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10 Ways Nonprofits Can Use Blogs and Bloggers to Support Their Cause
Blogs fall under the category of "social media" because they are, well, social. They are a tool that allows for a conversation between the reader and the writer, and for information to reach people quickly all over the world. So if your nonprofit is going to include a blog in its communications strategy, that should include other bloggers too.
Here are "10 Ways Nonprofit Can Use Blogs and Bloggers to Support Their Cause":
- Technorati is tracking more than 57 million blogs.
- Today, the blogosphere is doubling in size approximately every 230 days.
- About 100,000 new weblogs were created each day
According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project report, "Bloggers: A Portrait of the Internet's New Storytellers" from July 2006:
- 8 percent of Internet users, or about 12 million American adults, keep a blog.
- 39 percent of Internet users, or about 57 million American adults, read blogs.
- 90 percent of bloggers say they have read someone else's blog.
That's a lot of folks who are including blogs in their media consumption list. When you are creating your press list, be sure to search on Technorati and Google Blog Search to find bloggers who are writing about your organization's issues and send them your press release as well.
2. Use your blog to create your own media coverage.
When the men accused of murdering Gwen Araujo, a woman they beat, bound, and strangled after they discovered that she was biologically male, went to trial, the Community United Against Violence decided to use a blog to document the trial.
Because many of CUAV's volunteer bloggers were more knowledgeable about issues such as the trans-phobic tactics that were being used by the lawyers, they were able to address many issues that the mainstream media missed. The blog also kept people informed during the second trial, when media coverage had diminished, and eventually drew attention to the trial when the blog got news coverage.
3. Provide bloggers, and your supporters, with an RSS feed of news related to your organization so that they can spread the word for you.
Don't be afraid of RSS feeds. First of all, what are they? From Yahoo! News: "RSS stands for 'Really Simple Syndication' -- it's a format for distributing and gathering content from sources across the Web, including newspapers, magazines, and blogs. Web publishers use RSS to easily create and distribute news feeds that include links, headlines, and summaries. The Christian Science Monitor, CNN, and CNET News are among the many sites that now deliver updated online content via RSS."
Human Rights Watch doesn't have a blog, but they offer RSS feeds of human rights news to supporters so that they can blog about, and share information with others about, human rights issues.
For more information, check out the Tech Soup article "Easy Ways to Publish Your Own RSS: Use RSS to Help Your Constituents Stay On Top of News and Announcements" and the Social Signal article "Make Your Nonprofit More Effective with RSS Aggregation."
4. Include outreach to bloggers as part of your online fundraising campaigns.
As I mentioned in my post about "extra-organizational activists", there are bloggers out there who would love to raise money for your cause:
- Beth Kanter raised $800 for the Sharing Foundation using the ChipIn widget plus her blog, social networks, Flickr, and video in 26 days.
- Darren Rowse celebrated ProBlogger's two year anniversary by using his blog to raise $830 US ($100 AU) for Oxfam Australia with his Blogging for Chickens campaign.
- Beth Kanter raised $50,000 for the Sharing Foundation using a Network for Good Badge and similar tools to the ChipIn campaign, in three weeks.
- Chez Pim raised almost $62,000 with her Menu for Hope Campaign in 2.5 weeks using her food blog and an online auction.
Why not ask your supporters how many of them have a blog or web site where they would be willing to promote your fundraising campaign? Widgets like ChipIn and Network for Good Badges, and services like Firstgiving make it easy for them to support your cause. (Full disclosure: I am on ChipIn's nonprofit advisory board).
5. Use your blog to raise money.
Many blog readers have money to give. Why not ask them?
- The median political blog reader is a 43-year-old man with an annual family income of $80,000. He reads six blogs a day for 10 hours a week. 70 percent have contributed to a campaign.
- The median gossip reader is a 27-year-old woman with an annual family income of $60,000. She reads four blogs a day, five hours a week.
- The median mom blog reader is a 29-year-old woman with an annual family income of $70,000, reading five blogs a day, four hours a week.
- The median music blog reader is a 26-year-old man with an annual family income of $60,000, reading five blogs a day, four hours a week.
According to the 2005 article "Blog Readers Spend More Time and Money Online," by Sean Michael Kerner, "Blog readers tend to make more online purchases. In the first quarter of 2005, less than 40 percent of the total Internet population made online purchases. By contrast, 51 percent of blog readers shopped online. Blog readers also spent six percent more than the average Internet user."
6. Use your blog to involve volunteers and supporters.
Nonprofit workers often tell me that they don't have time to write a blog. Depending on your organization's work and audience, you may not have to. I write for the NetSquared blog each day (it takes me anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour depending on the topic), but it is also designed to be a community blog, so any registered user can post on it about how nonprofits are using the social web for social change.
- Interplast, an international humanitarian organization that provides free reconstructive surgery in developing countries asks their surgical volunteer staff to upload posts to the blog from their worksite.
