You don’t have to blog. Just as much as you don’t have to Tweet, Facebook, or set up a profile on LinkedIn. But it’s likely that you have, because in this age of information, with instant virtual connections to friends, family, coworkers, and interest groups, blogging is one of the cheapest, most accessible methods of increasing your nonprofit’s visibility.
Not long ago, integrating social media into your organization’s communications plans also may have seemed like gratuitous work, extra “stuff” on your to-do lists that you’d cross off haphazardly. Tweeting took a couple of seconds, Facebooking a few more.
Blogging, on the other hand? You thought you left your essay writing days behind with College Writing 101!
These days, however, organizations without blogs are few and far between. Why? Blogging is one the best ways to reinforce your credibility in your given sphere and keep your most important audiences engaged in your work.
Now, we know that blogging for your organization is harder than it seems. With all the great blogs out there, you may feel the pressure to be unique, eloquent, witty, insightful, and inspiring—all at once! Talk about a blogger’s block.
We’re here to tell you to stop worrying and to start “blogstorming.” We’d like to offer you some advice on the seemingly arduous process of blogstorming: outlining and creating your nonprofit’s next blogpost.
1. First and foremost, scribble down your own ideas. Avoid reaching out to team members, or skimming other relevant blogs (we’ll get to that later). In a recent Washington Post article, Jena McGregor explains why group brainstorming is ineffective: a phenomenon that researchers call “cognitive fixation.” When exposed to other group member’s ideas, individuals are likely to fixate on those ideas and experience difficulty in producing their own unique ideas. Also, some individuals are hesitant to introduce different ideas in group settings. Our point is: who better to write about your nonprofit’s work than those most intimately involved in what you’re doing every day? That’s you. Get writing.
2. After you’ve thought of a couple potential topics, then check out some related blogposts. You might gather some new ideas and enrich what you have.
3. When you feel that you’ve compiled a good list of topics, reach out to your team members for ideas—see what they come up with, and take note. Watch your list grow and diversify.
4. Perhaps you thought of a snazzy title for your blogpost. That’s great! But beware. Titles can cage your thought process, too. Once you begin writing, you may find that new ideas may evolve. Before you know it, your blog content will have a format, style, and angle that you hadn’t planned for. Once your blog topic has solidified, wrap it up with a nice, strong title.
5. Stay away from long, overly-detailed paragraphs. Remember how we thought we left our thesis-writing days behind? We did! Your nonprofit’s blog shouldn’t be composed of essay-length pieces. Think about the kind of article that would make your eyes glaze over. Now, write the opposite of that: a post that’s short, punchy, and to the point.
6. Be professional, but be human. You want your readers to emotionally engage with your blog posts, and you want them to take your work seriously. Write like you’re having a conversation with them: don’t ramble about the minute details of your nonprofit’s work—write something that shows why your work matters. Did you have a fundraising event recently? Tell the story of one of the individuals that needs the program supported by these funds. Your work and mission will be explained in between the lines. As the saying goes: show, don’t tell.
7. Don’t take blog writing as seriously as, say, grant writing. If you find yourself spending more than a day’s worth of writing on one post, you may be working too hard. Remember that blogposts can be short, and still be very strong.
8. That being said, remember that you represent your organization when writing posts for your nonprofit’s blog. This goes for the content, as well as grammar and spelling. Have a team member or two read it, for input and for spell-checking.
9. Keep blogging! Frequent blogging keeps your organization alive online. This may be the hardest piece of advice to follow. Many nonprofits are understaffed and underfunded for the work that they face—blogging is likely to be one of the least-pressing tasks. This may be true, but an hour or two a week is all you need.
So take a moment to look at your organization’s blog. What does it need? More fun, lively pieces? Perhaps some posts are getting lots of clicks, and others aren’t. If you were a potential donor, what would catch your eye?
And before you know it, you’re blogstorming.