Question: I'm on the board of a river group and we've decided we want to start a blog to stay in touch with our members.  Do you have any advice about what to write about, how often to post and how to get more readers?

Answer: Starting a blog for your nonprofit is a great idea! Not only does it educate members and provide a way for them to stay updated on what your organization is doing, it can be a great advocacy tool and it can drive traffic to your website if people start expecting to see something new each time they go there.

The benefits of having a blog are many:

  • It provides a good way of providing up-to-the minute news to people who want it. Facebook and Twitter are also good for this, but blogs allow you more room to editorialize. I recommend using social networking sites and your blog in conjunction: always post your new blog entry on Facebook and Twitter as soon as you publish it.

  • It establishes your organization as an expert and a thought leader in your field. If you’re posting often, people will eventually hear about an issue and go to your blog to see what your organization thinks about it.

  • It creates content for other people: news sources, other nonprofits, individuals, etc. will share your information.

  • It builds a relationship—trust and rapport-- with your supporters and gives them an idea of who your organization is and what it stands for.

  • A good blog facilitates conversations and builds community.

But having a blog is kind of like having a house plant or a pet: you kind of have to take care of it once you have it. It’s great if you can update at least once a week, but the more often you update, the more impact it’s going to have.  Of course, it’s also really nice to have a consistency in the tone in the blog, and that can be achieved by having just one person or an established rotating group of people writing for it.

Another word about content: everybody needs an editor, and I recommend having someone in your organization read each post over to make sure it sounds good, but also to fact check. There’s nothing worse than getting wrong information out there, even if the error was an honest mistake.

As far as getting the word out about your blog, I suggest you herd people toward it every chance you get. When you first get it started, I suggest having a period of about 2 weeks where you post but don’t advertise, just to get all the kinks worked out.  When you decide it’s ready to launch, email your membership, supporters and colleagues with the news, post to Facebook and Twitter every chance you get, ask people to get the word out.  It might be a slow start, but don’t get frustrated: the quality of your blog will drive people there—it just takes a little patience.

And one last thing: make sure to put Google Analytics on your blog so you can track how many people are reading it, where they live, how they’re getting to it, etc.  That information will prove useful one of these days, and the service is free! 

Happy Blogging!