- Urban Sprouts, a school gardening program, allows volunteers, as well as staff, to post on their blog.
- The Best Friends Animal Society allows its supporters to create blogs on their Best Friends Network around animal and animal adoption issues that they care about.
- March of Dimes' Share Your Story blog allows families with children in NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) to share their experiences with one another.
7. Use your blog to report back from an event, trip, or disaster.
Do you have staff or constituents going to a conference that your supporters would be interested in hearing about? Ask them to blog during conference sessions and post photos. For example, here is a post that I wrote from Aspiration Tech's Nonprofit Developer's Summit for NetSquared blog readers.
Blogs can also provide ways for people to find out information about loved ones if your organization works in disaster relief situations. Gregg Swanson, the executive director of HumaniNet, blogged and uploaded photos to HumaniNet's Flickr account using a satellite connection as part of a disaster response simulation exercise in Asia.
8. Use your blog to work smarter.
Would you like to avoid the crunch when it comes time to write the annual report or quarterly newsletter? If you post organizational news on your blog regularly, when it comes time to pull stories together for other publications, you will already have a lot of the material written.
You can also use reader comments, or posts by volunteers or constituents in grant applications. Urban Sprouts' executive director, Abby Jaramillo, brought her laptop to one meeting with a funder and showed them the positive comments written on a post by teachers and students who were being served by the program.
9. Use your blog to build trust with supporters.
In a time when donors are being asked for money from more organizations than ever, when nonprofit scandals are in the news, and when funders want more accountability for where their money is going, it is important that they trust your organization and see that there are real people, like them, working there. A blog can give them a glimpse behind the scenes, and provide a transparency and authenticity that an annual report or brochure may not.
Dave Rochlin, the COO of TransFair USA, the only third-party certifier of Fair Trade products in the United States, recently started a blog for their organization. In his first post entitled, "A Fair Trade blog ... so why now" Rochlin writes, "So why start blogging? We decided that since we're more than just a label, it would make sense to let you see what's behind it."
If your organization decides to start a blog, I highly recommend that you allow readers to see who the individual or individuals are who write each post, rather than saying, "posted by organization x."
Blogs also build trust because readers can write comments and correspond with the writer(s). In a world where web sites offer only an anonymous firstname.lastname@example.org address, or make you go through a maze of automated messages and "press 2 now" in their phone system, the value of human connection can't be underestimated.
The Ann Arbor District Library System uses a blog for the front page of their site. Library users can ask questions and make suggestions about library news, announcements, and events in the comments of each post.
10. Use your blog to build a broad-based movement.
There is a lot of talk these days about nonprofit "silos." There are groups that are working on environmental issues, groups that are working on women's issues, groups that are working on disability issues, and groups that are working on poverty issues, but really, aren't all the issues connected? Aren't we all trying to create positive change?
Part of a blog's structure is something called a blog roll, a list of blogs in the sidebar that the blogger reads, or feels is related to the topic of their blog. Something I don't see enough of is nonprofit bloggers listing other nonprofit blogs in their blog roll, referencing other nonprofit bloggers posts in their posts, and commenting on each other's blogs. Cross-referencing between organizations' blogs can add supporters to both organization's lists and paves the way for future collaborations.
Take a look below at this quick round-up of nonprofits blogs. Are there any you could add to your blogroll? (Big thanks to the Have Fun * Do Good and NetSquared readers who sent me some of these links).
AARP Issues Blog
Amnesty International Death Penalty Blog
Ann Arbor District Library System
Brown Bagging for Calgary's Kids
Center for Global Development
Ella Baker Center for Human Rights
First Book Blog
Foothills United Way Blog
Generation Why/Oxfam Blog
iAbolish American Anti-Slavery Group
Jane Goodall Institute's Gombe Chimpanzee Blog
Mile High United Way Blog
ONE Campaign Blog
Poverty Initiative at Union Theological Seminary
Rainforest Action Network
SOS Community Services
Unitarian Universalist Service Committee
United Way of Central Florida
Walker Art Center
Witness for Peace Mexico Blog
Witness for Peace Nicaragua Blog
WITNESS Video Hub Blog
If you are excited to start a blog for your nonprofit, check out 5 Tips to Start a Nonprofit Blog.
Britt Bravo is a writer specializing in stories about individuals and organizations who are creating social change. She writes for blogs, produces podcasts, and teaches women to blog and podcast. Britt writes for Have Fun * Do Good, BlogHer, WorldChanging San Francisco, and NetSquared. She also produces the Big Vision Podcast and the NetSquared Podcast. Using her 15 years of experience working with nonprofits, socially responsible businesses, and artists, Britt provides consulting for nonprofits and individuals to help them realize their Big Vision. To learn more about Britt, visit Big Vision Career & Project Consulting.