This is the third post in a blog and webinar series called 101 Digital Marketing & Fundraising Best Practices for Nonprofits, written and presented by Heather Mansfield. Please sign up for Nonprofit Tech for Good’s email newsletter to be alerted of new posts. Thank you!
August 30 Webinar: Blogging Best Practices for Nonprofits
Related Certificate Program: Certificate in Digital Marketing & Fundraising
With more than 500 million blogs worldwide, many nonprofits may think that the internet does not need another blog, but that’s simply not the case. Brands that blog report 97% more links to their website and 434% more indexed pages in search engines. New, timely content is more vital to the success of your nonprofit’s digital marketing campaigns than it has ever been.
First, blogging allows your nonprofit to have a consistent source of new content to feature in your email newsletter and to share on social media. News articles hosted on your website can serve the same function provided they are written like a news story, not a press release.
Second, search engines are constantly searching the web to index fresh content. Nonprofits that regularly post new blog content with keywords in the title are much more likely to get indexed by search engines, especially Google.
Third, as discussed in Email Marketing Best Practices for Nonprofits, a pop-up on your blog posts can quickly grow your email list. If your nonprofit is not making a concerted effort to grow your email list in 2023, then online fundraising success will remain elusive.
1) Understand and embrace modern blogging.
Launched in 1999, the first blogging platform, Blogger, ushered in the beginning of the Social Web. For the first time, readers could comment publicly on a piece of online content. At the time, it was a revolutionary concept whereas today our daily online experience is one based on public commentary and feedback.
Blogging of the past was primarily editorial content, such as an opinion piece by an executive director. Blogs were most often written in first-person, more than 1,000 words in length, and the accepted best practice was that blog posts needed to be published at least every other day. Blog comments were also taken very seriously.
Today’s blogging couldn’t be more different. Most blog posts are now written by multiple staff or guest bloggers with the occasional editorial piece written by an executive staff member. A nonprofit can choose to blog once a week or every other week, and posts can be as little as 250 words—and most nonprofits have turned off comments since the online conversation has shifted to social media.
The primary purpose of blogging today is to tell the stories and news updates of a nonprofit, rather than the opinions of its leadership. To demonstrate this evolution in blogging, for example, the NRDC was an early adopter of blogging, but recently changed “Blog” in the navigation bar of their website to “Our Stories.” Their stories retain the defining characteristics of blog content, namely a published date and an attributed author, but the story and news content is written in third-person.
2) Embed calls-to-action within your blog content.
A growing trend is to add large, visually prominent calls-to-action (CTA) to the body of blog posts approximately halfway into the post. Below are three examples from three different nonprofits.
1) Newsletter opt-in on the Marshall Project blog
2) Advocacy CTA on the Union of Concerned Scientists blog
3) “Donate Now” CTA on the Human Rights Watch blog
3) Maximize your blog’s sidebar.
Think of your website’s sidebar as free advertising space and utilize the space for important calls-to-action and to feature important content. For example, Food Tank makes wise use of their sidebar by prominently featuring ads for events, their podcast, and a newsletter opt-in.
4) Feature “Popular Posts” and/or “Related Posts.”
Once a blog post moves its way into the “Popular” module featured in the right bar of Nonprofit Tech for Good, it consistently receives more traffic than other blog posts, even if the post is months old. Ensure that your nonprofit is strategically driving traffic within your blog by prominently featuring your most popular posts using a plugin, such as WP Tab Widget.
“Related Posts” are most often featured at the end of blog posts, and thus receive less traffic because many readers do not reach the bottom of posts. However, a best practice is to feature both “Popular Posts” and “Related Posts” to maximize the number of page views per visitor.
“Related Posts” on the Wildlife SOS blog:
5) Format blog content for easy reading.
Visitors to your blog are unlikely to read your blog posts if they find the content difficult to mentally and visually process i.e., posts that include large blocks of text in a small font that lack visual content. Here are some basic best practices for formatting blog content:
- Write short paragraphs
- Break up text with bold, large headings
- Bold hyperlinks
- Use bullet points or numbers to break up long sections of text
- Embed images and videos that are consistent in size
Well-Formatted content on the Oceana Conservancy blog:
Packed with practical advice and customized for small nonprofits on a limited budget, the upcoming free Blogging Best Practices for Nonprofits webinar on August 30 covers the fundamentals of launching and maintaining a blog for your nonprofit.
6) Share commentary and CTAs about current issues in the news.
If an issue relevant to your mission is in the news (local, national, or international), write up a summary of the issue, add your commentary with a call-to-action (CTA), and then share your post to your social media and in your newsletter. For example, this blog post from WildAid provides an introduction to climate change and commentary about how it will affect the planet and then closes with a CTA for readers to be more conscious consumers, to donate, and to sign up for their newsletter.
The vast majority of nonprofit blogs do not include CTAs. Why encourage a reader to become educated about an issue and then not provide them opportunities to take action? It’s baffling and a missed opportunity to enlist readers to support your cause. All blog posts should include obvious CTAs in the body and at the end of posts.
7) Tell positive impact stories about your nonprofit.
Supporters and donors want to hear positive stories about how your organization is making an impact. Today’s news is often negative and overwhelming, so positive impact stories stand out and inspire readers to give and get involved.
Local and national media regularly feature good news stories from the nonprofit sector, but nonprofits tend to use their blog to announce [boring] updates such as new hires, upcoming fundraising events, and grant announcements. Honestly, after three hours of browsing over 100 nonprofit blogs, I could not find one good example of a nonprofit sharing a positive impact story. If your nonprofit has a blog post published in 2023 that shares a positive impact story, please send us the link and check back later for an update!
8) Share resources and useful tips related to your mission.
Blog posts that share resources and useful tips are some of the most popular on the internet, yet very few are written by nonprofits. For example, if you are a health nonprofit, write a post about foods that help lower blood pressure, or provide tips on how to exercise at home. If you are a nonprofit that works with low-income communities, write blog posts that share recipes for low-cost, healthy meals and energy-saving tips. For example, the Alameda County Food Bank blog features a monthly list of recipes on their blog.
9) Publish numbered lists.
Many readers scan online content rather than read it thoroughly which is why numbered lists are consistently top-performing content. Numbered lists also pique the curiosity of potential readers since they often click to see what’s on the list. It’s a strategy that has worked well for Nonprofit Tech for Good as our numbered lists are our most trafficked posts. For example, the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) recently published Ten Things You Can Do to Support Nurses.
10) Feature the stories of individuals served, staff, and volunteers.
Whether in the form of a guest post, an interview, or a feature story, highlighting an individual served by your nonprofit and the good work of staff members and volunteers humanizes your brand. For example, the Watson Institute recently featured a story about how their Friendship Academy provided mental help support and resources to high school student, Tay’Lor.
Post Updated: March 7, 2023
Our Certificate in Digital Marketing & Fundraising program covers the fundamentals of website design, email marketing, online fundraising, and social media for nonprofits.
The program requires the completion of three webinars and costs a total of $100 USD. You can attend the webinars live or view the recordings. Learn more & register!