Starting a Nonprofit Blog

Deciding to implement a blog on your website is no minor feat.  When redesigning their websites, nonprofits are often faced with the decision of whether or not to include a blog.  We know blogs are trendy and popular.  But what are the concrete benefits that a nonprofit can hope to gain from incorporating a blog into its new website?

Before we tackle that, it’s important to point out the main knock against blogging.

Blogs Take Time to Maintain

A worthwhile blog takes a fair amount of time to manage.  According to Technorati, 40% of people that have a blog spend more than 3 hours per week blogging. That’s not to say I think a blog is a waste of time (we have an active blog we spend a lot of time on each week).  But in all honesty, at the end of the day what we think doesn’t impact the success of your blog.  Its success hinges on what you think.

Before rolling out your blog, ask yourself candidly “Do I truly believe the hours I’ll spend blogging each week are worth it?”  After reading this article, if you don’t feel it’s worth it to commit to putting in the time to try it out, I’d suggest you forgo a blog for the time being.  An inactive blog that lies dormant on your website can make your organization appear unresponsive and stale.  Such an appearance can negatively impact your ability to fundraise, get volunteers and garner support for your cause.  Few people want to support an organization that isn’t active.

But before you decide to throw out the blog, consider some of the benefits.

1. Blogs Help Drive Visitors Through Search

Perhaps the most widely touted benefit of incorporating a blog into your website is the benefit it can offer to your search engine optimization (SEO) efforts.  A blog can help boost your appearance in search engines in a few key ways.

Variety of Content, Variety of Search Terms

The variety of topics you can cover in a blog can help you drive a lot of search traffic you may otherwise not get.  The key here is to pick topics for blog posts that are related to your services but may target different aspects of your organization than the rest of your website content.

For example, let’s say you run a nonprofit in San Francisco that rescues stray dogs and helps to find them good adoptive homes.  If you’ve done sound SEO work, there’s a reasonable chance you’d rank well if someone searches “San Francisco stray dog shelter.”  But what about a search term like “best puppy food”?  There’s a good chance that people searching for “best puppy food” will be reasonably interested in the services you offer.  They may not need to adopt a puppy, but perhaps they’ll support your cause and donate.  They’re most likely dog people after all.  If you write a blog post about the best puppy food available, your post may start ranking for “best puppy food” and driving traffic from people that didn’t even know they were looking for an organization like yours.

Improve Rankings with Inbound Links

If your blog posts are providing value to your visitors, there’s a good chance you’ll eventually start getting people linking to your posts.  Search engines decide how popular you are (and factor this into how high you should rank) partially based on your inbound links.  While there is a lot more that goes into search rankings, having inbound links to your website definitely helps you rank higher.  And blog posts are much more linkable than something like your “About Us” page.

Newer Content Often Ranks Better

Understanding the impact of fresh content on SEO is pretty involved, but there’s research to support the belief that all other things being equal, in many cases fresh content will often rank better than old, stale content.  Since chances are you’re not going to significantly overhaul your “Contact Us” page on a regular basis, your blog is a great opportunity to routinely infuse fresh content into your site.  Cyrus Shepard posted a great overview on the importance of freshness over at SEOmoz if you’re interested in finding out more.

2. Blogs Help Hone the Way You Think About Your Nonprofit

There’s an old adage that in order to teach something, you must really understand it.  The same holds true for blogging.  Writing posts on topics related to your mission can help to shape the way you think about your mission altogether.  This is a phenomenon that blogger Marcus Sheridan refers to as “sharpening your sword.”  In order to provide valuable content, you’ll inevitably have to stay informed on what’s happening in your field.  You’ll also get a lot of practice explaining your mission and various aspects of your nonprofit in ways that are clear and understandable.  All of this will help you not only with blogging, but also in the way you think about and explain your organization to those interested in your cause.

3. Blogs Help Establish Your Authority

The internet is crowded.  Chances are there are other organizations, possibly even in your city that have a mission very similar to yours.  A blog can be a great way for you to stand out.

If you remain focused on providing value to your website visitors, a blog can help you to become regarded as something of an expert in your field.  Anyone can say they know a lot about a topic.  But a blog is a chance for you to prove to visitors that you actually know what you’re talking about.

For instance, let’s say you run a nonprofit aimed at conserving the wetlands of a particular region.  You could use your blog to discuss topics that relate to the wetlands, including legislation, climate change and development of surrounding areas.  You could write about the different animals and plants impacted by degradation of the wetlands.  You could cover what’s going on in the various agencies that regulate or have some impact on the wetlands. By covering a range of issues related to your organization’s mission you can prove to potential advocates, donors, volunteers and general supporters that you are knowledgeable and hopefully increase the likelihood they’ll support you in some capacity.

4.  Blogs Help You Connect With Others Interested in Your Cause

A blog can offer you unique opportunities to connect with people you may otherwise not connect with.  And you never know how these connections will ultimately impact your organization’s ability to serve its mission.  Blogs allow you to connect with people in various ways, including:

  • People leaving comments on your blog
  • People sharing your blog content through social media channels like Facebook and Twitter
  • People contacting you to follow up on a topic you discussed on your blog
  • People signing up for your email newsletter as a result of a blog post
  • People coming to an event or volunteering after reading your blog
  • People asking you to write a guest post on their related blog

Now, to be realistic, each and every post is not going to lead to a phone call resulting in a substantial donation.  But after a while you may be amazed to find out how your blog is working to help your organization further its mission in unforeseen ways.

5.  Blogs Help Share Your Organization’s Story

All the content on your website should tell your story in a compelling way.  But a blog is a great opportunity to show a side of your organization (and the people that make it up) that isn’t often told.

Show Your Nonprofit’s Impact

Chances are you have way more stories about your impact as an organization than you can reasonably put on one webpage.  These stories can make great blog posts.  You can show the concrete positive impact your nonprofit is having on an ongoing basis in the community you serve.

Cover Your Nonprofit’s Events

There’s a good chance most of the events you host don’t get a whole lot of media coverage.  Cover it yourself.  Take photos and videos from the event and craft a blog post.  Talk about the purpose of the event and what you were able to achieve.  Talk about what you’ll do differently next time.  Talk about ways that people who are interested in the event can stay involved or get in touch with your organization.

By covering your events, you can connect with people that either attended or wanted to attend and keep that connection going by suggesting next steps for them.  You can also show someone that stumbles across your blog that you’re active in the community and that they can get involved if they’re interested in doing so.

Show Your Nonprofit’s Personal Side

Your blog is a great opportunity for you to show off your nonprofit’s personal side that may not make it into your more traditional marketing.  Show your staff around the office or out in the field.  Give potential donors and volunteers a feel for the people behind the organization.

6. Blogs Help Show Donors, Volunteers, Supporters Your Nonprofit is Active and Effective

Blogs are a great way for you to show donors, volunteers and anyone else interested in your organization that you’re active.  You can also accomplish this in other ways like using social media and an email newsletter, but the nice thing about doing so on a blog is you already have them on your website.  Your site is likely the place they’ll decide to make a donation or sign up to volunteer.

Research on the various factors that influence individuals to donate showed that outside of financials, potential donors were most interested in finding information on a nonprofit’s “effectiveness” before deciding whether or not to donate.  A blog is a great opportunity to showcase your effectiveness for anyone that’s interested to easily see.

7. Blogs Help Create Shareable Content

It can be quite beneficial to have shareable content on your website.  Think of your website like a city.  And think of links to your website as roads leading into the city.  The more content you have shared across the internet, the more likely it is someone will take one of those roads to stop by your city.  Once they’re on your website, you can craft your story in a compelling way that makes them remember you and hopefully come back.

Another perk of creating regular blog content is you can use a lot of it in your email newsletter.  Doing so not only helps distribute the content you’ve created, it also helps to justify the time you’ll spend writing blog posts.

Does My Nonprofit Need a Blog?

The short answer is no.  You don’t need a blog.  And if you’re not willing to put in the time to maintain your blog it’s probably better not to have it in the first place.  But by forgoing a blog you could be missing out on a huge opportunity to stand out and engage with people that could become huge supporters of you and your cause.

Will everyone that comes across your blog donate to your cause or sign up to volunteer?  No.  But that’s okay.  Be genuine and create great content.  You might be surprised how far a few hours a week can take you.

Related Library Articles

The Benefits of Sending Nonprofit Email Newsletters

How to Get More Online Donations

Resources

2011 Blogging Statistics [Inforgraphic] – Right Mix Marketing

Blogging Stats Preview from Technorati – Social Media Today

5 Reasons Your Business Should Be Blogging – Social Media Examiner

SEO Benefits from Blogs – Top Rank Blog

Freshness Factor: 10 Illustrations on How Fresh Content Can Influence Rankings – SEOmoz

Image courtesy of Evan P. Cordes, Flickr

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