This is part one of a three-part series on how you can get started with blogging. We’ll talk about getting started, blogging platforms, idea generation, and distribution channels in the series to help you get started with blogging.
As you know, having a blog is an incredibly effective way to tell your nonprofit’s story, connect with supporters, and gain exposure with new audiences. From SEO to establishing authority—there are numerous and very compelling reasons to write and maintain a blog. Then, why doesn’t every nonprofit have one? Setting it up isn’t the issue, not entirely – so let’s explore what is and what you can do about it to get moving!
Uncertainties around having enough time – or fear of not having items to post about can prevent you from getting started. Whatever it is, you need to figure it out –that’s step one. Spend some time figuring out whatever it is that’s blocking you — whether that’s time management, idea generation, or lack of information.
- If the fear of the unknown is deterring you, start a “test” blog that isn’t linked to your nonprofit so that you can demystify the blogging process.
- Read other nonprofits’ blogs and learn from the lengths of their posts, types of content, and general blog layout.
- Take a look at your schedule. How much time do you spend answering emails, responding to social comments, and searching for shareable content? See my post on time management and productivity to see if you can free up an hour each week to blog. And if you can’t, find someone who can.
Types of Content
Where content is concerned, you need three things: quality, variety and consistency. WaterAid (pictured below) is a great example: its blog posts are relevant, insightful, and varied. And beyond what’s shown, there are other types of content that works well for nonprofits, too:
- Digital storytelling — longer than the pieces you post to social media
- Success stories that inspire your audience to make a difference
- Create your own media coverage for fundraising events
- Guides and tutorials
- Case studies
- Book reviews and author conversations in your nonprofit’s area of expertise
If you’re looking to generate traffic and grow your reach, you need to be blogging about what your potential audience is interested in.
How can you sort that out?
Use the Google Adwords Keyword Planner to discover what people are searching for, and then blog about it. Let’s use WaterAid as an example: people may be searching for “How many people don’t have clean water?”, “Dangers of dirty water”, or “What countries don’t have clean water?” You would then want to address each of these queries in a blog post.
Ideas are more likely to come to you once you’re in the habit of blogging regularly. Try not to worry too much about this — anxiety will only give you a creative block. Keep a notebook or recording device on you at all times, so you don’t waste any ideas. You may also want to invest in speech conversion software like Dragon Naturally Speaking (nonprofit discount available) so that you can archive thoughts while walking the dog or preparing dinner.
Your most dedicated supporters and volunteers are an excellent source of experience and information. If you can convince them to write a post about their experiences volunteering, fundraising, or supporting your nonprofit, then their passion is likely to shine through and encourage others to do the same. Or if you’re unsure of their writing ability, interviews work well too.
I recommend sitting down as a team in a content meeting, looking at the calendar of industry events, holidays and internal events taking place. Based on these, do a rapid-fire session on all possible blog topics. For example, with Martin Luther King Day this past Monday, you can look into social justice, day of service, and equality for blog topics.
I highly recommend writing an outline of blogs in a bullet list format before fully developing it. This is my method for writing for consistent volume. It forces me to organize my thoughts and ideas before I dedicate a lot of time on writing an article. This system ensures that I only take on writing projects that I have carefully thought out and have enough material for. If I can’t break a topic into 5-6 sub-points, it is not a topic I can write 700-1000 words. It also helps with procrastination and writer’s block.
Once you have the outline, I recommend finding examples, other blogs and websites that you can link to and attribute. This step ensures that you are not writing about something that is already sufficiently written about. It also provides you with an opportunity to look for angles that are not covered and give generous credit to those who have already done the work. It builds more knowledge in the sector without creating redundant blogs and digital noise. An additional benefit is you increase visibility and build relationships with other bloggers and thought leaders when you quote and credit them.
Try to write each blog post the week before you plan on posting it. Many blogging platforms will let you store and schedule posts — to begin with, aim for one post per week, and increase this if you have time.
Keep a list of potential blog titles written down. I use Trello (affiliate link) for organizing my blog lists. I create a digital checklist and capture all my sub-points and resources in there. Anytime I see an article or resource for my pending blogs, I post them in that board. It keeps it neatly organized and contained for me for when I am ready to write. Trello syncs with mobile devices and has an excellent collaboration mechanism within and outside an organization.
And finally: Make sure your blog has both an RSS feed and a comments section so that people can follow and interact with your nonprofit.
Next week, we’ll be discussing the various blogging platforms, and helping you decide which to choose and why.
Have any blogging or creativity tips for nonprofits? Share them in the comments!
The preceding is a cross-post of the Social Media for Nonprofits January 22, 2015 blog post of the same title. Ritu Sharma is the CEO and Co-Founder of Social Media for Nonprofits, an organization committed to bringing social media education to nonprofits worldwide. She convenes thought-leaders and leading practitioners in the social media space in the unique TED meet Twitter style conferences in 14 cities in three countries. She speaks frequently around the world on a variety of topics in the nonprofit and social media spheres with a passion for effecting social change through social technologies. She writes a blog at the Huffington Post on the intersection of social media, social change and leadership. Follow Ritu on LinkedIn or Twitter @ritusharma1