7 Things To Consider Before Starting A Nonprofit Blog
You write your nonprofit blog for your cause and for your readers. Your
blog cannot hope to function successfully and allow you to reap the benefits of
its success if it does not have an audience. What’s more, your blog’s success is
closely linked with knowing your current audience and considering potential
others. Marc Koenig of Nonprofit Hub lends a helping hand by reminds us of the
glory that is donor segmentation, breaking your donor audience down into three
groups and offering thoughts on how a blog will benefit both your nonprofit and
- “The True Believers”: These are your most avid supporters who donate (and in other cases volunteer) regularly. They make up the bulk of your emailing and direct mailing lists and most likely subscribed to your newsletter. These are the donors who follow your cause very closely, who are educated or have educated themselves on your cause and the concerns surrounding it.
- “The Casual Fan”: These are your donors who make “irregular donations” around “once a year” or perhaps gives when they remember or when you ask for this support through you various appeal channels (such as your fundraising letter, details of which we cover in our article in Writing Your Nonprofit Fundraising Letter). Blogging will establish a stronger connection with them, expanding their understanding of your cause and the work you do. Your blog can help make it so that the next time your make an appeal, they can be encouraged to give more and to give in more meaningful ways, shaping them into regular donors. This may even bump them up into “The True Believer” category.
- “The Reluctant Tagalongs”: These are your one-time donors, the ones who may have made a donation to your nonprofit on a whim or in passing. They may not even remember making that donation or your nonprofit. Should they find their way back to your nonprofit, whether it may be through an email or letter your send or if they are looking back at their donation, a blog will help catch their eye through “interesting, moving and often entertaining content.” Your nonprofit will establish itself as memorable in their minds, encouraging them to explore your website further in order to learn more about you and your cause. With that impression made, says Koenig, “they’ll definitely open your next email [or letter], maybe even if it’s an appeal."
Your search rankings.
The rise of inbound marketing has moved it away from being a passing trend to the norm for many organizations in both the for-profit and nonprofit worlds. Simply out, inbound marketing involves strategies that attempt to lead people to an organization or business, as opposed to the traditional marketing model of having to go and reach out themselves. It does not matter if your nonprofit is in the process of implementing some inbound marketing strategies, if you’re currently thinking about it or haven’t considered it at all: a blog will still benefit your nonprofit in this context.
Having a blog on your nonprofit website can “increase the search ranking if your website,” according to Network For Good, driving traffic to your website that you may not have be able to get without a blog. A blog is able to achieve this through one thing: its content.
Your blog is going to be one of the few places on your website (if not the only place) where your content can expand and explore. This expansion and exploration, in order to improve your nonprofit’s search rankings, should bring content about topics related to and within the sphere of your nonprofit’s cause and focus. By creating blog posts that tackle different aspects of your nonprofit that is not explored elsewhere on your website, you can expand your reach.
Because you’ll be curating blog posts that work around your nonprofit and its cause, as opposed to just putting your focus on your cause directly, you’ll have fresher content. This will also open up the floor for more blog post topics. Fresher, varied, consistent, and a large amount of content will increase the chances of people finding your nonprofit online as the “likelihood to appear at the top of search engine results increases drastically.” Having fresh content will encourage people to link to your posts, contributing to your search rankings and increase your exposure. By having this content on hand, there will be more pages for visitors to your website to check out, getting them to spend more time on your website. The more time they spend exploring your website, the more they learn about your nonprofit, increases the chances that they will want to donate, maybe even sign up for your emails or newsletter.
Creating and keeping connections.
Linking isn’t something exclusive to your nonprofit’s search engine rankings. Your nonprofit blog can also provide links outside of websites; it can link people together. Because a blog is instrumental to helping fund your nonprofit, it can help reach out in its own particular way. Shari Tishman of Volunteer Match highlights that blogs can help build a community of like-minded people who are interested in your nonprofit and in your cause. Razoo Foundation’s John Haydon agrees, noting that your blog can also be a tool to communicate with your donor base, giving them a place where their concerns and opinions can be heard.
Demonstrates influence and authority.
Your blog will help in showing supporters and newcomers to your nonprofit that you are a valuable source of information and action. It is meant to delve into the different aspects of your cause and other topics related to it by taking advantage of its long form structure to go in-depth. The variety of your posts, kept mission focused on your cause, will demonstrate to your readers that there is more to your nonprofit than your donations forms or your “About Us” or “Our Mission” sections. Your blog will show your audience that you have a deep understanding of your cause and that your knowledgeable of the various forces that effect it, allowing your nonprofit to “gain [a] reputation or being an expert,” says Lance Trebesch and Taylor Robinson of Wild Apricot.
But there is more to your blog than education and awareness, there is action. Where your demonstrated knowledge of your cause emphasizes you voice and authority in your field, you blog posts about the work you do demonstrates your influence for change. Your blog can be one of the many places on your website to explore the work you do for your cause, through posts about a recent campaign or a project that has just concluded. Readers will be able to access a behind the scenes look at your nonprofit in action. Readers may even feel encouraged to donate because they can see that you are both effective and active.
A place to tell stories.
Although your blog should be educational and an elaboration of the work you have done so far, it should also be a space to tell stories as well. Remember, you are a nonprofit working towards a cause and with a mission to help; you have many stories to tell, and they are definitely worth telling. You blog can be the place to tell a story or to go into detail on a story that may have only been touched on in your fundraising letters or emails or on your website. A blog will allow you to approach your cause from a different angle through its use of storytelling, providing balance for your blog’s content. Use your blog as one of the places to log stories from your nonprofit, keeping the human part, the heart, of your nonprofit at its core.
