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Digital Storytelling 101: Blogs

If you're reading this, then clearly this blog has already served some purpose in that it has brought you to this site. Depending on what I say now that you're here, I could share my story, give you some information, entertain you, draw you in to another part of the site...

Our theme for the month of June (which is almost here!) is "Sharing Your Story", and specifically how to share your story online. If this is a weak point for your organization, start with the foundation of a good website and email list before branching out. If you are ready to add more dimensions to your online presence, I'll be sharing some basic information and resources on different tools to consider. Today, I'll focus on blogs.

A blog is a great way to keep the content on your website fresh - or it can be your whole website if you are just starting off. If you're completely new to blogs, see this article for a basic explanation of blogs and RSS: Should Your Nonprofit Launch a Blog?

Should you start a blog? I found this list of pros and cons for nonprofits having a blog. Some of the points are focused specifically about WordPress - and even more specifically, nonprofits who are creating their online presence from scratch using a WordPress blog. Here are some of the more widely applicable points:

Pros:

  • You’ll empower your board members (or staff, or volunteers, or clients) to talk about why they love your cause and what it means to them personally. Donors tend to trust organizations that exhibit this sort of honest transparency. 
  • You will experience a spike in the number of visits (i.e. it brings more traffic to your website) and depth of engagement from your fans. 
  • Your blog will become a powerful way to attract new visitors – especially as the blog attracts more subscribers and commenters.
  • An increase in donations generally correlates with increased engagement.
  • You’ll be able to refine your nonprofit’s story over time through regular blogging.

Cons:

  • Even though measuring engagement is relatively easy, you’ll need to have someone consistently measure the effectiveness of your blog posts.
  • You’ll need to make a commitment to regularly update content on the blog. Even if you post only once a week, it’s still a task that will have to be completed – consistently.
  • You have to constantly come up with creative ways of producing fresh, engaging content.
  • You’ll have to be willing to respond to and manage comments on the blog. As with content creation, responding to comments on a blog takes up staff time and resources.
  • There may be difficult questions that require transparency. Once you start a blog, you’ll notice that in addition connecting better with supporters, you’ll also find a few critics.

In short: like anything else, blogging takes time. If you are willing to make the investment, however, there can be good payoffs - particularly in terms of increased engagement with your cause.

If you are starting a blog, be aware that it takes some time to build up a following, since you will need to get the word out and people are more likely to subscribe to your blog if you have a history of good content. Make sure to have an RSS button (that looks something like this: ) so people have a way to get updates from your blog.

#1 tip for starting a blog: read other blogs! This will give you a feel for what works, what you like and what is possible. Here is a list of good nonprofit blogs to get you started.

For more advice, see this blog post with more tips on blogging. You may even want to take a course to help you get started, for example Blogging for People who Should.

Lastly, remember that a blog is a work in progress and it's ok to experiment. This blog is a perfect example - I'm always trying out different things to see what people would find most useful (if you have any suggestions, feel free to share in the comments).

I'll continue this series with posts on other tools for digital storytelling at your nonprofit such as video and podcasts. I'm also open to requests - just leave a comment to let me know. To get updates from this blog you can check back to the website, subscribe to our RSS feed , or follow us on Twitter .