Nonprofits, Julie Moran Alterio reported in the May 29, 2006, Journal News, are "starting to tap into the power of blogs, podcasts, news feeds and social networking sites." The March of Dimes, Share Your Story, Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, and American Cancer Society are a few of the organizations that have embraced these new forms of outreach. GuideStar's own Bob Ottenhoff noted in the story, "Blogs are a great way for the nonprofit to talk about what they do and tell stories, which is always a great way to communicate."
Which led others of us at GuideStar to wonder: how widespread is blogging in the nonprofit world? Which led to the June Question of the Month: "Do you ever read or post material or comments on nonprofit blogs?" (Blog, by the way, is short for Web log, and individuals and businesses are posting them all over the Net. Enter blog into an Internet search engine, and you'll probably find at least one for every topic under the sun.)
The Few, the Proud, the BloggersIf GuideStar Newsletter readers are representative of the sector, then nonprofit blogging is in its infancy. Only 29 percent of participants said they blog. Asked what they liked about blogs, these readers cited, "like minded people" (anonymous participant); "information, community, insight" (Rob Johnston, Wilson Center for Social Entrepreneurship, Pace University); and "insight into what motivates people to pursue their mission with passion" (anonymous participant).
"Blogs are less static and more personal than a standard website," Laura Kaplus of the Cora L. Brooks Foundation stated. They need to be current, however: "Blogs are only good if there are new posts at least 3 times each week—current information. Program-providing nonprofits' blogs are great for feeling like you're visiting the organization, like you have more insight into their programs and mission. If part of their activities involves sending people into the field, you have a better idea of what they are accomplishing and how. ...Blogs are effective for quick, honest, personal reporting or reflections. Not only a good way to provide more insight and ideas to your public (including funders) but also with others in your organization (if you have a large organization)."
Blog, Blog, Who Has the Blog?Among the blogs Newsletter readers mentioned were:
- ALA (American Library Association)—enter "blog" in the search box to find the blogs on the site
- Gristmill Blog
- Mission Based Management (Peter Brinckerhoff)
- Raising More Money Weblog
The Many, the Equally Proud, the NonbloggersLack of time was the most common reason participants gave for not blogging. "Too busy to surf and read blogs. Small agency ED and chief bottle washer," one anonymous respondent explained. Another anonymous reader lamented, "I barely have time to respond to e-mail every day, let alone check out blogs that are often just personal rants and not that useful."
Several readers noted that they didn't know which blogs would be useful to them. As Chuck McClaugherty of the Environmental Education Council of Ohio wrote, "Too busy and not aware of good ones." Kerry C. Stackpole of Neoterica Partners commented, "Finding the 'right' blogs that match my professional interests is a significant challenge and having the additional time to then contribute is equally difficult." One anonymous participant spoke for several readers when he or she wrote, "Never encountered an NFP blog."
few anonymous readers questioned blogs' usefulness—"Think they can be harmful or misleading"; "Not aware of any good ones"—and one cited lack of technical savvy as well as time constraints: "No understanding of blogs—who, what when where how to find—not techy in touch with the latest, just techy enough to maintain—too small of a nonprofit to find time for blogs."
Volume, however, may not be the measure of success for blogs. As Bob Ottenhoff noted in the Journal News article, "There used to be a time when everybody read the same newspapers and watch the same TV programs. That's no longer the case." As mass media continues to decentralize, nonprofits may find it more important than ever to establish one-to-one connections with their constituents and supporters. Blogs may turn out to be an effective way to do just that.
Suzanne E. Coffman, July 2006
© 2006, Philanthropic Research, Inc. (GuideStar)
Suzanne Coffman is GuideStar's director of communications and editor of the Newsletter. Before she can even think of starting to blog, she needs to clean off her desk.