The Top 10 Nonprofit Blogging Tips
Guest Post by Claire Axelrad
I’m a huge blog booster for nonprofits. They drive folks to your website, inform them about your cause and get them actively engaged in what you do.
Of course, like any other strategy, you must execute thoughtfully and within the context of an overall marketing and fundraising plan. If you do this, your blog can become the engine that fuels the rest of your online donor messaging.
Here are my top 10 tips to get you started.
1. Think from Your Reader’s Perspective
Before posting content, ask yourself: will this blog post be useful to them?
You’ve got to be honest here. The fact that your organization won an award is not useful to your donor. The fact that they can win an award by engaging with you (e.g., playing a game, entering a contest, responding with a comment, etc.) is. The fact that you added new caseworkers to your staff is not useful. A list of “Top 10 Tips to Keep Seniors Safe” is. Ask your receptionist what questions s/he is most frequently asked. Answering these questions in your blog has the side benefit of not having to answer them over and over again.
2. Think of Topics that Serve Strategic Goals
Always answer the “why” question: why are you writing this post? Jot down the key takeaways you want your reader to leave with before you begin to write. The most likely reasons are (1) to increase awareness of your cause (and the urgent need for what you do) and (2) to grow your base of support.
Does a blog post that narrates the biography of your founder do this? Nope. What does? Generally posts that align with reader concerns are the most read. Piggyback on news stories that are likely top-of-mind for readers and also relate to your work. This has the side benefit of establishing you as an authority on a topic of relevance to many of your readers.
3. Write Like You Talk
Make your content conversational if you want it to engage folks. Read it out loud before you publish it. Feel free to break the rules of grammar you learned in middle school, and begin sentences with prepositions. Use contractions. Play with one word sentences. Loosen up and be real. People won’t read stuff online that’s above a 6th or 7th grade reading level. They won’t understand jargon. And they want to have a little fun; not read a term paper.
4. Show, Don’t Tell
You may think folks will swoon when you tell them you’re the “biggest,” “first,” or most “world class” organization doing what you do. Get rid of superlatives that make you sound full of yourself. Make it about the reader and the benefits they care about. Put your personality into your writing. If you’re cutting-edge and hip, show folks; don’t tell them (maybe tell a joke or make a cultural reference). Use donor-centric language rather than organization-centric language. Lose the words “we,” “our” and “I” and substitute “you.”
5. Be Specific, Not General
It’s tempting when you begin blogging to write about the broad topics your organization addresses like:
- Assuring justice for the disenfranchised
- Sending underprivileged youth to college
- Saving our green spaces
People can’t relate when problems are too big. Identify a specific problem and a specific solution. Then create a specific working title to focus your writing. For example:
- How to prevent seniors from illegal evictions
- A complete guide to saving for college
- Top 5 environmental benefits of green spaces
A working title doesn’t have to be your final title. It just makes writing your post easier because it prevents you from taking detours that distract the reader from what you hope will be their main take-away. You can make your title catchier later on.
6. Start with an Outline
Put in time up front to assure you’re making the points you want to make (but not too many). This will save you oodles of time later on trying to edit and pare down your article. Sure, a few brilliant writers can effectively write stream of consciousness. Most of us, however, just create verbal diarrhea. It’s a mess. And, as you probably already know, today’s readers mostly scan rather than read. If you give them a mess, they have no framework for scanning.
7. Link to Resources that Support Your Key Points
Blogs are great for establishing your authority and instilling trust in your readers. It’s super annoying when someone makes a claim like “1 in 4 children in our community are hungry,” without letting you know where they found that research. Adding links to other resources has the added benefit of saving you time and space. The folks who want to know more specifics can easily do so; those who don’t will not have to wade through all the data.
8. Edit the Next Day
Remove redundancies. Eliminate jargon. Take out excess adverbs and adjectives. Run a spell check. Break up big chunks of text. Use sub-heads, bold-face, color and images to draw the reader’s eye to your main points and make it easier to scan. Do it the next day, when you’re fresh and can look at your post from a different perspective.
9. Include a Clear Call to Action
Once you’ve published your post you want folks who read it to do something. What is it that you want them to do? How will your readers know what you want them to do? Too often blog posts end with a whimper. The reader gets all the way to the end, only to be left with that lead balloon feeling of “so what?”
Including a call to action will also increase your conversion rate (i.e., turn first-time readers into subscribers; turn ongoing readers into donors) and improve the return on investment for the time you put into crafting and publishing your post. Simple calls to action include:
- Subscribe to our blog.
- Comment on this post.
- Share this post.
- Please donate.
10. Publish Consistently
Consistency is key if you want to build a following for your blog. A content editorial calendar keeps you organized and on track. You commit to your blog having a consistent presence, so your audience can commit to looking for you and reading you. You don’t become one of those TV shows we all stopped watching because their schedule became so erratic we couldn’t remember when/where to find them.
It’s been said that those who fail to plan, plan to fail. Take these 10 tips to heart and you’ll succeed!
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About the Author
Claire Axelrad is a well-respected fundraising consultant, author and speaker and the founder of Clairification. She has over 30 years experience helping non-profits build cultures of philanthropy, not fundraising.
Photo Credit: Caleb Roenigk