Monday, December 29, 2008

Nonprofit Blogging Tips from ProBlogger

Darren Rowse is known as the expert when it comes to blogging. He has several highly successful blogs, including one titled ProBlogger, that is dedicated to helping you blog better. He graciously gave me a few minutes of his time to answer two questions about nonprofit blogging:

1. What are your top 3 tips for nonprofits that blog?

I think the biggest challenge for most bloggers is developing a blog that is 'useful' to its readers (or potential readers). People tend not to subscribe to blogs unless they enhance their lives in some way or fulfil a need. So the challenge for a non profit blog is to find a need that THEY can fulfill in their potential readers. This might be a bit of a challenge (or at least take a little thinking) because many not for profit organizations are probably more used to thinking about how to appeal to people to offer help or fulfill needs that they (or their clients) have. So my first tip is to think really carefully about how your blog will provide value and be useful to people who you want to read it.

Two other quick tips:

Consistent posting - work out what you want to post about, how often you think you can manage to post, what voice you want to write in and try to stick to it. Most successful blogs develop a rhythm of posting that has a regularity about it. This means as a blogger you can get into the rhythm but it also means your readers know what to expect which can be good.

Get Interactive - one of the reasons blogging took off as a medium is that it's a highly interactive medium on a number of levels including between blogger and reader (via comments) and between bloggers (linking to one another, building upon what others are writing, commenting on each others blogs etc).

2. What do you think is the best way for nonprofits to make money while blogging?

Tough question - One thing that I'm pretty sure a nonprofit SHOULDN'T do is run advertising on their blogs. I think blogs are probably more effective to non profits for communicating what they are on about, finding people to support them etc. But if you start selling advertising you distract people from what you're on about as an organization.

The only real way that comes to mind for monetizing non profits would be to use them to direct people back to your other fundraising activities. In a sense the blog then becomes a way of building profile which indirectly helps raise money.


Peter A. Mello, Weekly Leader said...

There's never been a more important time for nonprofits to embrace social media and blogging in particular. Communicating with stakeholders has always been important and during a challenging economic period even more so.

Some good advice from Darren Rouse and great job in getting this for your readers.

While I agree that a nonprofit might damage its brand selling advertising, more importantly the organization would probably be generating taxable income which is another reason to avoid it. However, a nonprofit might consider seeking sponsorship for it's blog which should at least help cover its costs. This could be a small cost to a socially responsible local or regional business causing a significant impact for the nonprofit and community. Of course, the board should review all of these types of arrangements with the nonprofit's tax and legal advisers.

Just discovered Nonprofit SOS and enjoy it. Keep up the great work!

Candace Silvasy said...

Though I've actually parked my non profit, Spa4Diabetes, on my blog I am planning to have a separate blog for it once the site is finished. I know Darren said no advertisers, but my major corporate sponsors will definitely get a place on the site and blog.

I'd also like to add we ran our entire BlueBeauty initiative on World Diabetes Day from my current blog. We had over 50 spas in 5 countries participate. Thanks for the advice Darren.

Wayne John said...

Darren has earned the respect he has by being a leader to millions of bloggers, and I couldn't agree more with his advice on the advertising.

Considering the blog a satellite for social activities that help to drive traffic to your fund raising sites is probably the best approach you can take.

Like he said, consistent blogging and engaging your readers will help you drive traffic to other locations.

Nonprofit SOS said...

Peter- I completely agree. If the nonprofit is receiving compensation for the advertising it would likely qualify as unrelated business income.

Candace- I think there is a fine line between advertising and including sponsors on a blog. I think that Darren is talking more about blogs not including ads for services, amazon, etc. I think it would be ok to include a sponsor list, like a donor acknowledgement list, but not a bunch of ads for the sponsors.

Wayne- I completely agree and hugely appreciate Darren taking the time for a short interview.

Thank you for your comments!

frank said...

Nice tips Darren ...

There is such a huge hole when it comes to nonprofit blogging. I wish more 'large' nonprofit organizations would pick it up.

Here's 3 quick tips of my own:

1) Tell me more about what you do, but make sure you are being very personal/human and interacting with me

2) Tell me where you are. Meaning ... what do you have going on, what are you in to at this moment, how are you helping.

3) Help me know YOU. Meaning the people that work at the organization and the people who volunteer/support the organization. I want to be connected to the cause and people are the only ones that can do that. Especially if i don't have a personal connection through some other means (i.e. family member suffered from cancer)

There are so many NPO's out there doing great work. PLEASE blog about it!!


Emily W. said...

We have just recently started our blog, and the regular posting is, of course, quite a challenge. It's just one person managing the blog (me), and I have invited others to guest post, but I know the buck stops here. I have plenty to say, just not enough time to say it!

I think there is definitely value in a blog; the trick may be getting the support of your board and executive director (to "let go" of the illusion of control). I'm finding it hard to get visitors. But that will come--if we provide useful content and continue engaging our readers. Thanks for the tips!

Jen Chiu said...

This was great, thanks for sharing.

Do you know of any good examples of official blogs created by nonprofits?

The advice makes sense to me-- I'm just not sure that any nonprofits have done this successfully. Is it because nonprofits just haven't caught on? Or, do we need to re-think what it means to blog if you're a nonprofit?

Nonprofit SOS said...

Hi Jen,

I think nonprofits have caught on, I just think that many of them lack the capacity to take advantage of blogging as a medium to speak to their supporters. I give a few examples of nonprofit blogs in this post:

Jaapvtkruis said...

Hey there, great website, great articles!
We are a dutch NGO, and really try to let people participate in projects in developing countries through new media. Social networking, skyping, interacting.
Check it out, its full with video's. Unique project.

Maybe it can be interesting to write about ?

Jaap van 't Kruis
The Solotrekkers Foundation