PART II: STARTING AND DEVELOPING A SUCCESSFUL NONPROFIT BLOG

By James D’Ambrosio

(This is the second in a series on nonprofit blogging)

Building on last column, I’ll move on to the next steps in preparing to post that first article. Before you do, it’s important to create the necessary informational and technical infrastructure that will give your blog a true professional look and feel.

KEY ELEMENTS OF A PROFESSIONAL BLOG   

 ♦ BLOGROLL: A blogroll is a list of links to other blogs on the Internet with related content. This serves two purposes: a) it shows you’re interested in meeting the informational needs of readers; and b) it keeps your blog ‘sticky,’ giving visitors another reason to stay on your site after reading an article.  To accomplish this, scour the Internet and review content of blogs similar to your focus. Begin with 6-8; you can always add more later. I’m gradually expanding my list (see left sidebar). 

♦ A PROFESSIONAL PHOTO: Provide a professional-quality photo of the primary blogger and insert it into each post. This literally ‘puts a face’ on your blog and helps readers relate with you as a person. 

♦ PAGES: A good blog provides background and context. Include a “Biography” or “Bio” page with 2-3 paragraphs about the author’s professional background and some information about outside interests. Also create an “About” page — a few paragraphs discussing what you’ll write about, why it’s important, and how often you’ll post. Also add your photo to this page. (Review the pages at the top of the screen.) 

SUBSCRIPTION BUTTON: Make it easy for readers to access posts with a sign-up button: when visitors enter their e-mail and subscribe to your blog, they will be notified each time you post new material. WordPress helps you create this. (Note sign-up button on right). 

SHARING BUTTONS: Adding sharing buttons after each post — LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, StumbleUpon, Digg, etc. — allows  readers to promote your articles across the Internet. While you’ll need to do your own promotion — a subject I’ll discuss in Part III — let readers extend your reach to a wider audience. 

_________________________________________________________

A BOOK TO HELP: The above tasks require a certain amount of technical knowledge and ability. If you’re planning to use WordPress, I recommend “WordPress: Visual Quickstart Guide” that walks you through the process with screen shots and detailed information. I found it very helpful when I was getting started. A new second edition, due out October 22, is available from Amazon for $19.99: http://amzn.to/putna8.  

Following these steps will set you apart from others who may not understand the value of — or take the time to — provide these elements. As noted earlier, blogging is all about providing value to your audience. Do it consistently, and, over time, you’ll build a loyal readership.

___________________________________________________________

QUESTION TO READERS: Anything you would like to add? Something else you think can help others?

STARTING AND DEVELOPING A SUCCESSFUL NONPROFIT BLOG (PART I)

By James D’Ambrosio

(This is the first in a series on nonprofit blogging)

Blogging consistently for nearly a year, I’d like to share some of what I’ve learned to help nonprofits interested in starting a blog of their own. There are more than 200 million blogs on the Internet. But quantity should not be confused with quality:creating a successful blog involves advance planning: thinking through the purpose, audience, goals, technical aspects, etc.

IMPORTANT CONSIDERATIONS BEFORE STARTING A BLOG

♦ WHAT DO YOU WANT TO BLOG ABOUT? Spread word of your agency? Comment on industry trends? Share your knowledge and expertise? Discuss issues related to your cause? The answers will help focus your efforts and provide an initial outline. Whatever your focus, develop 10-12 solid ideas for posts before starting. This way, you won’t struggle with content while learning other aspects of blogging. 

WHO IS YOUR AUDIENCE? Do you want to connect with potential donors and volunteers? Other nonprofit professionals? Individuals working at similar agencies? Elected officials? All of the above? Deciding in advance will help streamline content. Whoever you’re targeting, provide relevant ideas and information that your audience w0uld be interested in and can use. This will help position you — and your agency — as an expert/industry leader, a valuable asset. Of course, you should post some information about agency initiatives. Just don’t overdo it — you don’t want to be viewed as overly promotional. Leave detailed information for marketing materials. 

WHO WILL WRITE AND MANAGE IT? A good blog requires a consistent commitment over an extended period of time. Select a regular schedule for posting and stick to it — 1x week, bi-weekly, monthly, etc. For me, posting 3x per month — about every ten days — was a good fit. Make sure whoever authors posts has the time to keep at it. This is important: If people visit your blog and the latest entry is four months old, you won’t be taken seriously. You also need time to respond to comments. Every comment should be acknowledged. After all, people invested time reading and providing input. Make sure that effort is recognized.

DO YOU HAVE THE TECHNICAL SKILLS? There’s more to blogging than posting articles. You need a basic understanding of how a content management system works and blog terminology: a) the difference between pages, posts and links; b) managing settings; c) replying to and tracking comments; d) creating an appropriate look and feel for the home/landing page; and e) adding links to relevant resources.

While not terribly difficult, basic knowledge will avoid technical frustrations and delays. Personally, I use WordPress for this blog and recommend it. It’s free, user-friendly, and helpful guides are readily available (visit http://www.wordpress.com). If you’re willing to spend a little money, you can purchase a specific domain name for branding purposes (I purchased my first and last name). 

POLICIES/TERMS OF USE: Before starting this blog, I retained an attorney specializing in cyber law. I wanted to spell out — in correct legal language — the nature and purpose of the blog and expectations for readers and commenters (click Policies & Terms Use above). I learned early in my career that we live in a very litigious society and a small investment in protecting yourself and your agency makes sense. Remember: Once you post an article, it lives on the Internet — likely indefinitely — and can be accessed  by millions worldwide.        

_________________________________________________________________________________________

QUESTION TO READERS: What do you think of these suggestions? If you already have a blog, did you consider these issues before starting?

%d bloggers like this: