Blogs have been around for a long time now, and have become an almost essential part of an organization’s online communications plan. We’ve covered best practices for blogging for associations on this blog before, but this time we wanted to take a look specifically at nonprofit blogging, and help guide those of you who’d like to either start or improve your nonprofit’s blog.

The first place to begin when considering blogging for your nonprofit is to take a look at your website. What’s your story? What type of content attracts the most attention? How often are you updating the content sections? A blog, provided it’s executed properly, is one of the best ways to keep your home page fresh and user-friendly. It can attract new visitors, and keep old friends coming back for more. It can tell the story of who you are as an organization, and perhaps most importantly, highlight how the work you do is affecting and helping others in the community.

When It Comes to Content, Don’t Be Afraid To Think Outside the Box

It’s an easy trap to fall into: We’re an organization dedicated to Topic A, therefore our blog should only ever be about Topic A. Topics B, C, and D have no place here. Not true! Don’t be afraid to branch out into other topics from time to time to keep your blog interesting. Talk about current news events, highlight other groups who are doing important work, pick a volunteer and put them in the spotlight. While it is vital to discuss and draw attention to the work your organization is accomplishing in its chosen space, don’t feel trapped in only one content box with your blog. Your blog can and should have a little personality outside of your everyday mission.

That being said, don’t let your mission get lost in the middle of a busy conversation either. A solid editorial calendar can help you avoid this blunder. Plan some regular features (“Volunteer of the Month”, “Donor in the Spotlight”, “Fundraising Smarts”) and make a plan for often to include them in your blogging efforts. Put it down on a calendar. Plan out other topics in advance, and add those to the calendar as well. Depending on if you’re writing your blog internally or accepting submissions from guest authors, assign your topics to writers in advance. Stockpile some “evergreen” stories for a rainy day. You never want to find yourself with a stagnant blog and zero posts or ideas in the pipeline.

Speaking of Donors…

This is a great post from Hubspot with some excellent tips on nonprofit blogging, and among their best advice is remembering to use your blog to express your gratitude. Nonprofit groups cannot survive without quality donors, volunteers, and supporters, and those will be hard to come by if you’re not expressing appreciation for their existence—loudly and publicly. This type of appreciation can earn your organization more than good karma points. “By spotlighting your constituents and what they’ve done to help your organization, you get a triple benefit. One, you’re thanking people for their time and effort — which always goes in delighting your volunteers; two, you inspire others to become involved; and three, when you spotlight people, they naturally tell their friends, family and co-workers through social media and email, which drives even more people back to your blog and spreads awareness instantly.”

Don’t Forget to Add a Little 2.0

Ideally, you’d like people to keep reading your blog, and you’d like to add new readers and get your message across to as many Internet users as possible, right? Well then, you can’t neglect the 2.0. You can have the best post in the world, but if it’s not accessible and shareable via a number of channels, it may not hit that many eyeballs. So what does this mean? Make sure whatever blogging platform you use (we like WordPress) allows for RSS feed creation, which should allow users to subscribe to your posts either through a blog reader like Feedly (most popular replacement for the late, great Google Reader) or through email.

Additionally, add share buttons to the top or bottom of every post, you know the ones we mean—the little widgets showing how many times your post has been Tweeted, Liked on Facebook, +1’d on Google+, etc. Also a must? Comments! Reader feedback is just as important while blogging as while engaging on social—you want your blog to be the jumping off point of a conversation, not a dead end. One of the best ways to combine the social aspects of your site with your blog is to use Facebook commenting for blog posts.

What are some of your favorite nonprofit blogs? How has your organization used blogging to achieve its online goals? Share with us in the comments!