Blogging for Nonprofits

nonprofit social mediaLet me introduce you to guest blogger Celeste Wroblewski, vice president of external relations at Donors Forum in Illinois.  Celeste is a longtime friend and colleague, and one of the smartest minds in the field…

As I review advice on social media for nonprofits, I often come across rules like these:

  • It’s about conversing and listening: It’s not about sharing your own news.
  • Post X times a week on your blog and X times a day on Facebook.
  • For every tweet about your organization, tweet four times about others.

While this advice works well for some, I think it overwhelms beginners and those working in small organizations.  Moreover, this approach generates a flood of content for those who read these posts, updates and Tweets.

At Donors Forum in Illinois, we believe that there are no rules or,  at least, that it’s time to reexamine them.  Our strategy is to:

This streamlined approach is shaped by the limited size of our communications team (1.5 people) and by the knowledge that our constituents are already overloaded.

As social media proliferates, the messages have become overwhelming and the conversations  recursive. And we know that, consistent with our mission,  our constituents want us to filter and curate information.

Our social media strategy follows suit.  We do not converse simply to converse—we don’t do #FollowFriday, we don’t retweet a lot, we don’t provide accounts of mundane activities.

What we do is to concentrate on what is most important to grantmakers and nonprofits in Illinois.

So, what do you think:  Can less be more in social media? Please share your comments here.

Guest Blogger in Blogging for Nonprofits, Social Media | 10 comments
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andrewsullivanI blogged this practical but fresh perspective from Andrew Sullivan’s keynote talk at NTC (NTEN‘s annual conference). Sullivan, top blogger at The Atlantic‘s Daily Dish, shared his take on the potential value of blogging (and other online channels) for orgs and what it takes to realize that value to strengthen relationships.

Author, provocateur and early (since 2000) blogger Sullivan covered what’s different about online communications and community, and what that means for your nonprofit:

  • Blogging (and other online content and conversations, I’d say) is about relationships, not content.
  • Online readers, even when alone, are not really alone. Immediately, without waiting for the news or the paper, they enter in a relationship with the writer.
    • Readers interact w/content in a personal setting–at their computers, which are personal–where they do their work, keep photos, etc–so you are speaking directly to each one in a way you can’t via print, even if they don’t participate actively in online conversation.
    • So online reading and conversation becomes more part of your audience’s lives. It’s a great opportunity.
  • But, for that to work, online content has to be ever-changing.  If it’s not (like a static brochure site, as so many orgs have), it’ll fail to engage your network. And likely to alienate them.
    • When you have this relationship with your network, you already have their permission. So your organization can move quickly to introduce them to a campaign.
    • The speed is critical since our focus shifts very quickly.

Online communications is unequaled for relationship building, but is reinforced through direct mail, phone outreach and in-person gatherings.

But your organization’s online communications success may not come easily. Here are some of the common challenges cited by Sullivan:

  • The lack of control inherent in social media (such as enabling readers to comment on your blog, which I suggest you do) is terrifying, especially for those with something to hide. That’s everyone, and every  organization.
  • As a blogger or site producer, your role changes from expert to conduit of thought for your network.  Most organizations fear this shift, thinking it signals a decrease in their significance.
  • A personal face and voice (or a few of them) for your organization online is a must. You don’t develop a relationship with an institution, you do so with an individual.

What do you have to add to the list of benefits, or deterrents? Please comment below.

P.S. Get more in-depth articles, case studies and guides to nonprofit marketing success — all featured in the twice-monthly Getting Attention e-update. Subscribe today.

Photo: Flickr Lydia Mann

Nancy Schwartz in Blogging for Nonprofits | 7 comments
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Stronger Messages Here Q&As from My Chronicle of Philanthropy Tagline ClinicScan this conversation on nonprofit market messages that matter (won’t take you more than 15 minutes) to learn more about how to strengthen you org’s tagline, and other marketing messages.

You’ll see many examples (many participants served up their taglines for a productive critique) that’ll help you strengthen your tagline, like this one:

Question from Angie, Large Non-profit
Our tagline is “Organizing Resources for Social Change and Economic Independence” but we seem to do better marketing individual programs (most without specific taglines) rather than the agency as a whole. How can we tie in the “big draws” of the cause-specific programs” to get the agency on the radar of the private donor?

