The following blog post recaps Marlene Oliveira's webinar presentation, Planning a Nonprofit Blog You Can Manage, into two parts. Part one discusses planning a blog, while part two focuses on executing that plan. You can watch the full webinar here.
Many nonprofits want to start a blog, but their staff are often balancing multiple roles and don’t have the resources to regularly maintain one. However, blogs bring many benefits to nonprofits, and with a strategic approach you can manage a blog with minimal time and resources.
You may have doubts, but it is possible; Marlene Oliveira runs her Nonprofit MarCommunity blog as a side project. She has no staff and a minimal budget, and yet she’s able to balance her Nonprofit MarCommunity blog with her full-time work as a communications consultant at moflow.
In order to keep the MarCommunity blog running, it has to be streamlined. It took Marlene about a year to make the blog manageable, and now guest authors are coming to her and the blog is filling itself with content. Here’s how Marlene pulls it off!
Justifying the Time
Every blog needs to start with a clear purpose.
Why are you blogging? What is your goal? Why does it make sense for your organization? Your answers here need to be crystal clear, as they will help focus your efforts starting up your blog and help you when pitching the idea to your supervisor or board.
You should be able to articulate what your blog seeks to achieve in one simple sentence.
For example, TechSoup Canada’s blog seeks to provide “nonprofits with introductory- to intermediate-level content on technology tips and best practices”.
Similarly, Marlene’s Nonprofit MarCommunity blog seeks to provide “marketers and communicators working in the nonprofit sector with the insight, tools, and advice they need to deliver effective nonprofit marketing communications”.
The Benefits of Blogging
The main benefit of blogging is to attract high-quality traffic to your organization’s website. People visit your site to read up on a topic, and then potentially stay to learn more about your organization. It’s high-quality traffic because the audience your blog attracts are already engaged and interested in what you do - that’s why they clicked your link in the first place!
Kivi Leroux Miller’s 2016 nonprofit communications trend report said nonprofits believe their websites are their most important communications channel. And websites with blogs garner 55% more visitors than those without. That’s significantly more supporters and donors who could be drawn to your cause through your blogging efforts.
Blogs provide a way to report on your progress as an organization. You can post updates on your accomplishments or challenges, and even communicate your mission impact by telling stories with social truth.
Blogging can also be a platform to foster relationships with other organizations within your community by sharing their media as a way to show your support and establish your organization as a thought leader.
Your blog can be a measurement of success too; by using analytics and quantitative data, you can track how much traffic your blog is directly attracting. This will measure the pay off of your efforts and help you determine if the time you’re spending is justified.
Narrow Your Focus
Blogs work best with a narrow focus.
You need to have a specific target audience in mind to guide your content; there’s no shortcut here. If you don’t narrow down your target audience, you won’t be using your time effectively.
An easy way to outline your target audience is by creating what’s called a ‘marketing persona’: painting a picture of your ideal reader. Ask yourself this: if you could condense your audience into a single, ideal reader, who would they be? This line of thinking will help you identify what your blog should focus on.
Also consider many nonprofits have multiple audiences. Regardless, you have to start with one and then expand outwards. Keep it simple, and aim to achieve early success in focused areas before expanding.
How to Come Up with Compelling Ideas: The Spark Method
Marlene suggests the spark method for creating content ideas for your blog.
1. Define the subject area. Think of categories for your blog and choose 3-7 subject areas that it will address. For example, your blog could focus on accessibility, nonprofit communications and advocacy.
2. Select a few content types your blog will feature. Content types could be: external cause-related news, case studies, ‘how-to’ posts, leadership messages (could be round up posts of interesting insights from industry leaders), interviews etc. Be consistent with content types, because it will create predictability in your blog that will keep readers coming back.
3. Use your content types as frameworks for the posts you’ll feature to help guide the brainstorming process. For example, if you’re brainstorming for an interview post, you can start by making of list of who you’d like to speak to!
What’s a Realistic Publishing Frequency?
Your publishing frequency depends entirely on how much time you’re able to put towards your blog. Regardless of what that might be, you need to be realistic and think beyond the time it takes to write the blog post. For example, how much time will it take to promote it?
Predictability and consistency in your posting is the best approach. Readers should know when to expect new posts and should be able to expect a consistent quality level. This demonstrates commitment and reliability to your audience. Start with a low frequency; publishing a quality post once every two weeks will be more effective than posting every week with varying quality.
You Can’t Wing It!
We’ve all winged certain tasks in our professional lives when deadlines didn’t allow for sufficient preparation. And in most cases it worked out!
Unfortunately, blogging is not one of them. It requires pre-planning, no matter what - you can’t wing it. Here are two key processes that must be outlined before you begin to write.
Use an editorial calendar
An editorial calendar records what you're going to post about and when. This keeps all your planned content organized, and sets deadlines that will keep you on track.
Decide on a trial phase
Starting a blog and then quitting shortly after because you didn’t achieve initial success is a waste of your time. You need to give it a fair shot to truly determine whether blogging is a useful activity for your organization. Give your blog at least two-to-three months before deciding whether it’s worth the time investment.
Planning a nonprofit blog you can manage is crucial, but executing that plan is just as important. Read on with part 2 of our recap: Executing a Nonprofit Blog You Can Manage.