It took me so long to even start this blog. I’m a perfectionist, and I want everything perfect before I start. But in doing so I waited too long and missed a huge opportunity to practice and experiment that entire time as I was refining my knowledge and strategy.
I’ve now realized it’s much easier to start a good blog than most nonprofits might think. It takes minimal technical expertise, and actually minimal writing skills.
You really only need to follow this 5 step cycle in order to produce a consistent nonprofit blog that people will keep coming back to.
Step 1: Idea
Most nonprofits that start a blog underestimate the value of “batching”. Batching is grouping the same task together into one timeframe. Most nonprofits will set a schedule like, “I’m going to publish a blog post every week”, but have no idea what it will be about until they sit down to write.
This is the best way to burn yourself out, and guarantees that you will struggle with actually enjoying writing.
Instead you should set a time to come up with a large batch of ideas once a month. Spend an hour to list off 20, 30, or 40 different topics or ideas. Then you can slot them into the weeks, or at the very least quickly look through and pick one when you start writing.
To take it to the next level find a way to think of and write down ideas as they come to you in your normal day. This could be a whiteboard in your office, notepad, note app on your phone or something else. This content is usually the best ideas. You might have received an email from a volunteer and think, “I get this question a lot, this would be a fantastic question to answer in a blog post”.
This idea process will ensure your list of nonprofit blog ideas is always full – and eventually it gets better and more relevant because it’s about the current, topical, or urgent things that are happening.
It’s Not Just a Personal Journal for Your Nonprofit
One tip people often hear for business is to not just talk about your own company. This applies to nonprofit blogging as well. You want to make sure you’re talking about the problem you’re solving, the thing you’re trying to teach someone, or the message you’re trying to spread, not just about what you’re doing.
However, I do believe nonprofits have more leeway when it comes to this because your supporters are rallying behind you! Not just solving their own problem. It’s a teamwork atmosphere as opposed to an us and them thing with businesses.
Step 2: Draft
Set some time aside in your calendar, and put it on your to do list. We want to ensure that time to write the draft is set aside, and that it’s not the same time you’re expecting to publish. There’s often something that will come up and you can’t quite finish that blog post – and delaying a post past your expectation can be very deflating.
At this stage you’re looking to just get details and ideas down. Write your whole blog post before you start thinking critically about structure, sentences, and specific words.
Great writers and creators are never great on their first try. You don’t have to be a “writer” to learn how to edit your work to a level way above the average. The best of the best refine it 2, 3, 4, 10 times to get it to the level they want. A nonprofit blog doesn’t have to be that perfect – we’re not going for an award, but we should make time to edit after writing the first draft.
I suggest not showing anyone your first draft. Write it for yourself only. This allows you to write more freely and get to the raw ideas. After you do some editing then you can seek feedback.
Step 3: Edit
It can be extremely hard to criticize your own work, but if you want to improve you must be ruthless. Your nonprofit deserves a blog that people (including you!) are proud to share.
If you know you’re not that great of a writer yet, you can always get someone else to edit your work. Just relying on Microsoft Word’s spelling and grammar check isn’t usually enough. It’s about ideas and flow, spelling is actually less important.
When editing be sure to look at the most important elements of a nonprofit blog post, the headline, the introduction paragraph, and the ending.
The headline is pretty well the ONLY thing people will see to invite them to read the post. That’s why it needs to be good. There are a lot of tips to write good blog headlines, but just try to make your reader curious. This is the biggest success factor. They need to understand enough to be curious, but not enough that they understand the whole picture.
The introduction is what the reader uses to confirm that it was a good decision to click on the headline. It needs to start with another catchy line and provide further detail, but also leave the curiosity alive so they keep reading.
The ending of your blog post should conclude in a logical manner. Perhaps you taught your reader something and you need to summarize what it was all about, or how they can benefit from it. But it should also lead them somewhere or to some action. If they finish reading and they don’t know what they should do next, you haven’t finished right.
This is called the call to action. Asking them to comment, share, subscribe, download something, donate, volunteer, whatever it is needs to happen at the end (and possibly elsewhere in your post).
Step 4: Publish
Once you’ve settled on a draft that you’re satisfied with, your colleague, friend, or mom has read it over and gave you some notes, it’s time to publish. Your individual process depends on what platform you’re using so follow the “directions on the box”.
This can be a daunting process, but remember that you don’t have to be perfect. Getting started is better than perfecting and not publishing.
Step 5: Share
It’s like baking a cookie, and leaving it in the cookie jar forever. How you could do that to the poor cookie. You poured so much time into it, you have to share it with the world. You must share your blog posts or this whole cycle is pointless.
So this brings us to everyone’s favourite topic, social media. Most nonprofits get so excited about social media that they forget they need something good to say. Having a consistent nonprofit blog helps to provide fuel to your social media campaign. You can publish purely links, excerpts, images, tag the author, and share it with specific partners or friends.
But that’s not everything! Social is what everyone gravitates to. But we can also share our blog posts through email campaigns to our volunteers, donors, subscribers or partners.This is one of the biggest reasons we create blogs. While sharing on social media might get new people to read your content, sharing through email ensures that you keep in touch and continue building relationships with your subscribers.
And of course you must make sure the website you’re using is following the best practices for search engines to easily find your content (also called SEO, or search engine optimization). This isn’t directly sharing, but it’s how you ensure that your content isn’t just hiding under a rock. This way people searching for topics that you’re talking about will find your material.
You simply repeat this process over and over and you have a consistent blog that is sure to help grow your nonprofit. If any of these steps are missing you are not going to see results – get burned out, and mark it off as failed.
If you’re interested in taking this to the next level, you can get started for free with the Kickstart Your Nonprofit Blog Course. It goes into this topic in great detail, with specific action steps, templates, guides, and community to help you use this blog to really grow your nonprofit.