Does your nonprofit have a blog? If not, why not?
A recent 2016 Global NGO Online Technology Report reveals that 45% of North American NGOs have one. Why should you care? Because they’re competing for donors with you — and they’ve got a weapon you don’t have!
Actually, I take that back. Let’s not think of it as a “weapon.” Let’s think of it as “honey.” They’ve got the sticky, sweet, good stuff folks crave, and they’re going to attract more donor bees as a result.
What? You say you’ve got that good stuff too, but it’s in your newsletter?
Newsletters (even e-newsletters) are not the equivalent of blogs.
Blogs are fresh, living entities.
Blogs are websites.
- They can be a tab on your existing website or can even substitute for your entire website.
- Folks can find your blog through organic search. Folks can subscribe to your feed. Folks can find your blog links in social media.
- Friends can easily share your blog with their friends.
And unlike social media sites, you own your blog and your subscriber list.
Newsletters are dinosaurs.
There are many reasons I favor blogs over e-newsletters for nonprofits. Newsletters simply try to accomplish too much at once. As a result, they tend to accomplish very little.
Think about what you hope to accomplish with your principle messaging arm.
The main goal of most nonprofits is to inspire people to take a stand and make a change. It is to evoke emotion in people in such a way they feel inclined to support your organization and/or to go out and advocate for your cause.
Most newsletters don’t do this effectively, because they’re all over the place.
Blogs are best if:
- You want more control over what your constituents read.
- You want to spend less time creating content.
- You want to increase readership of your content
- You want to increase sharing of your content.
- You want to entice people to take a specific action, without overwhelming them with multiple choices.
If you need help persuading the “powers that be” (or yourself) to embrace a nonprofit blog, today I’m going to tell you about 9 reasons blogs out-perform e-newsletters.
1. Your nonprofit blog helps you rank higher on search engines.
If your nonprofit can grab a first page Google search result, you’re much more likely to be found. And blogs rate higher on page results than regular websites.
Here’s why: Your blog is updated regularly. Your website may not be. Your e-newsletter certainly isn’t.
If you post to your blog even once a week, you will likely rank higher on Google than you would if you were relying solely on your website. Blog more, and you’ll likely rank even higher.
You want as many people as possible to find you and view your website (which you can link to multiple times in your blog posts), so this is important.
2. Your nonprofit blog welcomes conversation.
This is a form of active involvement, which is generally a prerequisite to ultimate investment. It gets your foot in the door with constituents, making it more likely they’ll move on to deeper forms of engagement.
If you blog about something that evokes a powerful emotion, folks will feel compelled to comment. Or to share your post. Now you’re cooking!
3. Your nonprofit blog serves up information in digestible portions.
This is important since so many people today suffer from attention deficit.
Folks don’t want to read a lot of articles at one sitting. With a blog, you can tell one compelling story, then call it a day. Your reader can read one compelling story, then call it a day. I call that a win/win!
And speaking of storytelling, by now I hope you know that storytelling is probably the best weapon you have for communicating with donors and potential supporters and actually getting them to pay attention to what you’re saying. People are naturally wired to respond to stories.
When I worked in the trenches, donors would tell me over and over again how much they remembered the stories we told in our newsletter. Board members would tell me at meetings how moved they were. Why? Stories are relevant. They make people care.
On the flip side, readers don’t remember facts. They don’t remember the letter from the executive director. Or the name of the newly hired program director. Or the name of the funder who just awarded you a grant. They don’t remember because they don’t care.
The problem with most e-newsletters is that, while they may have a story or two, they’re generally replete with other self-promotional stuff – announcements, history, facts, stuff to purchase, appeals for money, and so forth. There may be so much stuff your readers have little interest in, that they fail to even notice the stories. And that’s if they open your e-newsletter at all.
E-newsletters are expendable from most folks’ perspective. Information overload is today’s modus operandi, and when people are busy they get into delete mode.
4. Your nonprofit blog combats shrinking attention span syndrome
The average adult attention span today is just 8 seconds! I’ve read a lot of studies, and you’re lucky if anyone will spend more than a minute with your e-newsletter (which is why they’re becoming such dinosaurs).
Telling your story in a sequence of small installments (i.e., blog posts) makes it easier for your would-be readers to find time to read your story.
Here are questions you should ask yourself:
- How much time do your e-newsletter readers spend with your material?
- Are you tracking it in Google Analytics?
- Are people clicking through on your links?
- Which items get the most click-throughs?
- Are there some areas of content that almost no one shows an interest in?
- What does this tell you about the type of content in which your readers have a genuine interest?
5. Your nonprofit blog eliminates clutter that depresses readership.
When Penelope Burk first did her ground-breaking studies that led to publication of “Donor-Centered Fundraising,” one of the things she found was that donors didn’t particularly like newsletters. They especially didn’t enjoy those that came on a strict schedule and seemed to be filled with a bunch of irrelevant information. They said, if you must send newsletters, please send a one-pager or just send them when you have something important to say.
Wow! How common sense does that sound?