There are many story templates that your nonprofit can use for its blog, the best of which we have covered in our article on the 7 Kinds of Stories Your Nonprofit Should Tell; but below are two that we think would be great to work into your blog:
Connection-Building Story: Using this template, your blog can be used to tell stories about the people, outside of your nonprofit, who are working directly everyday with the cause. These are perspectives and aspects of the cause that we don’t normally see. For example, say that you are nonprofit working to save dogs from high kill shelters; your blog can tell the stories of volunteers, people who adopt the dogs, veterinarians who examine the dogs, maybe even groomers who prep the dogs for adoption.
Portrait of your Nonprofit: Take a look behind the scenes with your blog by doing a profile segment on the people who work within your nonprofit. Gather testimonials from them about the work they do and how it figures into the scheme of things for your cause. Write a blog post about their typical day, the little details that go into keeping your nonprofit afloat. Stories and posts like these will show that regular people, who are just like your donors and readers, are working within your nonprofit.
Crafting a story can take a bit of effort, but if you need some help, see our article on How to improve storytelling for your nonprofit.
Works with other channels.
In addition to the few perks that we have been talking about so far, your nonprofit blog can provide content for your other networks. Blog posts can serve as content for your newsletter, especially if you are regularly posting on your blog. Using blog posts as content for your newsletter will serve the purposed of driving traffic to your website and to the blog itself, expanding your nonprofit’s reach further. Furthermore, having access to shareable content will influence exposure and your nonprofit’s ability to connect.
Creates buzz for your nonprofit.
Interconnectivity with your other channels means your blog is a valuable tool in drumming up anticipation for and promoting an upcoming event or project. Inform your readers about an upcoming event, setting aside a set of posts in your blog’s posting schedule specifically for that event, such as little blurbs about who is involved, details about the event itself, and how that event figures into the scheme of things for your cause. Create build-up for the event and use the blog as another place where readers who are interested can either sign up to attend, participate, or donate. Give your readers a backstage pass to the action, showing them the kinds of things that go into organizing an event for your nonprofit. Continuing with that vein, on the day of your event, give readers a glimpse of the prep involved, whether it may be through decorations of your venue, setting up tables, or other related activities.
After the event ends, dedicate an entire blog post to giving your readers the highlights, complete with videos and photos. This blog post can serve as a good reviewer for those who were unable to attend and will show readers that you are “active in your community” and active in your cause. When they see how effective, even how much fun, your events are, your readers may feel more inclined to join in when the next event comes around.
You could also use this particular blog post, or set aside a separate one, to reflect on your event, to “Talk about the purpose of the event and what you were able to achieve. Talk about what you’ll do differently next time.”
Builds a forum.
Up until this point, we have discussed a blog’s use for putting information out to your readers and to the public. Much of what we have focused on centered around how your blog can help shape public opinion of your nonprofit through your content and how it is managed. However, one of the biggest strengths of a nonprofit blog is its ability to gather, share, and discuss information for your cause. Your nonprofit blog has the potential of becoming a vital piece of establishing and sustaining communication lines with your donors and to increase consciousness about your cause.
Blogs have the ability to encourage conversations between your donors that may otherwise fall short in other settings. Because today’s donor base is so technologically savvy, they are constantly plugged in and would have consistent access to your nonprofit blog. Having a comments section or even a forum built into your blog can take advantage of that access. Those can be places where your readers or visitors to your blog can discuss what they have read on your blog and offer their own opinions. This will help start up the conversation between your nonprofit and its supporters and between the supporters themselves, which in turn will help build relationships and a community with a shared belief in your cause.
You can even open up the floor to your donors and readers by allowing them to contribute their own articles about relevant issues and concerns, if you have enough resources at hand to curate and manage these guest posts.
Additionally, your blog can also be another place where donors can voice their comments, concerns, or complaints and where you can address them accordingly. Be sure to respond immediately and appropriately; donors will feel good knowing that their voice was heard, that your nonprofit took their comments seriously, and that you responded quickly, reinforcing their trust in your organization.
However, like we discussed in our articles on Social Media, be conscious in the way you police the comments and the forum on your blog. Keeps an eye on the conversations happening between those within your nonprofit and your readers and between the readers themselves. Have a plan in place for responding to those who make inappropriate comments, antagonizes other readers, or post incorrect information about your nonprofit.
Blogs also have the added capacity to educate your audience, raise consciousness for your cause, and keep your readers up to date on the happenings within your nonprofit and the current events that effect it and your cause.
To supplement the other outlets we’re sure you employ (your newsletters, social media, emails, and direct mail letters) your blog should also play a part in keeping your readers and donor base updated on your nonprofit’s programs, projects, and ongoing campaigns. Let your donors know how things have been going, how their donations have been making an impact. Doing so will demonstrate professionalism on your part and increases credibility because you are showing that you follow up and maintain your projects and programs, that you are active.
Your blog should also include articles that educate your readers about the issues or concerns surrounding your cause. If your nonprofit raises funds for a particular disease, for example, curate blog posts that breaks it down: the science behind the disease, available treatments or research into possible treatments, and other related statistics and facts. Where storytelling and the templates previously discussed above would provide readers with testimonials and the human aspect of your cause, these articles on donor awareness will present hard facts.
Furthermore, when putting together these kinds of content for your blog, you will have to keep your ear to the ground and keep yourselves informed on what is happening in the nonprofit world as a whole and what is happening within your own field. Keeping up with current events and posting about them in your blog is important; it will show your readers the kinds of things that are in play on a larger scale and how those things effect your cause. If a new treatment becomes available for a specific disease, or if legislation is passed that could make an impact on your cause, or even if a new website donation site is launched for nonprofits, you should report that news to your readers. Foster conversation by addressing current events and offering your own two cents on the matter and how it relates to your nonprofit specifically and how it can effect your cause.