Blogging for the Cause: Five Ways Nonprofits Can Use a Blog to Achieve Real Goals

Feb 18, 2011

It's a question many organizations grapple with: How do you ensure your blog is worth the time it takes your staff to produce it? For a nonprofit, especially one without a team of writers and researchers at the ready, the value question becomes even trickier. But, by investing a little energy into planning and nailing down some strategic goals for your blog, there are ways to transform it into one of your most valuable digital assets.

It's a question many organizations grapple with: How do you ensure your blog is worth the time it takes your staff to produce it? For a nonprofit, especially one without a team of writers and researchers at the ready, the value question becomes even trickier. But, by investing a little energy into planning and nailing down some strategic goals for your blog, there are ways to transform it into one of your most valuable digital assets.

1. Own Your Issues: Subtly shape public opinion by ensuring that your site has an answer to the public’s questions about key policies.

I might have called this one "Write for Google" — it's the same basic concept, but the payoff is much greater. A blog can be a good place to take a step back and explain — perhaps in the voice of an expert — what "racial profiling" or "health care reform" really means. This way, when people are actively trying to learn about these issues, there's a better chance they'll hear your side of the story.

Tip: To boost a page's performance, you'll want to link to it elsewhere on the site (using proper anchor text) and refer back to it again and again in future blog posts.

2. Send the Right Message: Teach new site visitors what you do, and why you do it.

If you're promoting your blog on your homepage, or elsewhere on your site, chances are good that a fair number of your casual site visitors will use it to form their opinion of what you do.

A blog can give you the space to put a human face on the value of your work, show off the kinds of people who support you, and demonstrate that you're a dynamic, open organization that cares about what its supporters are doing. Or it can make you look like an out-of-touch institution that only cares about its million-dollar donors. Make sure you're emphasizing the right aspects of your organization.

Tip: Photos tell the story better than words, and they take a lot less time to proofread.

3. Post for Links: Bring new people to your site — either through direct referrals or, later, through search engines.

It might seem counterintuitive to write so that other people write about what you just wrote about, but this is exactly what you want. It's incredibly valuable free media. A well-placed link on a notable website like TreeHugger can be far more valuable than a 20-minute spot on The Today Show — and these inbound links are crucial for any long-term SEO strategy.

So how do you get links? The simple answer is to produce great content: material that is unique, controversial, timely, thought provoking, or, if you can swing it, funny. But you shouldn't strive to be the new viral Internet sensation. Think broadly about which websites might want to link to your site, for any reason, and write for them. Use your unique brand clout, be creative, and try to appeal to new niche audiences — people you might not reach otherwise.

Tip: If you want links, you'll have to ask for them.

4. Write for Future Links: Make friends in the online universe.

Not every post is going to be a winner. Sometimes, a post can just link to another publication, one that might link back to you in the future. This lays the groundwork for some healthy back scratching.

If you need to choose between linking to The New York Times and linking to an opinion piece from a small but influential blogger, link to the blogger. Then let the blogger know that you linked to them — it'll ensure that your blog is on her radar.

Tip: Don't be afraid to pick fights. If you disagree with a notable voice in the online sphere, say so. A thoughtful back-and-forth is a great way to get attention.

5. Promote Your Actions: Send the right message about your organization, and get the word out about your work again and again.

To be clear: The blog should not become a press-release graveyard. But when you have big news or a new campaign, strive to repackage the concept again and again. The blog should offer fresh new ways to talk about what you want people to be doing: either by sharing user-generated content, allowing different staffers to write about how the work affects them, or giving occasional updates about significant milestones in the campaign.

Tip: Don't push it. If people aren’t responsive to your campaign-related blog posts, it may not be worth writing them — at least not in the same way.

 

Will Begeny is a Senior Content Strategist at Blue State Digital.