My Answer
Angie, you are facing a very common challenge.

Your organizational tagline is built around well-meaning language that is way too abstract. It’s hard for anyone to grasp the value of “organizing resources” (sounds very removed), or even the realms in which you work (social change and economic independence) which are intangible and so long-term.

It works best to put imagery/content that conveys your org’s impact or value — how does your work change the life of an individual. Make it accessible, and memorable, and avoid jargon at all costs.

Start the revision process by taking the essence (impact is a great place to start) of the cause-specific programs, ID the common themes and convey them in a single, brief organizational tagline that is all about your org’s value in the fields in which you work! That’ll ensure you engage your base where it counts.

P.S. Learn how to craft a compelling story for your org in 8 words or less. Download the free Nonprofit Tagline Report for must-dos, don’t dos, case studies and 1,000+ nonprofit tagline examples!

Nancy Schwartz in Blogging for Nonprofits, Nonprofit Communications, Recommended Resources, Taglines | 0 comments

Blogging Helps Me Make Sense of This Crazy WorldAs I listen to the crazy news today — Wachovia bankrupt, congress voting on the $700 billion bailout bill– I just want to blog. Not so much about the economy, but about what I can impact, like strengthening the voice of nonprofits.

Here’s an example: The process of blogging about the presentations and conversations at the Communications Network conference makes that content even more useful for me. Blogging takes up where note taking leaves off (and I always found that taking notes in class, down to the outline I crafted as I did so, resulted in a deeper level of understanding than just listening). It requires that one not only hears, but processes what’s relevant, a priority and needs to be passed forward.

Best yet, blogging your take enables others to chime in with their perspectives, and that conversation ups understanding of the issues at hand.

Wouldn’t that be useful for your nonprofit, especially in these times when the environment in which you work is changing by the minute?

P.S. Learn how to craft the shortest and most compelling story for your org. Download the free Nonprofit Tagline Report for must-dos, don’t dos, case studies and 1,000+ nonprofit tagline examples!

Nancy Schwartz in Blogging for Nonprofits, Nonprofit Communications | 1 comment

I'm Talking Blogging and Social Media to Sarasota Nonprofits Today -- Wish You Were HereI’m down in Sarasota today, speaking to local nonprofit marketers at the Community Foundation of Sarasota County Nonprofit Resource Center’s annual Nonprofit Marketing and PR Forum.

Nothing’s more satisfying than actually being out there with you, so I can hear (in person!) what’s working fabulously, what you’re struggling with and how I can help. I just wish you were here to add to the conversation.

This morning I’m sharing my blogging expertise in a Put Blogging to Work for Your Nonprofit for Timely Conversations, Stronger Relationships and Broader Visibility workshop featuring several nonprofit blog examples in the Sarasota region.

Then, later in the day I’m delivering the closing keynote (always a tough assignment) entitled Nonprofits on the Social Media Journey: Choosing the Path to Productive Experimentation and Stronger Audience Connections. Here’s what I’ll be covering:  As nonprofit leaders, we’re all faced with trying to find our place in a MySpace world. From Facebook to the e-book, twitter to flickr, podcasts to webcasts, the platforms for delivering and expanding your nonprofit’s reach continue to explode. In this practical and informative survey of the Web2.0 world, I’ll point the way for your nonprofit.

What a challenge it was to craft content for this 60-minute keynote. There’s just so much to say about social media that I had to focus, hard, on what’s key for those not yet using these tools to know. Must-understand elements I pinpointed include how to know if/how your nonprofit should be tiptoeing or diving into social media, the range of tools and case studies of how small to medium nonprofits like those in my Sarasota audiences are using social media.

As a matter of fact, I interviewed four nonprofit social media experimenters who have volunteered to serve as mentors for their Sarasota peers interested in stepping into social media. This kind of ad hoc learning community has worked wonderfully in other communities I know. Not a bad idea, right, for ensuring your nonprofit community is comfortable in social media tools (now a key component in the nonprofit communications arsenal), and one you have to understand even if it’s not an ultimate priority for your organization right now.

P.S. Take a look at these case studies featuring social media usage by nonprofits and political campaigns.

