If your nonprofit still doesn’t have a blog, you might want to consider getting one.
We hear a lot about blogs. They are certainly a trendy and popular topic of discussion. Some professionals believe blogs are what you should be focusing on as a nonprofit, while some believe they take too much time to maintain. So it’s only natural that it can be hard for nonprofits to decide whether or not to include blogging into their marketing strategy.
Some nonprofit professionals even regard blogs as somewhat of a nuisance rather than as a valuable asset.
We get it! Working at a nonprofit is already more than a full-time job. When operating on shoestring budgets to solve large-scale social problems, writing blog posts can seem like a time-waster or as the least important thing to do in a long list of to-dos.
However, blogs are an almost essential marketing tool when it comes to spreading knowledge of your work and the issues you prioritize to potential supporters and donors.
Let’s take a look at the concrete benefits that a nonprofit can hope to gain from incorporating a blog into their marketing strategy.
Blogs are essentially websites, and they help drive visitors through search. So, how come blogs improve your search engine ranking? First of all, blogs have more pages for search engines to crawl and index, which leads to a better ranking.
Secondly, your blog is probably updated much more frequently than your website. Pages that are updated more frequently rank higher on Google.
In order to capitalize on this, use your blog to explore topics that are relevant to your nonprofit and that potential supporters might be searching for on Google. Share your news, campaigns, and advice through keyword rankings.
Blogging is the safest and most effective way to stand out from the crowd and to assert your nonprofit as a leader in the industry.
It’s very likely that there are other organizations that have a mission very similar to yours. A blog can be a great way for you to stand out since you can prove to your supporters that you know what you’re talking about.
When your nonprofit has a blog, this also increases credibility among your audience. With relevant and engaging content, it becomes easier to build heightened authority and influence within your specific area of work.
Since blogs allow you to elaborate on a topic of interest for your organization in more details (compared to your newsletter or social media posts), writing blog posts can lead to the exchange of ideas with your audience.
This can happen in many different ways: people leaving comments on your blog, sharing your blog content through social media channels, contacting you to follow up on a topic you discussed on your blog, signing up for your email newsletter as a result of a blog post, coming to an event or volunteering after reading your blog.
Blogs also build communities because they allow people with similar interests and passions to connect around causes they all care about.
Trust is not something to be taken lightly. It’s not easily earned, but it’s easily lost.
In terms of trust in nonprofit organizations, among the adult (18 years or older) general population, the trust percentage dropped nine points from 58 percent in 2017 to 49 percent in 2018. In terms of just the informed public (ages 25-64, college educated, significant media consumption, and in top 25% of household income), trust in nonprofits dropped even more – 22 points – from 73 percent in 2017 to 51 percent in 2018. (Edelman Trust Barometer)
Blogs help build and maintain trust by humanizing your nonprofit and adding a personal touch. They also showcase stories of impact and consistently offer great value to readers.
Even if you create great, high-quality content on your blog, it won’t matter if no one hears about it. You need to promote your content, and the best way to do it is by optimizing it for social media sharing.
Include great images, add social sharing buttons, write tweetable snippets, and have a social call to action.
Let your readers promote your content for you. This not only helps build social proof but allows both your blog and your social media reach to grow.
Blogging is one of the most economical and cost-effective marketing tools.
Excluding the cost of overhead, it’s possible that you go without incurring other costs, especially with so many free or economical blog hosting platforms and tools out there.
Blogs easily command attention and help you market your ideas to a wide audience. They can link to other content, programs, or your website. Every blog post can have a different call to action.
Storytelling is one of the most powerful techniques to get your audience to notice you and engage with you. As humans, we are hardwired to listen to, remember, and get captivated by stories.
Although you can share stories almost everywhere – on your social media, by sharing videos, or short testimonials on your website – the format of a blog lends itself beautifully to storytelling.
Chances are you have many great stories of your social impact that can’t all possibly be shared on your website. A blog is a great places to share those – whether coming from your beneficiaries, your volunteers, and even your staff members or other stakeholders.
You shouldn’t start a blog before you get clear on how blogging will support your overall strategy.
For example, if increasing your donor retention rate is a current priority for your nonprofit, a blogging goal might be to build relationships with current donors, and so most of your blog posts should aim for that.
Meet with your team and figure out how a blog will support the achievement of your organization’s short- and long-term goals.
It’s also important to consider your audience, as always. Although we see blogs as an incredibly valuable tool, every nonprofit’s audience is different. Test whether blog posts work with your audience before you invest in a full-blown blog.
If your blog content is great, it’s very likely it will drive visitors to your website – which is exactly what you want. This is where your blog visitors can find out more about what you do, who you are, and how they can get involved.
Your website needs to do that. Make sure your website is in good shape before starting a blog. All the information should be recent, relevant, and accurate. Invest in appealing visuals, and ensure that your website’s functionality is top notch.
Make it easy for visitors to find information about how to donate, volunteer, or get involved in a different way.
Nonprofit professionals have to juggle a number of competing priorities, so it is only natural that time is a concern when deciding whether to invest in running a blog.
Generally, if planned well, most nonprofits can pull off having an active blog. However, every nonprofit’s situation is different.
It’s estimated that 40% of people with a blog spend at least 3 hours per week working exclusively on it. If you or someone else at your nonprofit cannot spare a minimum of 3 hours per week, then maybe running a blog isn’t the best idea for your nonprofit at the moment.
There’s a lot of blogging tasks you need to consider: writing, editing, managing contributors, image search and creation, promotion, etc.
It’s better to not have a blog than to have one that’s outdated and looks unkept. This can reflect poorly on your organization.
Blogs can serve various purposes. In Step 1, you decided running a blog will support your strategic priorities. Now is the time to set specific goals for your nonprofit blog.
Your goal can be anything from building brand awareness, attracting volunteers, fundraising, and more. Set SMART goals, think about objectives and Key Performance Indicators.
Ideally, you should have at least 2 people working on your nonprofit blog, so there’s always an additional set of eyes. You can split the work so that one person writes, and one person fact-checks look for visuals and promote it on social media.
If you can’t afford to have two people work on the blog, one capable content marketer will be enough.
For tools, the very basics are a computer and a hosting site like Squarespace, WordPress, and Wix.
When it comes to the budget, you can run a blog completely for free (excluding the cost of the overhead for the person working on it). Naturally, you could invest a lot more in your blog, but do that as your blog grows.
Regardless of your internal zest and drive for starting and running a blog, if you don’t have internal support – it’s going to be an uphill battle.
Work on ensuring support and enthusiasm from your peers and your nonprofit’s leaders. Gain clarity on the budget line you can get access to, as well as the editorial sign off process.
Mobilize fellow contributors and ask for investment into the skills and development of whoever will be working on the blog – so you can really make the most out of it.
One of the keys to engagement and building a community of readers is frequency and consistency.
It’s best to create a posting schedule and stick to it, so your readers know when they can expect to read a new blog post. Put reminders in your calendar and always plan your content well in advance.
The easiest way to go about this is to create an editorial calendar. An editorial calendar is a chart showing dates when content should be published, but also maps the content, responsible parties, persona targets, and delivery methods.
Plan out your blog posts in an editorial calendar, together with your newsletters, social media posts, and other content.
According to Scott Chow from The Blog Starter, consistent posting is the key to bringing readers back to your website. Ideally, you should be posting new content at least once a week in order to build up a large following.
However, although you want to post consistently and frequently, that should never happen at the expense of quality. Your posting schedule should, first and foremost, be determined by how often you have great content to post.
Select those topics that will interest your audience and match their preferences. Furthermore, make sure you write about topics that are relevant to your nonprofit’s mission and will help establish you as a thought leader in the field.
For example, let’s say you run a nonprofit aimed at combatting domestic violence. You could use your blog to discuss topics that relate to domestic violence, including legislation, social attitudes, and more. You could write about the stigma associated with the topic. Cover what’s going on in the various agencies that regulate or have some impact on domestic violence.
By covering a range of issues related to your organization’s mission you can prove to potential advocates, donors, volunteers and general supporters that you are knowledgeable. This will hopefully increase the likelihood they’ll support you.
Every blog post should contain one or a few key messages.
Before writing blog posts, ideally while you’re creating an editorial calendar, make sure you’ve thought about which message(s) are your blog posts conveying. In addition to that, make sure those messages should be aligned to your nonprofit timeline, your mission, and your goals and strategic priorities.
Finally, one of the absolute best ways to get people interested in your nonprofit’s work is to get them talking. Your blog posts should evoke emotion in people and start a conversation.
When your audience is compelled to comment and share your blog posts, you’ve done something right.
Some types of content perform better than others. Guides, how-to’s and lists are generally shared more by most audiences.
