Greetings!  I would like to welcome back guest author Joanna Miles. Joanna is a marketing consultant at Beaconfire, where she works with clients to create successful fundraising campaigns and online communications, and uses analytics to help engage users online.

Beaconfire helps nonprofit organizations that serve good causes accomplish great things on the Internet by designing and building Web sites and crafting online campaigns that make people care – and act.

I’d like to thank Jo for sharing her time and knowledge with our readers!  Please check her site out!

Your nonprofit doesn’t need a blog

Blogs may no longer be as trendy as Twitter or FourSquare, but they’re still on that list of social media “must haves”. If your nonprofit doesn’t have a blog, someone probably thinks you should.

It’s possible that they’re right; a good blog can be a real benefit to an organization, giving you a strong voice and a controlled channel to converse with your supporters.

But not all blogs are good.  A bad blog — one that’s rarely updated, where the content is full of marketing gimmicks or spam runs wild in the comments — can do you more harm than good. If you can’t put real effort into maintaining it, it will make you look lazy, and could even hurt your reputation.

Don’t get me wrong. I love blogs. But I love  good content even more, and a blog without good content isn’t much of a blog.

Before you take the plunge in starting your own blog, consider what you’re getting into. If you can’t answer “yes” to almost all of these questions, a blog may not be the right channel for you, at least not right now.

Will one person be in charge of updating it? If you don’t have a staff member who’s excited about it, and has the expertise to maintain it (or at least the will to learn), your blog may languish without attention. They don’t need to do all the writing (in fact, a blog may work best with many writers from across your organization), but someone needs to run the show.

Can you update often? You don’t need to post every day, or even every week, but any blog needs regular posts to draw readers. If posts are few and far between, readers will lose interest. If you don’t have staff with time to devote to blogging (and a manager to oversee the schedule), along with a steady stream of potential topics, you may not be able to maintain the volume you’d like.

Do you have good content to post? A blog is a great place to tell stories and share news that don’t fit into your other communication streams. But if all your best content goes to your email newsletter, or (worse yet) you face a monthly struggle to identify good content for your emails, then a blog is just going to compete, and will likely take second place.  Without compelling and unique content, geared towards your blog’s audience, you might as well be recruiting those readers straight to your email list.

Do you have an audience in mind? At the outset, you should have an idea of who will read your blog, and what it will add that they don’t get from your other communications. It could be a demographic group. It could be core supporters who want to know more about what you’re up to. It could be other bloggers. But it should be someone.

Will you allow comments? Blogs, like any social media, are about conversations. But plenty of nonprofits don’t allow comments on their blogs. Sometimes there are good reasons, but more often, comments are blocked out of fear of negativity.  Without commenters, a blog is a one-way news stream. In that case, why bother with a blog? Why not just update a news section on your website?  Comments, both positive and negative, generate energy around your cause and give legitimacy to your voice. You’ll certainly need to develop guidelines, and take the risk that negative voices will seek you out on your blog… but if you can’t take that risk, then your blog isn’t really a blog.

Will you monitor comments? On any blog, you’ll find good comments, boring comments, unflattering comments… and junk.  It’s usually a good policy to allow and engage with commenters who disagree with you, but it’s always necessary to set some standards.  There’s nothing more unprofessional than a slew of spam comments on each of your posts.   Even comments from “real” people should be removed if they are irrelevant or vulgar.  A spam filter will take care of most of the problems, but you still need to pay attention – encouraging the good commenters, engaging the controversial ones, and shutting out the truly unwanted.

Will you promote your blog? The main reason for writing a blog is (presumably) to have readers. How will you bring readers to you?  A message to your email list might be an obvious first step, but promoting your content in an ongoing way – by highlighting popular posts on your homepage, integrating blog content into your email stream, tweeting your favorite posts – will help your readership grow.  How can you encourage your colleagues to promote and take advantage of the blog in their own work?

Posted on 26 April 2011

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