Strengthen your nonprofit brand with the Getting Attention Nonprofit Tagline Report. Subscribe to the Getting Attention e-newsletter (in-depth articles and case studies on nonprofit marketing) to get the free report on publication in mid-Sept.

Nancy Schwartz in Blogging for Nonprofits, Nonprofit Communications, Social Media | 1 comment

Make it Easy for Bloggers to Cover Your Org -- UpdateUpdate: May 2, 2008

I registered at the WE site and received an email confirmation, but not untill the next day. I would have loved to hear from them within an hour (easy to do with an auto-responder) while they were still on my mind. Lost opportunity for WE.

One more suggestion for WE — the email I received was 100% generic, not reflecting any of the infromation (beat, interests, other sources) I submitted to them. I wish the org had taken the same kind of time I did to customize its response.


Just do what the WE Campaign does in its online press room, a model for nonprofit press outreach and one you can follow for your nonprofit, even if you didn’t just launch.

1) Reach out to bloggers along with the traditional press. I’d include social media folks (who talk about you on Facebook, YouTube, etc.) as well but this is a good place to start.

2) Make it easy. Get a sense of press/bloggers interests plus contact info. Then let them know when there’s relevant news.  The WE Campaign asks bloggers for basic contact info (email, name, blog name and URL), frequency of posts, topics covered, news sources, political orientation, take on the Campaign’s mission and an open-ended response on how WE can help. This a great way to build relationships with the folks that matter most, but WE should do the same for other press as well.

3) Offer other means of staying in touch. WE invites press to subscribe to email distribution of its press releases and to a "releases plus" feed via their blog readers.

4) Follow up. Nothing’s more annoying than a great system never implemented. The jury is still out on the WE Campaign. I submitted my info last week and am waiting to hear. I’ll let you know when I do.

Any other ideas for nurturing relationships with the right bloggers? Please share your strategies in Comments below.

Learn more about crafting a satisfying online press room here.

Photo by Steve Rhodes.

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Nancy Schwartz in Blogging for Nonprofits, Media Relations and Press, Nonprofit Communications | 2 comments

Just Logged Reader 100,000 this MorningI’ve been blogging for a fantastically fun (albeit labor-intensive) 19 months now, and just hit my 100,000th reader. Here’s my very first Getting Attention post.

At this point, I just couldn’t not blog. It’s food for my intellect and creativity, and keeps me up on all the stuff I need to parse as context for nonprofit communications clients. So Getting Attention is a huge benefit to me, as well as (I hear) to nonprofit marketer readers.
If you think it has value, I’d love you to spread the word to friends and colleagues in the field.

Thanks to all of you for reading, commenting and sending your words of thanks and support. Your feedback means the world to me.

All the best,

P.S. Make sure you don’t miss a post by subscribing to via your blog reader, or via email. Do it today at top right of the blog home page.

Missing out on the Getting Attention e-newsletter? Subscribe now for in-depth articles and case studies on nonprofit marketing.

Nancy Schwartz in Blogging for Nonprofits, Getting Attention, Nonprofit Communications | 0 comments

As a card-carrying member of the Nonprofit Blog Exchange, I’m periodically introduced to a new (and usually top-grade) online resource for nonprofiteers, and asked to introduce it to my readers. it’s a great way to extend my knowledge of what’s out there, as well as to build my own community of colleagues.

Today, I’m pleased to introduce you to Jason King‘s Nonprofit Web Design blog where this UK-based Web strategist and developer shares his insights on planning, sourcing, designing and editing nonprofit Web sites. Jason has lots of value to say, but I was struck by his guidance on managing prospective volunteers to develop and manage your nonprofit Web site. Here are Jason’s key recommendations:

  1. Clarify that your organization owns the site and all its pieces: Ensure that the charity has ownership of the domain name and the hosting account, retain all passwords, and make clear to the volunteer that you own content copyright. Confirm in a brief, written contract.
  2. Make sure you know what’s going on at all times: Volunteers tends to come and go, no matter how dedicated. Ensure you know all passwords and where the project is at all times.
  3. Assign Web work with success in mind: Assign volunteers to tangible, short-term projects that can be completed when they’re not working and within a finite timeframe. Volunteers don’t mix with huge projects or urgent deadlines.

You’ll get more useful Web guidance from Jason here, including some gruesome site development horror stories from UK nonprofits.

