Should Your Nonprofit Launch a Blog?

What’s a Blog?

An abbreviation of “weblog,” blogs are websites that take the form of online journals, updated frequently with running commentary on one or many topics.

A blog is the absolutely easiest way to provide regularly updated information to your audiences. Because blog creation process is simpler than website creation or print design and production, blogs enable nonprofits to easily publish a stream of constantly updated, linked content. And search engines love fresh content.

Most blogs are directed towards external audiences and cover alerts, news clips, human interest stories and volunteers. What’s very distinct to blogs in the personal voice in which these stories are told.

Blogs usually feature:

  • Brief entries running one-three paragraphs in length.
  • One or more columns on the page, with new content added to the largest column.
  • Sidebars linking to other blogs, previous posts or other comments.
  • Updates added at the top of the blog, so that entries read in reverse chronological order. This approach makes it easy for readers to find the most recent content.
  • Lots of links within blog entries (to other blogs, websites, and articles in your e-newsletter, as well as audio and video files). Some blog entries also feature photos.
  • Frequent updates, with updating schedules from several times daily to two-three times each week.

Here are a few examples of nonprofit blogs:

  • Citizens League

What: Frequent updates to educate Minnesota’s citizens and motivate action on legislation.

  • Oceana

What: Reports from the field from marine biologists and conservationists around the world on the battle to save the oceans. Readers are invited to participate in the discussion by adding to the blog.

How to Put Blogs to Work for Your Nonprofit Organization

Here’s how you can put blogs to work for your organization.

  • Quickly summarize and point to other articles on the web that are relevant to your audience.
  • Include audiences (or selected audiences) in conversation on critical topics.
  • Invite experts in your field or issue area to contribute as guest bloggers.
  • Get timely information out without tech staff or web designers. You can even do “real-time” reporting from a conference, field visit or legislative session.
  • Cross-promote and re-use all the content you create for your website, print magazines and e-newsletter.

Here’s a nonprofit blog scenario:

An association of healthcare nonprofits uses their blog as a highly efficient means of communicating with its members. The membership staff posts three-five new entries daily, which range from quick announcements on members’ special events to multiple entries about sessions at the association’s recent conference. Using the blog, staff members easily get this info to members in minutes.

How to get audiences to read your organization’s blog

  1. Add your blog headlines to your organization’s home page.
  2. Syndicate your blog via RSS format.

When you syndicate your organization’s blog content (RSS=real simple syndication), readers can use a type of free software called a “news aggregator” to automatically retrieve the latest stories from your nonprofit and thousands of other sites and blogs. The news aggregator pulls your blog right down to your audience’s desktops so they receive blog entries without having to open their web browsers!

NOTE: The BBC has posted a great explanation of RSS.

3. Form a network with colleague organizations to run your blog headlines on their own websites, and vice versa.

Use trackback (a link back to the initial entry on which the current entry comments), commenting on other blogs and re-posting of other blogs’ key stories to strengthen your network and motivate audiences when important issues need attention (e.g. pending legislation).

Readers, I urge you to take a look at the blogs I mention above, and start talking with your colleagues about the blogs they read. Blogging is a vital complementary communications vehicle, and one for which you should know the pros and the cons.