I’m a HUGE proponent of blogging for nonprofits.
Blogs are media. They’re also social. They aren’t rocket science.
You can build a great blog. But why would you want to? Aha! That’s the question too many nonprofits fail to ask. So, today we’re going to ask and answer this important 21st century question.
If you’re not currently rocking a blog — and making it central to your content marketing strategy — I hope you’ll reconsider.
Which is why I recently hosted Jay Wilkinson of Firespring for a wonderful webinar on the power of blogging and thought leadership for nonprofits. Among his key take-aways were these:
Why You Must Become a Thought Leader
It’s how you get the word out about what you are experienced in. This is important so people think of you in this regard. Depending on your mission, when the topic of local theater comes up… or cancer research… or feeding the homeless… or equine therapy… or fighting human trafficking… you want folks to immediately think of you. For this to happen, you must truly commit to becoming a thought leader in your particular area.
- Commit to create and post content that adds value to the life of the reader.
- Be comfortable being the established expert.
- Inspire to take action.
Why You Should Blog
A blog is akin to a super-charged, dynamic website that will bring you many more visitors – and a lot more engagement — than your website does now. Did you know 70% of visitors to the average website never visit again? Done well, a blog drives traffic to you naturally… brings folks back for more… and even gets folks to share stuff you post on your blog with their own networks. It’s a hugely powerful tool for finding and engaging with people – your donors and potential supporters – and I’m not the only one who thinks so. The primary reasons to blog are:
- To educate and connect
- To establish yourself as an authority
- To get your messaging in front of more people
- To get more web traffic – Organizations that blog have 97% more inbound links, and that’s how you get found via search engine optimization (SEO)
To these reasons I would add: To generate more philanthropic support. That’s the bottom line. It’s why you’re building awareness and driving traffic to your website, right? So… let’s dive into how to make your blog the best tool in your integrated marketing and fundraising toolbox!
Make your Blog Your Content Marketing Hub
Creating relevant content is perhaps the single most important thing you can do to attract new constituents online.
Rather than spreading responsibility for content creation broadly across multiple siloed departments, what if you created all content for your blog — and then leveraged it (shorten or lengthen as appropriate) through all your other communications channels (e.g., fundraising appeal, annual report, grant proposal, newsletter, social media… everything)? Keep it organized by creating a content checklist that includes all the key outcomes you want to share with folks; then… build from there.
This is a definite “working smart, not just hard” strategy!
Sure, you can spend your time creating great content and then just share it in one format (e.g. your annual report), or on one platform (e.g. Facebook). But why would you do that once you’d taken the time to create that great content? It costs pennies on the dollars – and minutes in the hour – to share that content in other formats and forums.
Still… some of you are dubious. Or your leaders are dubious.
If one of these 10 excuses is preventing you from working smart, read on to see how to overcome them.
10 Excuses That Keep You from Rocking a Blog
1. My E.D. thinks this will take up too much time. Will it?
Anything worth doing will take some time. But publishing content to a blog actually takes a lot less time than publishing to a website (not to mention properly maintaining a website). And it’s much more user-friendly. You can pretty much put the site up and publish the same day. You don’t need to know a bunch of HTML coding, and you don’t need to assure that all sorts of templated pages are complete before you upload content to a server. With a static website, you have to open up your editor, such as Front Page or Dreamweaver, write the article, and update the page properties before uploading that page to your site using FTP (File Transfer Protocol) software. Because not a lot of people on staff know how to do this, many nonprofit websites are hopelessly out of date.
2. Our resources are limited. My boss says wants to know the ROI.
Stop using limited resources as an excuse. Your responsibility as a communicator is to use all the tools at your disposal that will help you achieve your goals .If you don’t engage with folks, why would you expect them to engage with you? The best way to measure ROI for a blog is Return on Interesting (or ROE, Return on Engagement). It’s not a substitute for a face-to-face major gift ask, a fundraising appeal or an online fundraising campaign. But, over time, I can promise it will move folks along a continuum – from awareness… to interest… to engagement…. and, ultimately, to investment. If you’re interesting, it will get folks interested. If you’re engaging, it will get folks engaged.
3. Why should we blog if we’re already doing Facebook and Twitter?
Blogging gives you an ongoing, fresh source of content you can use to feed your other social media streams. If you set yourself up to blog consistently, you’re also setting yourself up to post Facebook and Twitter (and any other social platform you use) content that’s timely, relevant and meaty. This is content that will be shared, so it makes what you’ve already been doing much more valuable. Plus, you can drive folks to your other social media channels directly from your blog by incorporating share widgets into your blog template.
Blogging can be a more bonding experience for folks. People confide a lot in blogs and blog comments. Facebook tends to isolate. For some reason, blogs seem to bring out less narcissism and more self-reflection and genuine sharing. It’s less “Yo, dude, look at me at this kegger!” and more “I confess, I don’t know much about beer, but I recently found one that knocked my socks off and wondered if others know about it.” You can learn more about this phenomenon here and here.
4. I just can’t get my E.D.’s attention. How can I get my E.D. interested?
Set your E.D. up with a newsreader feed (e.g. Google Reader) so they can have posts from relevant blogs appear daily on their home page. They’ll see what others are saying about your organization, learn what topics are trending in your field, and begin to get a feel for how blogs work and how they lend a sense of authority to the blogger. Include some blogs from organizations the E.D. respects.