This is not to say that you need to create only this type of content, but it’s helpful to familiarise yourself with practices that are going to get your blog read.
Make your blog posts easy to read. Online readers find big blocks of texts intimidating and overwhelming. Use plenty of white space, subheadings, bulleted or numbered lists, and short paragraphs to make your article easy to digest.
Provide value, and people will share your content. In fact, 94% of people will share a blog post they find helpful.
In order to really capitalize on your blog and drive a lot of people to your nonprofit’s website, there are a couple of basic things to pay attention to:
To increase your ranking, choose specific keywords to target over more broad terms, so you don’t have as much competition to rank for them. However, make sure people are searching for your keywords. Do keyword research before you start writing using tools such as Google Keyword Planner or KeywordTool.io.
A slow website will lower your Google ranking because readers won’t stick around and you will have a high bounce rate. In fact, 47% of consumers expect websites to load in two seconds or less — and 40% will abandon a page that takes three or more seconds.
As of December 2017, the search engine has started ranking all search results based on the mobile versions of pages. Now, pages are indexed and ranked based on the experience they provide mobile users. Make sure you provide a great mobile experience.
An inbound link is one website mentioning another website and linking to it. A quality inbound link should come from sources which go into great detail to explain their position, rather than “clickbait” websites which use your link purely to boost their ranking.
To maximize the impact of your blog, create a system for content amplification. This sounds like a fancy term, but what it really is is a process you will follow every time you publish a new blog post in order to promote it.
Let your email list know. Put your blog URL in your email signature, on business cards, and all print materials. Use a tool like Wisestamp or NewOldStamp to generate email signatures. Promote your blog through your social networks. Create a Promotions Checklist to refer to each time a blog post is published.
Even though the stated objective of your blog might be fundraising, that messaging should never be overwhelmingly present in all of your blog posts, otherwise it could turn off your readers. However, fundraising is what keeps your organization afloat.
Every blog post is an opportunity to turn a casual reader into a donor. Consider adding a donation button to your blog posts or including calls to action leading straight to your donation page every now and then.
If you’ll be utilizing your blog as a fundraising tool, make sure your supporters have a smooth donation experience. Use a software like Donorbox to achieve that. Donorbox is a powerful donation software that is very simple and fast to set up. Its simple and effective checkout is optimized for recurring donations. It only takes a couple of minutes for you to start accepting donation payments.
As we’ve mentioned many times before, today’s donors care about impact. They demand transparency and seek out information about nonprofits they’re donating to before giving.
Blogs are a great platform to showcase your stories of impact, which nonprofits have many of. Tie your donor’s gifts to specific stories of impact for maximum effect.
This is the key to getting people to come back and give again. The more specific you can make the impact, the easier it is for people to see their impact and give again.
Even in today’s fast-paced and short attention span time, people still prefer long-form content. Blogs of 1000 words and up generally do better. In fact, posts over 1,000 words in length consistently get shared more.
Longer blog posts allow you to dig into a topic with more depth, give more details about a story, and create an emotional connection. And that’s what people really want.
If you’re worried this is too much content to create, cut down on the number of blogs. It’s better to have fewer great posts, than more sub-par ones.
Once you’ve identified what success looks like to you and made a plan for how to achieve that success, identify tools and technologies to help you evaluate performance and measure outcomes.
There are many tools out there that automate tracking and reporting of outcomes and performance metrics.
Some ideas on what you can track include: number of visitors, inbound links, shares, engagement rates, bounce rates, and more.
Only you know what success looks like to you, so select those KPIs that reflect that and then build a system to track those and a process for reporting on them. Measuring and evaluation is crucial for the success of your blog, because it will tell you what works and what doesn’t – so you can adjust the course accordignly.
To create a successful nonprofit blog, it takes some planning and a lot of work. Take time to really plan your route – understanding what you want to accomplish, who your audience is, who can help, and what resources you already have access to.
Blogs can sometimes take time to take off, so persistence and positivity are key. Furthermore, sometimes the external or internal circumstances will change and you will have to find a way to adapt and keep going.
If you decide to start a blog, stay in tune with your audience and their response. Don’t be afraid to change your direction if your supporters aren’t responding.
Too often, nonprofit blogs look like an afterthought, with infrequent posts, poor editing and lack of a unified voice. Try the above tips and techniques to make sure your blog reaches its full potential.
For more nonprofit tips, head over to our nonprofit blog.