win an award by engaging with you (e.g., playing a game, entering a contest, responding with a comment, etc.) is. The fact that you added new caseworkers to your staff is not useful. A list of “Top 10 Tips to Keep Seniors Safe” is.
Don’t’ 2: You think of topics randomly, rather than according to a plan.
Just as there are many fish in the sea, there are many good ideas for blog posts. But if they don’t serve your current strategic goals, they’re not a good idea for you at this particular point in time.
Do 2: Think of topics that serve your strategic goals.
Never forget to answer the “why” question. Always begin by jotting down the key take-aways you want your reader to leave with. Why are you blogging? The most likely reason is to increase awareness of your cause (and the urgent need for what you do) and grow your base of support. Does a blog post that narrates the biography of your Founder do this? Nope. What does? Generally posts that align with reader concerns are those that are most read. Ask your receptionist what questions s/he is most frequently asked. Answering these questions in your blog has the side benefit of not having to answer them over and over again. Piggyback on news stories that are likely top-of-mind for readers and also relate to your work. This has the side benefit of establishing you as an authority on a topic of relevance to many of your readers.
Don’t’ 3: You write like a professor, lawyer, engineer or robot.
People won’t read stuff online that’s above a 6th or 7th grade reading level. They won’t understand jargon. And they want to have a little fun; not read a term paper.
Do 3: Write like you talk.
Make your content conversational if you want it to engage folks. Read it out loud before you publish it. Feel free to break the rules of grammar you learned in middle school, and begin sentences with prepositions. Use contractions. Play with one word sentences. Loosen up and be real.
Don’t 4: You think people care about your perspective on yourself.
You may think folks will swoon when you tell them you’re the “biggest,” “first,” or most “world class” organization doing what you do. Get rid of superlatives that make you sound full of yourself.
Do 4: Show your best attributes; don’t tell them.
Make it about the reader and the benefits they care about. Put your personality into your writing. If you’re cutting edge and hip, show folks; don’t tell them (maybe tell a joke or make a cultural reference). Use donor-centric language rather than organization-centric language. Lose the words “we,” “our” and “I” in place of “you.”
Don’t 5: You write in generalities rather than specifics.
It’s tempting when you begin blogging to write about the broad topics your organization addresses like:
- Assuring justice for the disenfranchised.
- Sending underprivileged youth to college.
- Saving our green spaces.
People can’t relate when problems are too big. They want to see a specific problem to which they understand you are offering a specific solution.
Do 5: Create posts on specific subjects with specifics worked into the titles.
Review “Do 1.” Once you’ve identified a topic of value to your readers, create a specific working title to focus your writing. For example:
- How to prevent seniors from illegal evictions.
- A complete guide to saving for college.
- Top 5 environmental benefits of green spaces.
A working title doesn’t have to be your final title. It just makes writing your post easier because it prevents you from taking detours that distract the reader from what you hope will be their main take-away. You can make your title catchier later on.
Don’t 5: You write stream of consciousness.
Sure, a few brilliant writers can do this effectively. Most of us, however, just create verbal diarrhea. It’s a mess. And, as you probably already know, today’s readers mostly scan rather than read. If you’ve given them a mess, they have no framework for scanning.
Do 5: Start with an outline.
Putting in the time up front to assure you’re making the points you want to make (but not too many) will save you oodles of time later on trying to edit and pare down your article. Plus, your headers and sub-headers will become your reader’s scanning triggers. Similarly, use bold-face and underlining to draw your readers’ eyes to your most important points.
You can download free blog post templates from Hubspot here.
Don’t 6: You make unsubstantiated claims.
It’s super annoying when someone makes a claim like “1 in 4 children in our community are hungry”, without letting you know where they found that research.
Do 6: Go through your post and link to articles or research that support your claims.
This has the added benefit of saving you time and space. The folks who want to know more specifics can easily do so; those who don’t will not have to wade through all the data.
Keep your eyes peeled for seven more “do’s and don’ts” to round out our baker’s dozen next week. Meanwhile…
If you found this post useful, you may be interested in my brand new Nonprofit Blogging Playbook.
The Playbook includes 4 separate Guides; get as many as you want or need (if you buy all four, I offer a “Bundle Bargain” discount). A great blog is one of the best investments you can make in acquiring and retaining more donors. Learn how with this 4-volume set that will teach you (1) blog fundamentals; (2) content folks will want to read; (3) how to use your content to engage folks, and (4) how to promote your blog so it builds momentum and drives more potential supporters to your website. Plus, I stand by all my Clairification products. If you’re not happy, there’s a no questions asked full refund policy. The only way to lose is by doing nothing. Don’t be a loser!
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