Share these compelling stats with your boss:
- 81% of U.S. online consumers trust information and advice from Blogs (Source: BlogHer)
- Companies that blog have 97% more inbound links. (Source: Hubspot)
- 61% of online consumers have made a purchase based on recommendations from a blog. (Source: BlogHer)
5. We’re working on improving our website instead.
Blogging drives more traffic than a website. Aside from the fact that the content is fresh, there’s the fact that search engines (especially Google) love blogs. Blogging tools like WordPress automatically add the code for page titles in every new blog post you publish to the Web. And they automatically “ping” the search engines for you to let them know you’ve got fresh content. When you use meta tags on your website, unless you refresh them daily, search engines won’t be looking for you. So it’s a lot harder to show up on page one in a Google search. However, with a blog you can much more easily rise to the top – without spending any money on search engine optimization. That’s not to say you shouldn’t improve your website as resources allow, but it’s no excuse to put off starting a great blog. Rock your blog ON your website!
6. We need to spend time on constituent research, not blogs.
Blogs are great for research. They are a dynamic form of online word-of-mouth. First, you can ask folks to comment on your blog posts. This helps you identify folks who are interested in your mission. Plus you can learn about what specifically intrigues or inspires them. Additionally, any good blog template will provide simple analytical tools (I use Google Analytics) that show you where your traffic comes from and which posts people are clicking on. So you get a snapshot of where your fans hang out, and what they care about.
7. We don’t know what skills to look for in a post writer.
Get the person(s) most excited about the prospect of blogging (assuming they can write) to create your content. You can’t assign this to someone who will simply put it on the back burner. Blogging is an engagement strategy. The person doing the blogging must be someone who gets excited about the process, connects with other bloggers by reading blogs and engaging with them (e.g. linking to them, commenting on them and inviting them to comment on your blog). You need folks who are not only excited to write on a regular basis, but who also want to immerse themselves in the “blogosphere.” And you must give them the time to do this. Whether you use a staff person, volunteer or intern, don’t have them be your sole blogger. Ask each writer to commit to spend 1-2 hours/month writing a blog post. Each member of your team publishes under their own byline, inspiring them to do a better job and adhere to deadlines.
8. We tried blogging, but didn’t stay at it consistently.
Select a blogging team. Jay Wilkinson suggests reaching out to a close network of 4 – 6 folks who are connected to you and naturally wired to write. They don’t have to necessarily be employed by you. Donors. Volunteers. Clients. Vendors. Community leaders. These can all work. Assign “accountability pairs” where one writes and the other edits (You should always have a second pair of eyes on every article). Meet quarterly to brainstorm and assign 3 topics per quarter to each writer.
Select someone to be in charge who can lead, manage and hold people accountable. Have the person in charge responsible for all interaction (e.g., promoting the post; responding to comments). You’re building relationships over a period, and volunteers often don’t last or follow through.
9. We don’t have the bandwidth to create new content.
Use content you already have, and simply repurpose it. One of the best strategies is to create simple, useful content that solves people’s problems. Numbered lists are always read and shared. If you’re a childcare organization, offer “10 tips to babyproof your home.” If you serve frail elderly, consider “5 warning signs of dementia.” If you’re a health care organization, proffer “How to reduce stress.” If you’re a school with an educational philosophy, link to an article written by the founder and provide some insight into what it means for today’s curriculum. If one of your staff wrote an in-depth article in a scholarly journal, summarize it and offer some helpful commentary. If there’s a new research study related to your work, recap the main points and offer your recommendations for next steps. If you created a video for an event, excerpt it and explain what it means.
Share recommendations related to your area of authority and expertise. If you work with kids, give recommendations for things to do with kids on the weekend. Or ways to build certain skills or boost self esteem. If you fight injustice, recommend your top movies that showcase justice issues. If you save the environment, offer up a list of recommended books. If you work with health, recommend a nutritious recipe.
Update one of your popular past articles. Jay Wilkinson suggests that two out of five most should be “evergreen” — just as relevant tomorrow as today. No one is likely to remember they saw this article a year or two ago.
10. We just don’t have a lot of content. What do we do?
I’ve never met a nonprofit that didn’t have a ton of great content hanging around. You just have to develop a practice of seeking it out.
- Tell stories of the great things you’ve accomplished! Stories are a gift of donor-centered content. Collect these stories and turn them into blog articles.
- You can also simply share a photo and add a caption or paragraph. Let the picture be worth its 1000 words.
- Or just answer a question in every post. Surely you get questions from your constituents! Talk to your receptionist or someone in customer service or your volunteer coordinator. What are the most frequently asked questions? Answer them in your blog posts and you’ve got great content! And ask folks to send in new questions in your comments box. That way you have an endlessly repeating source of questions you can answer.
I’m still not convinced. What’s the #1 reason my nonprofit needs a blog?
People don’t really understand what you do!
90% of the people who ask me for help lead with “We’re the best kept secret in town.” The best way to share your secret with folks is to let folks know you’re a leader in your field and tell your remarkable stories of impact. Regularly. You’ve definitely got stories well worth telling!
You can’t sit still and expect people to find you, know about you or want to give to you. If there’s a need you’re endeavoring to fill, and people can help you fill that need, then it’s incumbent on you to arouse people from their slumber, show them the ways they can make a difference and ASK for their support in being the change they’d like to see in their community and/or the world.
Today everyone is online and social. You need to get social too. Of all the social engagement tools out there, a blog is your killer app.
If you haven’t considered a blog as one of the ways to move folks along a continuum with you – from awareness… to interest… to engagement… to investment – there’s no time like the present. CARPE DIEM!
To seize the day…
Get my 4-volume Nonprofit Blogging Playbook. Get as many Guides as you want or need (if you buy all four, I offer a “Bundle Bargain” discount). Each guide will teach you something different: (1)Blog Fundamentals; (2) Content that Compels people to read and share it; (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. I stand by all my Clairification products. If you’re not happy, there’s a no questions asked full 30-day refund policy. The only way to lose is by doing nothing. Don’t be a loser!
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