Monday, April 21, 2014

Why should your nonprofit have a blog?

I look at a lot of nonprofit websites, Facebook pages and other online communication mediums while working on messaging or developing a grant narrative for clients. About half of them have a blog. After reading them, I sometimes wonder if they truly understand their audience, or the purpose of the blog
Business-related blogs today are not about posting a note about an up-coming event or a notice of a sale. There are too many short-form ways to communicate to use a blog for that reason.

Blogs today are a way to provide a way to keep customers or in the case of nonprofits, donors and supporters, interested in supporting your organization and recruit new supporters.

To do that you need to provide something that takes more than three seconds to read, and while there is an SEO (search engine optimization) element, good blogs are more than that.
Savvy for-profit businesses know that a good blog engages, educates and informs as well as selling something. The blog should integrate with another facet of the business.

For instance, a business selling safety equipment for homes might link to their blog from their product description page like this:

"Item Description: Home fire alarm. Do you know how long you have to escape a residential  fire?  Check out our blog(link here) to see how long you can safely stay in your house when a fire starts."

The blog post then goes into detail about how long you can safely stay in a burning room, why and how to escape and offers a link back to the product ordering page.

The blog post does two things. First it provides factual information that makes the purchase of the item they are selling seem imperative.  Second, it keeps the business name connected to the customer in a very personal way.

Nonprofit blogs usually don't seem to be written for the right reasons or the right audience.

I recently checked out a nonprofit blog for an organization that provides a type of monetary assistance for medical needs. The last few posts were all about how this or that legislation affected this organization, and it contained a lot of industry jargon and acronyms that only a health care-savvy insider would understand. Yet, on their SM page they were complaining that they were having trouble getting their message out. Other than the URL, the nonprofit name, mission and  program title wasn't mentioned in the blog.

The audience I would think they would be interested in is one that can use their help or support their mission, but they seemed to be writing to effect some sort of political change at best, or just complaining to the world in general at worst.

Perhaps a more useful approach would be to engage donors by explaining how their support could provide X dollars for Y medicines or medical devices.  Or, they could engage their potential beneficiaries by offering information on support groups that they work with to reduce medical costs, or show how much their help had increased access to care or equipment. Even better, they could have done the occasional in-depth feature post about a person they had helped.

The point is, there was no reason for someone to engage with them vs.some other nonprofit.

If I was a donor looking for background on them, I might worry that my contribution would be used to lobby for something, or that the organization was about to go under because of the legislative pitfalls they described. That's not a good message to send.

Good blogs bring good results. Think about what outcome you want your blog to have, and write it for the right audience. Don't assume that they know all about you. Offer them some reason to remember you, and to connect with you regularly.

 Don't be afraid to have some length to the posting if the topic warrants it. Most of the blog posts I write for clients are from 350 to 800 words.  If you'd like a free review of your blog, send me an email.  Let's make your blog a truly effective outreach medium. 

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