How to Overcome the Most Debilitating Nonprofit Blogging Challenges

    by Meghan Keaney Anderson

    Date

    January 10, 2012 at 3:45 PM

    Last week, nonprofit  blogger Kivi Leroux Miller ran the results of a survey she conducted about the biggest content challenges facing nonprofit marketers . Unsurprisingly, time and money led the results with 31% of the responses . But a number of other challenges emerged as well. I had the opportunity to talk to a few nonprofits about the survey and asked them how they handle managing a successful blog amidst their multitude of other tasks. Here's what they said, along with a few tips from HubSpot's own blogging experiences. Each challenge is also followed by its difficulty rating from Kivi's study .

    Lack of Time or Budget (31%)

    It's no secret that nonprofit marketers often have to juggle an enormous workload. But the benefits of blogging on search engine optimization and community engagement are typically significant enough to validate finding the time. The question is, how? I talked with Brian Adams of United Way of Massachusetts Bay & Merrimack Valley , who offered the following advice:

    "Use your full network and staff to tell your stories. The informal nature of a blog means that there aren’t as many rules about what you post, provided it’s something that’s relevant to your audience."

    By inviting your entire staff and your network of volunteers and donors to contribute posts , the workload gets distributed in a more sustainable way, and the blog benefits from diverse voices and outreach opportunities. To keep things organized, we advise that one person act as a central blog editor. If you're a nonprofit that deals with numerous causes, consider assigning different journalistic "beats" or topics to your bloggers and setting up a schedule that spreads out the posts evenly throughout the week and month. Christi Cahill of MyLifeLine.org Cancer Foundation echoes this. She writes:

    "Plan in advance. Set an editorial calendar and stick to it! If you’re running low on content ideas, find people willing to guest  blog  for you."

    Producing Content That Engages Supporters (27%)

    Nonprofits have one of the most powerful sources for posts possible: the stories of their clients and participants. And though finding individual stories to highlight takes time, creating a channel for these voices gets to the heart of the mission and provides a direct line of sight to the impact donors and volunteers are trying to drive.  

    United Way's Adams writes:

    "Our most widely read posts share several key aspects; they are connected to relevant news topics, they provide a look “behind the curtain” with anecdotes and emotions not shared elsewhere, they are written by leading experts, and the content is fresh yet linked to additional information that provides context and additional factoids."

    One organization in Boston, The Crittenton Women's Union has taken a unique approach to this. They not only invite their staff and network to contribute to the blog, but also the families they serve. CWU's Kirsten Blocker elaborates:

    "As the blog evolved, it became a broadcasting space for CWU program participants to use as a learning tool for their exposure to social media, especially as an advocacy outlet. This year, the blog will undergo yet another exciting expansion and will be transformed again to include the voices of our participants as well as keeping an active eye on anti-poverty reporting..."

    It's important to remember that the blog audience does not need to be restricted to just donors. It can be an important resource for the people your organization is trying to help, as well. 

    Repurposing Content (7%)

    One way to save time and give your content a larger reach is to repurpose content  for your blog from other channels, and vice versa. When doing so, nonprofits should keep in mind that repurposing is not a simple cut-and-paste operation. Think in terms of editorial campaigns, and leveraging the blog as one of many ways to get the word out about a particular topic of the week or upcoming event. Take this example from United Way of Massachusetts Bay & Merrimack Valley :

    "We have had some success using the blog to preview content for an upcoming event. For example, our Women’s Initiative group held an educational panel about sexual exploitation, and we 'previewed' the content of the panel by featuring a guest blog post from each of the panelists in the week leading up to the event. It allowed those panelists some exposure on our blog (and hopefully gave us exposure through their networks) and also connected the on-the-ground marketing strategy with our online marketing strategy. During the event, we also shared quotes via Twitter and posted photos via Facebook."

    Knowing Which Content to Use in Which Channels (7%)

    To know which content to use in which channels , you really need to dive into your marketing analytics to get a sense for the role each channel plays in your overall marketing and communications program. Channel behavior often varies by audience segment. What channels do your donors typically use? How does that differ from your volunteers or your constituents/clients? Do some research on your most active channels and their characteristics before creating your outreach strategy. For example, it might make sense to share content on 'how to run a workplace fundraiser' on LinkedIn , while personal stories of impact may be better shared with your email subscribers. 

    What to Do Right Now to Help Your Nonprofit Blog

    The success of your blog will always depend on the quality and frequency of your posts. And while time can feel like a long lost luxury to nonprofit marketers, getting organized helps. As a final thought, here are a few things you can do this week to get started:

    • Create a recruitment list of staff, donors, volunteers, clients, and partners who would be good contributors to your blog.
    • Reach out to them with a first-time blogging assignment and due date. Having a topic to write about always seems less daunting than a blank page.
    • Examine your blog analytics to find your best channels for outreach.
    • Create an editorial calendar and stick to it. Start with 1-2 posts a week if you can.
    • Pick a date (several months out) to evaluate your progress and choose next steps.

    Do you know of a nonprofit blog that has overcome blogging challenges particularly well? Share your experiences in the comments below!

    Photo by: pasukaru76

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