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Nancy Schwartz in Blogging for Nonprofits, High-Impact Websites, Nonprofit Communications, Volunteers | 0 comments

Bob's Blog Strikes a Chord -- California Endowment President Blogging with Great SuccessDr. Robert K. Ross, president of The California Endowment (a powerful influencer in the health care reform and philanthropy world) is blogging and blogging well. Unlike most CEO bloggers, Ross knows how to say it straight, and briefly. Here are a couple of the qualities that make him such a great blogger:

  • His relaxed, conversational tone and writing style: Ross writes exactly to the medium; a must many nonprofit leaders can’t muster. If your leaders can’t relax in posting, then forget blogging.
  • His framing of professional insights in the context of his own experiences, so readers get engaged by the story and learn from the insights.
  • His comfort with engaging audiences, rather than following the traditional command and control model.
  • The interesting stories he has to tell about how the Endowment is helping solve problems in the health care system, and lessons learned along the way.

My only recommendation to Ross is that he blog more frequently than once a month. Posting once weekly is the minimum required to nurture regular readers. If you can’t deliver, you should question whether your nonprofit CEO should be blogging at all.

P.S. I’m not surprised that Ross blogs so effectively. The California Endowment team members are true strategic communicators, parsing each channel for possible application as it comes down the line. They’ve put Ross’ relaxed tone and insightful comments to work perfectly in his blog, which is a powerful complement to a host of other communications channels, each used to its max. For example, California HealthSpeaks is an ongoing podcast series covering key issues in the field, and a key component of the Endowment’s multimedia newsroom.

P.S. Here are more nonprofit CEO and university president bloggers.

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Nancy Schwartz in Blogging for Nonprofits, Nonprofit Communications | 3 comments

Push Through Fear of SEO to Boost Your Nonprofit's Online Marketing ResultsWas I glad to see Katya Andresen’s guide to search engine marketing 101(aka search engine optimization or SEO) in the most recent Network for Good e-news. Your focus on search engine positioning is critical for ensuring your audiences find your organization or program online (by making sure you show up as high as possible in search results on relevant keywords and phrases), but it’s a seemingly complex strategy to put into play. As a result, many nonprofit communicators avoid SEO like the plague.

Let me share a story: A few weeks ago, I led a workshop for 25 sharp nonprofit communicators on Writing for the Web. In addition to covering the "usual suspects" (casual tone, direct and succinct style, using storytelling to show rather than tell), I briefly reviewed basic SEO. And, although the guidelines I proposed were definitely baby steps to getting started, I was met by a roomful of blank stares — some fearful, others just not interested.

Here’s why you have to be interested in SEO:

Let’s say you are a small AIDS prevention nonprofit in Boise, Idaho.  It’s December 30, and several Boise residents have logged onto Google to find a charity for a…donation/last minute tax deduction.  It’s likely that potential donors will do a Google search for "boise aids charity."  But if your nonprofit doesn’t pop-up near the top of the search results, these donors may never find you.

Luckily for me, there were a few nonprofit SEO experts in the room who helped me talk down their peers from the SEO ledge, and translate what seems to be a very  daunting  path of entry into this so important marketing strategy.

Now in today’s article, Katya clearly outlines the steps to take for using Google Grants, Google’s free-to-nonprofits SEO program. It’s a no-lose, all win investment of a very  brief amount of time (to research which keywords will  capture the most viewers for your nonprofit’s  listing), so jump in today. Really. Today.

Thanks too to Katya for pointing to Dave Davies’ 10 Steps to Higher Search Engine Positioning, a very concise guide to what’s called "organic SEO" — how to write and design your site copy, headlines, title tags etc. so that the site or blog is search engine friendly.

I urge you to step down from the SEO ledge. SEO will boost your nonprofit’s online marketing big time. Use it for all it’s worth, and keep it powered by using Google Dashboard or another site/blog analytics tool to track which keywords and phrases site visitors are using to find you, adjusting your strategy as indicated.

P.S. While you’re thinking Web site, here are some additional strategies for Shaping Your Nonprofit Web Site to Generate the Actions You Need.

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Nancy Schwartz in Blogging for Nonprofits, High-Impact Websites, Nonprofit Communications, Web 2.0 | 5 comments

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