Surprise, Surprise, Surprise
I was going to say that I’m always surprised that most nonprofits don’t have blogs; but I just realized that that is not really true. I’m so used to them not having blogs that I’m surprised when I find them.
And more surprised that nonprofits have embraced Twitter and Facebook as their primary news distribution channels, because there just aren’t enough characters allowed in either one to do your news justice.
So, in my never-ending quest to show nonprofits how great blogs can be, I searched for some great examples to show you both great design/layout ideas and content ideas. And I was pleasantly surprised to see that the number of blogs by nonprofits has nicely increased since I last explored the Nonprofit Blogosphere.
1. Tell personal stories – the blog is the best way to really do storytelling well, whether it’s a staff person or volunteer telling their personal experience or a client’s.
2. Feature blog entries at the top of your blog – this will take some customization to your blog but it allows you to showcase your latest, most popular or relevant posts to draw people in.
The AmeriCares blog has a nice-looking set of featured blog posts – I love having one big photo at the top that really captures your attention – here they actually have their featured posts in a slideshow. One of the featured posts is a great story from a staff person “From my small plane window”
3. Make it all about the photos – it’s far more likely your blog entry will be read if you include great visuals.
4. Aggregate news from other sources – it doesn’t have to be all your own news – include a section to showcase other stories from other blogs – make your blog THE place to go for news in your industry.
The Nature Conservancy blog is nicely laid out (a custom layout you won’t get “out of the box” when you set up your blog). It has nice big photos at the top for the Featured Posts and thumbnail photos for the Latest Posts and a Featured Photo section below. The circled section has links from other blogs on topics that would be of interest to their constituents.
5. Don’t forget the social media icons – don’t miss an opportunity to get your constituents involved in other channels – especially since your blog will bring in more (and different) traffic than your website.
6. Tie in your blog topics with current news – track news in your industry specifically (through Google Alerts) and in general to create timely articles that will both help and attract attention.
Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles found an appropriate tie-in with the latest shooting tragedy to help parents talk with their kids about it. They also have a big “sign up for our e-alerts” button to make sure they capture those email addresses.
7. Don’t miss an opportunity to promote other programs – because your blog can be such a big traffic draw, it’s important to direct new visitors to your website not just your blog entries.
8. Focus blog articles on programs and activities (not all fundraising stuff) with both program announcements and stories showcasing results.
CBN does a great job of promoting their TV show on their banner (upper right) and having important organizational news front and center. They also call their blog a “video blog” and supplement all their videos with text – which is great for those of us who would rather scan than watch the video (or scan first and then watch video)!
9. Name your blog just like you would your newsletter – not just The Blog; this is your chance to let people know what your blog is all about – a tagline is great too!
10. Don’t think you have to create all the content by yourself – get permission to reproduce other people’s stories.
Teach for America has a great title for their blog: Pass the Chalk – even more appropriate since they have multiple bloggers contributing! They also utilize articles from other blogs, obtaining permission to use a great story from a teacher who became a physician.
11. Link back to your main site – and make the link obvious – as we stated earlier, you will get lots of new traffic to your blog and we want them to know you have a website as well.
12. Profile an event participant and their story – too many people focus their event news on just the ask instead of the heartwarming story from the volunteer or participant talking about WHY.
The Alzheimer’s Association has a whole slew of stories from people running in their Longest Day event; people are talking about who they are running for – nothing can be more compelling than that. You can’t really fit these stories in a Facebook or Twitter post.
13. Feature overviews of your blog articles (rather than entire articles on the main page) – you will see this custom layout with most of the examples here and it’s great for getting as much information front and center as possible.
14. Show the results of your work – your blog is the perfect place to showcase your success stories and program impact.
Mercy Corps has a great custom layout – showcasing only larger-than-normal-thumbnail thumbnails and just the title – you can easily scan the page to see which articles interest you; they also focus heavily on program updates with stories about what’s currently happening in the areas they are serving, results of their services, and other accomplishments.
15. Make your twitter feed look like it’s part of the site – I hate it when Facebook and Twitter are not fully integrated into a site and you have the cheesy widget that just doesn’t fit in (and you have to use scroll to see everything!)
16. You don’t have to write the blog alone – develop a blog plan of action and assign different staff to cover different types of blog articles.
Live United has a Twitter feed that is nicely integrated into their design and a variety of bloggers – and when you click on their photo you see a bio and list of all their blog posts. The only problem area they need to fix is the empty Facebook feed…