Are Blogs the Answer for Beleaguered Relief Organizations Whose Donors Want to Know What They’re Doing?

Communications consultant Nancy White is impassioned about the potential of blogs, and other online communications tools for nonprofit use. Nancy, in a recent interview in NetSquared, stresses the value of blogging in getting at-the-moment updates flowing to outside audiences who are now (after the Red Cross debacle in various relief efforts) more focused than ever on how their monies are being used.

In her own blog, Nancy posts her view that there’s a a growing awareness and conversation about the role of blogs in nonprofit and non-governmental work. Some high profile work after both the tsunami, hurricane Katrina and the Pakistan earthquake let the world see the practice in action.

Recently a number of threads have cropped up about the specific application of blogging in relief work. As Nancy writes, "The Christian Aid staff has been blogging while working in Tajikistan. The work is informative and gives a very human voice to what might otherwise be data…leaving out what is really happening to people. They are also starting to blog for internal team reporting."

Christian Aid staffer Steve Buckley reports that,

"We recently tried a public weblog during a recent trip to Central Asia. The idea was to get away from official accounts of life in the region and try to bring back real time, emotionally charged, stories from the field – mainly for staff but also for supporters, friends and family. The blog turned out to be an unprecedented success for us achieving 6,000 readers from a standing start at the beginning of the year… and also making the site the most visited web site by Christian Aid staff. We’re pleased with this first public effort and hope to continue the concept for some other (but not all) staff trips. You can read the blog here and note that entries will continue to be posted for a few days more.

We’re also using blogs as a way to stay in touch with staff who are out on loan to other organisations, or even those who have left Christian Aid for pastures new. All part of an emerging ‘Orphans’ scheme that tries to keep staff involved with Christian Aid after they have left paid employment with us. Most exciting of all we’re also starting to use blogs internally for team reporting, replacing more traditional after-the-event reports. Early days at the moment.. signs are encouraging.”

The ODI Blog from the staff at the Overseas Development Institute in the UK have been blogging for a while, and posted a review of their experience to date.

"Today, we recognise it is, at least, a useful communication tool and enjoys significant support. At its best, blogs can filter information from previously inaccessible sources; can convene different groups around a single issue providing a menu of opinions and links to further resources that conventional media finds it difficult to deal with; may offer the basis of a tightly knitted community of practice or interest group; and constitutes a cost-effective platform for individuals and organisations to join the global development debate."

Thanks, Nancy, for bringing these blog successes to my attention. There’s clearly huge potential for relief organizatons, and other nonprofits, in delivering real-time, personally-told stories from the field to donors, colleagues, volunteers, board members and others. Blog on.

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Nancy Schwartz on February 14, 2006 in Blogging for Nonprofits, Nonprofit Communications, Unique Approaches | 4 comments
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  • I’m now trying t find blogs in international development – particularly in agricultural work. If you find any, please tag them agriblogs or in general, in international development, devblog
    Maybe I can start pointed across these blogs so we can all learn together!
    Thanks
    Nancy

  • Nancy,
    Check out the great work Interplast (http://www.interplast.org) is doing with blogs to help donors/funders understand what a difference their contribution makes. Interplast’s Seth Mazow was a speaker at NetSquared’s Net Tuesday event and talked very candidly about his challenges and successes. You can find the podcast of the event on http://www.netsquared.org/participate/net-tuesday

  • Bob Cargill

    I feel wholeheartedly, Nancy, that blogs are certainly one answer for not just relief organizations, but other nonprofits, too. As I wrote on my own blog back on September 2, 2005, in a post entitled Hurricane Katrina: A Reason to Give, A Reason to Blog, “Today, there’s no valid reason for any organization involved in the business of providing disaster relief not to have a blog in its communications toolbox.”

  • Thanks for the links!

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