Yet most nonprofits cling to TMI e-newsletters that a lot of their constituents simply don’t read. Here’s what one respondent to Penelope Burk’s 2016 survey said:
I don’t actually want to know everything that’s going on with my charities of choice.
While it’s tempting to create e-newsletters that have something for everyone (or so you imagine), consider this from your readers’ perspective. Too many articles at once requires readers to work extra hard to find what’s relevant to them.
Here’s another way to think about this. How overwhelming is it when you’re in the cereal aisle at the market, trying to decide which box to pick? It’s the same for your supporters when they try to figure out which article to click on in your e-newsletter!
It’s so much more effective to choose the story you most want people to read, and send it — via blog. This gives you control of what your audience learns and feels, making your online mailing more purposeful.
Plus now your time is no longer being wasted writing stories no one reads.
6. Your nonprofit blog can be updated at any time.
If a news story breaks that’s related to what you do, you can immediately write up a blog post with your unique perspective on the issue and send it to your blog list. You don’t have to wait for you pre-ordained schedule of a monthly e-newsletter. By then, the news will be stale.
This gives your blog a real-time feel, making it relevant. Your readers want to read it because they know they’re getting up-to-date information they couldn’t get elsewhere.
That’s why blogs work.
7. Your nonprofit blog serves as free publicity.
If your content is inspiring or newsworthy, people will share it. When this happens, the press may see it. No need for you to write a press release!
A blog is a way to create your own breaking news, promote it widely on social media and see who picks it up. This is a reason to cultivate influencers so you’ll reach the widest audience possible.
8. Your nonprofit blog helps establish you as a thought leader.
Blogging is the easiest and most effective way to stand out from the crowd and assert expertise as a leader in your industry.
By posting quality, informative content on a regular basis, you show you know what you’re talking about and that, in fact, you’re an expert in your niche.
Combined with social media, a blog enables you to reach and communicate with readers who value your content, wherever they may be. A blog on a website, and posted through the various social platforms, will initiate and maintain personal relationships with readers who will come to know and trust you.
9. Your nonprofit blog meets people where they are.
While there is division in many things between younger and older generations, they all use social media. They’re all part of “Generation Connected” (GenC). And blogging is something that is easily shared on social media.
I share my own blog posts on sites such as Twitter and LinkedIn and generate significant traffic that way. These are folks who would otherwise never have heard of me, let alone have read my content.
Blog posts have URLs to which you can link; e-newsletters don’t.
10. Your nonprofit blog allows you to send more email messages without having to create tons more content.
Think of all the content you create for a newsletter. Much of it never gets read. Instead, choose the content you most want people to read, and send it — via blog. This gives you control of what your audience learns and feels, making your online mailing more purposeful.
Your mailing is also more impactful because it’s respectful of the amount of time a reader will put into reading one email.
Since the email is much shorter, people will actually take the time to read the whole thing…especially if you’re a great storyteller.
Do this every other week, or even weekly.
Got that? Instead of creating a massive email newsletter that includes your entire story, not to mention tons of other content most folks have no time to read, consider simply serializing your one compelling story into a number of succinct, related blog articles.
Tell your story over the course of 2, 3 or 4 blog posts each.
Load those posts into your email automation software. This will give you a month or so worth of content, but you won’t have to do any extra work once you’ve written the story and set up the posts.
Now your constituents are reading a lot more of your content. And your time is no longer being wasted writing stories no one reads.
Now you can focus on other aspects of your nonprofit marketing (e.g. social media; e-appeals; surveys) while the email automation software takes care of delivery for the rest of the quarter.
If you’ve got a lot of excuses for not having a blog, now’s the time to consider debunking them. Instead, look at the benefits:
- You’ll rank higher on search engines.
- You’ll increase engagement as more people read your content and look forward to receiving your emails.
- You’ll get away from the over-done nonprofit email newsletter that takes up too much time – yours and your reader’s.
- You’ll better control your marketing message because your subscribers will actually read your content in the order you choose to send it.
- You can send email more often, staying top of mind with your subscribers without annoying them.
- Your click-through rates will increase because each email contains only one piece of content and/or call to action.
- You’ll establish yourself and stand out as a thought leader.
- You’ll meet people where they are, enabling more people to find you.
- You’ll generate free publicity
- You can send more email without having to create tons more content.
Your job is to get and keep likely constituents engaged; then move them along the communications continuum – from awareness… to interest… to involvement… and, ultimately, to investment. Blogs are a great tool for turning your content creation and delivery into a well-oiled machine.
Want to learn more about nonprofit blogging?
You may be interested in my Nonprofit Blogging Playbook. A great blog is one of the best investments you can make in acquiring and retaining more donors. Learn how with this 4-volume set that will teach you (1) blog fundamentals; (2) content folks will want to read; (3) how to use your content to engage folks, and (4) how to promote your blog so it builds momentum and drives more potential supporters to your website.
Blogging can be a valuable part of your organization’s social media strategy. Does your nonprofit have a blog? Why or why not?