The following is an excerpt from Chapter 7 of Heather Mansfield’s book Social Media for Social Good: A How-To Guide for Nonprofits.
Thanks to the social Web, there is no shortage of possible topics for your nonprofit to blog about.
From 10-paragraph editorials to two-paragraph commentaries on breaking news, when you use the ideas given here, you should have no problem publishing the required minimum of one blog post per week (less than that and your blog starts to look abandoned).
The more high-quality content your nonprofit blog publishes, the higher your return on investment. So mix it up. Post a wide variety of blog content and have some fun with it.
Finally, remember that blog posts make great content for e-newsletters. Definitely integrate your blog posts with your e-newsletter.
1. Share and comment on breaking news
One of the more effective ways to generate buzz and traffic to your blog is to tap into the breaking news cycle. If a news story is breaking when you get to work in the morning, and it is related to your mission or your programs, write up a quick two-paragraph summary of or commentary about the breaking news story, add a link to the original source, and then distribute your blog post to your communities.
People are more responsive and likely to share your blog post if its subject matter is related to a breaking news story. Most nonprofits distribute the original source of the story to their communities (The New York Times
, for example), but while that is generous, it does not help build the nonprofit’s brand recognition, e-newsletter list, or social networking communities; rather, it builds those of The New York Times
Be careful not to become a breaking news spammer by overusing this strategy, but you will discover that some of your most trafficked blog posts will be related to breaking news.
2. Post calls to action
Often tied to breaking news stories or internal developments at your organization, a blog post calling for action is often well received. A call to action can be an urgent donation pitch, a request to sign an online petition, or a call for volunteers. It’s amazing what your supporters will be willing and able to do for your nonprofit if you just ask.
3. Share stories, photos, and videos from events
You should regularly photograph and record videos at important events that your nonprofit hosts. A day or two after the event, write a brief blog post summarizing the event, with a Flickr slide show or YouTube video recapping the event. It’s also good to feature quotes from supporters who attended the event. Quite often, a good slide show or video will entice supporters to give priority to attending your next event.
4. Provide organizational updates
If your nonprofit is launching a new program or campaign, definitely write a blog post to share the news and summarize the new program or campaign’s goals. Your supporters will probably help to share the news and provide valuable feedback.
Organizational updates can also include announcements of conferences or fund-raisers, staff changes, or any recent awards or accolades your nonprofit has received.
It’s also a good idea that every time you launch a new social media or mobile technology community or campaign, you write a brief blog post and list specific ways in which supporters can participate. If you start using QR codes, write a blog post explaining how you will use them. If you launch a new TwitPic campaign, write about that, too. Again, you’ll be surprised by what your supporters will do to help your nonprofit online if you just keep them informed.
5. Share stories from the field
For nonprofits that have staff members or volunteers in the field, encourage them to send in reports with photos for blog posts. A first-person voice is best. Nonprofits that work in international development, disaster relief, or wildlife conservation often do this sort of storytelling in print materials and website articles, but it also works extremely well as blog content. Another idea is to have staff members send in reports from important conferences, meetings, or protests.
6. Interview experts
A 10-question blog interview with an expert in an area related to your nonprofit’s mission and programs can be interesting to your supporters. Interview a professor, government official, or esteemed professional, such as a scientist, social worker, activist, or artist. Be sure to insert and bold the questions in the blog post, keep answers limited to two or three paragraphs, and always include the expert’s photo.
The easiest way to conduct these interviews is through email or over the phone, but for the enterprising blogger with a penchant for journalism, in-person interviews provide the opportunity to get action photos and video interviews.
7. Allow guest bloggers to post commentary and share their expertise
Additionally, you can ask experts to write guest blog posts. Some will be too busy to take the time to write, but others will happily embrace the opportunity. Your role is to give them a word limit, a general theme, and a deadline, and to solicit photos. Since there’s always the possibility that a guest blogger will be a poor writer or controversial in her subject matter or tone, it’s best to ask experts who are already closely connected to your nonprofit.
8. Share resources and useful tips
Blog posts that share resources and useful tips are some of the most popular on the social Web.
For example, if you are a health nonprofit, write a post about foods that help lower blood pressure, or provide tips on how to exercise at home. If you are an environmental nonprofit, write about ways in which supporters can green their homes or garden without pesticides. If you are a nonprofit that works with low-income communities, write blog posts that share recipes for low-cost meals and energy-saving tips.
Newspapers and magazines publish these sorts of articles regularly because they generate buzz. There’s no reason why nonprofits can’t capture some of that buzz, too.
9. Solicit feedback and direction from supporters
When you are considering launching a new campaign or starting a new online community, go to the blogosphere for advice. Just be prepared to listen to people’s feedback.
Let’s say you are considering investing in a text-to-give campaign, and you are about ready to sign the contract. Before you do, write a blog post asking your readers if they have any interest in donating to your nonprofit via text, and why or why not. They will surely let you know, either through an onslaught of feedback or through a defining, all-telling silence. It cannot be stressed enough that your supporters are eager to be engaged and useful, but you need to open your nonprofit to their feedback and direction.
It’s also worth pointing out that if you can get your supporters engaged in a new program or campaign during the idea stage, they are very likely to assist throughout the launch and implementation stages as well.
10. Write numbered lists
Numbered lists are the most retweeted, “liked,” and shared blog posts on the social Web today. Some of the most successful blogs on the Web regularly publish blog posts with numbered lists, and once you start, you will quickly notice that these posts are becoming your most trafficked blog posts.
Some examples for nonprofits:
• “10 ways you can help fight poverty”;
• “4 reasons why the green economy is America’s future economy”;
• “10 tips to help you quit smoking”;
• “8 benefits of volunteering.”
Your nonprofit should set a goal of publishing a minimum of four lists per year, and it’s worth noting that these lists make great content for e-newsletters as well.
11. Highlight special donors, fundraisers, and volunteers
Blogs are a great platform for highlighting donors, fundraisers, volunteers, and other supporters through “of the month” posts. These posts help your nonprofit show appreciation to your most valuable supporters and create an incentive for other supporters to do and give more.
Though most of them won’t come right out and say it, many people appreciate public recognition for their contribution. It makes them feel special and important. These posts can also be very effective in e-newsletters. Keep them brief, include a quote or two from the person being highlighted, and definitely add his picture.
Heather Mansfield is the owner of DIOSA Communications and author of “Social Media for Social Good: A How-To Guide for Nonprofits.” She is the principal blogger at Nonprofit Tech 2.0.