Deciding to start a blog is no minor feat. In fact, if you’re ready to set one up, I’m sure you’ve debated whether or not your nonprofit should have a blog in the first place.
If you’re reading this post, I’ll assume you decided to take a shot at a blog. Well congrats! Blogging can be a lot of fun. But it’s also a lot of work. It’s my hope this post will help lay the foundation for your nonprofit to have a successful blog.
When you’re first starting out, it can be helpful to ask yourself the following questions.
1. What’s the Point of Your Blog?
Before ever putting pen to paper (because “finger to keyboard” hasn’t really caught on as a saying) it’s important to figure out the point. What do you hope to gain from having a blog? You’re not simply writing for the sake of writing. What do you hope to accomplish?
Asking such a question will help identify the purpose of having a blog. It can also help influence some of the decisions you make about your blog.
Here are a few sample purposes, but yours may be totally different:
- “We want to share the impact we’re having in the community we serve.”
- “We want to raise awareness around our volunteer opportunities and events.”
- “We want to attract new supporters to get involved in various ways.”
Identifying a purpose will also help you ultimately measure the success of your blog. As sexy as they seem, keep in mind pageviews are simply a means to an end. It doesn’t much matter if people read your blog if it doesn’t produce any tangible benefit for your nonprofit.
You should be measuring the success of your blog with metrics that align to your purpose for starting it. For instance, if your goal is to attract new supporters, you’ll likely want to measure the number of new donors and volunteers that entered your website through your blog.
2. Who Do You Want to Read Your Blog?
Once you have a purpose, it’s time to identify the audience. Who are you writing for? Be as specific as you possibly can. Your focus on an audience will have an impact on:
- Tone: You’ll want to write your posts with your audience in mind. You’ll probably use a different tone to engage teens as you would to connect with doctors.
- Topics: To drive interest, you’ll need to choose topics that are likely to resonate with your audience.
- Promotion: Knowing your audience can help you promote your posts in ways that are likely to resonate with them, ultimately driving more traffic to each post. For instance, a Tweet from Justin Bieber will probably get you further with middle schoolers than it will with politicians.
Whenever you’re making a decision, you can think about what a stereotypical member of your audience would want to see. Catering to such an imaginary community member, while perhaps a bit bizarre, can help you make decisions that benefit your target audience.
3. What Questions Do Your Readers Have?
This step is huge.
This step is where your nonprofit’s blog will start to take shape. Once you’ve identified the audience for your blog, it’s time to really dive into the minds of these imaginary audience members.
Think about what questions people often have (or may potentially have) about your organization. These questions will ultimately form the basis for some of your first blog posts. Don’t worry about grouping them or judging them at this point. There’s plenty of time to do that later.
Come at these questions from different angles. For instance, what questions might someone ask about:
- Your organization?
- The community you serve?
- The impact you’re having in the world?
- How to get involved with your organization?
- The type of work you do?
- The people that work for your nonprofit?
- The city you’re working in?
- The relevant legislation that impacts your organization or your community?
I’m sure you’re asked questions all the time about your nonprofit. Write them all down at this point. And come up with as many as you can. The more you think of now, the better foundation you’ll lay for later.
4. How Can You Group These Questions?
It’s now time to start grouping the questions you just finished writing. These groupings will eventually form the categories for your blog.
Think of categories as the table of contents for your blog. They’re the big, broad subjects that you’ll write about often. We’ve written before about making blog categories useful, but here’s a quick overview:
- Make Categories Descriptive: A reader should have a good idea of the type of content to expect in a category without much explanation.
- Cut the Jargon: Don’t fill your categories with jargon. If your reader doesn’t know what a category means, it does them no good.
- Limit the Number: The point of categories is to help a reader find content they’ll likely find interesting. They don’t do much good if you have 30 of them and your readers have to hunt for something relevant. There’s no magic number, but the fewer the better (we try to limit it to under 10 if possible).
- Avoid Overlap: You wouldn’t have two chapters in a book that are remarkably similar. The same holds true for blog categories. Make them different enough so as not to confuse your reader.
- Never Use “Uncategorized”: Some blogging platforms set the default category to “uncategorized.” You should change this to something like “Miscellaneous.” It helps your blog look more polished. We’ve written a tutorial on how to do so in WordPress.
- Think Long-Term: The goal here is to come up with the backbone of your blog – categories you’ll be able to fill with content well into the future. When you create a category, make sure you’ll be able to continue to produce content within that category in the long run.
Once you have your categories outlined, try to avoid the urge to create new ones as you write fresh posts. It’s okay if you must in rare circumstances, but your posts should fit your categories, not the other way around.
5. What Specific Topics Are You Writing About?
So you’ve outlined the broad subjects that are forming the categories. Now dive into the specifics. What recurring specific topics are you seeing in your list of questions?
These specifics will become the tags that you use on your blog. To continue the metaphor started above, if categories are your table of contents, tags are the index in the back of the book. Readers will use your tags to reference a very specific piece of information within your blog.
For example, we have a category for Social Media, but individual tags for Facebook and Twitter. If someone is looking for general info on using social media, they can use the category to browse. If instead they’re looking for tips on using Facebook specifically, they can use the tag to drilldown to information more likely to match their interest.
6. How Often Can You Reasonably Publish?
Alright, you’re almost ready to start writing. But first, take a deep breath. It’s time to get realistic.
Before jumping into writing, be honest with yourself. How much can you really write? Chances are blogging isn’t your full-time gig. Maybe you’re pulling marketing and development responsibilities, helping plan an upcoming event, coordinating some volunteers, prepping the upcoming newsletter and running all those social media accounts.
Don’t commit to writing daily blog posts if you won’t be able to do it (or do it well). Publishing one good post a week is fine. It’s much better than publishing daily for two weeks and then taking a three-month hiatus.
Start with something you’ll be able to maintain. You can always up the frequency later.
7. How Will You Promote Your Posts?
I promise you can start actually writing after this one.
You’re not writing for yourself though. That’s a diary. You need to drive potentially interested people to your blog. In this regard, a bit of forethought about promotion can go a long way.
Tap into the channels you already have established. Maybe you’re huge on social media. Or you have a great email newsletter. Or a wonderful, engaged base of donors. Use these all to drive targeted traffic to your blog.
And now my friend you are free to write. Pick a few topics and write ‘em up. As you do, revel in the fact you’ve planned what you’re doing and are ready to successfully roll out a blog that will help your nonprofit do more of the good stuff you’re already doing in the community.
Have you started a blog before? Did you plan ahead or jump right in? Did you ask yourself any other questions before diving into the writing? Or can you think of others you’d suggest? I’d love to hear your experience and thoughts in the comments.