Blogging can be scary if you’ve never done it before. Who will write it? Is there enough to say about our nonprofit? Will anyone even read it?
It’s true that the habit of blogging takes time to develop, but the payouts are big and diverse. Better yet, it gets easier the more you do it.
The Benefits of Blogging
Blogging is about telling the story of the work you do and how it makes the world a better place. It’s about showing the personalities of your staff and the people you serve. It’s about generating engaging content that shows your impact and strengthens your long-term ties to supporters.
But blogging also has lots of side benefits:
- It’s great for nonprofit search engine optimization (SEO). The variety of post topics and frequent posting both help establish relevancy and authority of your website to search engines.
- Posts can be shared on social media, giving people a reason to come to your website…where your donation and newsletter forms are (hint hint). Similarly, you can repurpose posts for email and print newsletters.
- Frequent website updates keep returning visitors engaged and up-to-date.
- Blog posts can serve as the excuse (or the impetus!) to do important data analysis, research, and transparent communication that strengthens your organization overall.
- Writing is thinking. Writing about your work for public consumption often helps you understand it better, clarify your messaging, and be more effective in your work.
How to Do It
There are lots of ways to get started blogging. Here’s one way:
- Figure out who can blog. It might just be you or it could be a group of 5 staff sharing the workload.
- Get some ideas ready. Each blogger should make a list of at least 10 posts they could write with a one sentence summary of the post to make sure the post is realistic.
- Make an editorial calendar. Maybe that’s just agreeing to have each person own one post for a week each month. Maybe that’s a detailed monthly calendar with author assignments and topics. You could also consider blogging in seasons.
- Get started! Don’t wait too long to hit publish. The motivation of a public commitment to blogging is valuable, so dive in once you’ve done the minimum amount of work required to ensure you can do this.
- Prioritize blogging. For a while, blogging needs to be an important piece of your weekly or monthly routine. As you establish the habit, it will fade to the background and get easier.
- Stay Flexible. When an idea strikes you and you’re excited to write, grab that opportunity. You can always write now and publish later. On the flip side, be ready for an unexpected event with the organization or in the world of your nonprofit. Break your editorial calendar when it makes sense to.
For a similar more detailed plan, check out NTEN’s “10 Step Blog Plan.”
What to Blog About
What’s most important is that your blog isn’t dry. If it reads like a list of press releases, then as they say, you’re Doing It Wrong™. The best blogs are varied, engaging, and always relevant to your organization and the work it does.
Broadly, here are some great types of blog posts you can write:
- Success stories (case studies with personality!)
- Announcements of important upcoming events or a monthly event preview
- Important organizational milestones like anniversary’s or completion of a grant
- Links to news stories about your organization with a key quote for each
- Data about your work and impact
- Honest analysis of failures and how you’re addressing them
- Big news about the issues on which your organization works
- Profiles of volunteers and staff along or welcome and farewell posts
- Reports by staff from the field
- Social media timelines
- Monthly or quarterly updates or summaries of your work or a specific project
Wired Impact shares 31 ideas for blog posts on their blog.
Blogging Best Practices
There are few hard-and-fast rules about blogging, but here are some good guidelines to follow.
- Match length and tone to audience. The length, style, and language used for a topic should match the intended audience. If you’re writing to lawyers about a new legal precedent, you can write more than if you’re announcing your annual fundraising gala.
- Find an authentic voice. Write as yourself while not forgetting you represent your organization. Be honest with your readers.
- Include visuals. Find ways to pull in photos, videos, audio, and social media posts to break up long blocks of text. Don’t forget how easy WordPress makes it to embed YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, and more!
- Don’t navel gaze. It’s important to talk about your organization’s work on your blog, but make sure you share the spotlight with the people you serve, volunteers, and even peer organizations.
- Find the right calls to action. Always look for relevant links to other pages of your site. When describing the impact of a program, make sure people know how to support it with a donation. If you’re describing a volunteer’s weekly engagement with you, let people sign up to volunteer their own time. One highly relevant link—even at the bottom of a blog post—will generate more engagement than 10 prominent-but-irrelevant requests. (Read more about this in “On Small Donate Buttons & Contextual Requests for Support.”)
Need a bit of inspiration? Here are a few really different blogs that might give you some ideas!
- The Nonprofit Technology Network (NTEN) blog features a wide variety of in-depth articles from their membership community. This is a good example of how to transition a print-style journal publication to a web-friendly format!
- The Wildlands Network Blog contains stories from the fields, heartfelt prose, policy-focused editorials, and key news releases about the work of this conservation organization.
- The FoodCorps Blog pulls in stories from a nationwide network of affiliate organizations discussing local, regional, and national issues as they work to increase access to healthy food for kids.