3 min Read
November 19, 2010

Will blogging make your newsletter obsolete?

Things move so fast these days it’s possible to see perspectives change radically on an issue in a short period of time. For instance, as little as a year or so ago, the topic of how a nonprofit might use Facebook sparked a lot of debate and resistance. Do we really even need it? What’s the value? Who’ll manage it? But these days, it’s more common to hear Facebook discussed as a ‘given’ in a nonprofit’s online communications landscape.

Blogging’s like that, too. Until fairly recently, the nonprofits we work with here at Big Duck and speak with were more likely to not have, or even want, a blog. It wasn’t that they didn’t have the time- it was that they didn’t see the value. Now, more and more organizations understand that blogging provides a fluid way to break down some of the walls that separate you from your clients, donors, peers, and other constituents. Not only can you share a broader range of content with them more fluidly, you can do it faster, more responsively, and engage others in online discussion about the topics. Great stuff!

This adoption of blogging has got me wondering: will the nonprofit newsletter go the way of the annual report? That is to say, could blogging replace the need for an organization to produce a more formal document that gets printed or emailed? I’m thinking yes.

Red Cross Oregon Blog

For now, it’s possible that your donors (and perhaps others) still want to get something in print- or perhaps don’t want to hear from you all that much. It’s also possible your organization doesn’t have the resources to maintain a blog. After all, blogging is a bit like having an energetic dog: you’ve got to feed it, walk it, exercise it, and help it connect with others for it to thrive. But that’s likely to change as generations change and RSS feeds increasing become mandatory ways we stay connected and informed.

Blogging requires strong writing skills, discipline, and project management skills. Sure, newsletters do, too- but newsletter readers are generally more forgiving of a publication that’s got some dull content every now and again. They’re also less likely to write and tell you that your newsletter’s dull.

For a great nonprofit blog example, I’m partial to the Oregon Trail Chapter’s Cross Blog. These savvy bloggers mix engaging stories about disaster relief, donors, social media and more with humor and brevity- and just keep cranking it out. I know nothing about this chapter and never visit the area, but I follow this blog. Imagine how I’d feel if I were a donor?

If you agree that your newsletter may be aging out and blogging is coming up, here are a few tips to consider as you look ahead to your organization’s blogging future:

  • Don’t feel one person has to do all the writing. Mixing it up (the way we do here in the Duck Call, Big Duck’s blog), takes the pressure off any one person and adds a nice range of voices and texture.
  • Worried you can’t sustain it? Try blogging offline for 3 months first before you launch. Your ‘dummy’ blog will give you a chance to practice blogging without the shame of public failure. It’ll also generate a lot of good content you can use to fill in the real thing later on.
  • Be clear what the purpose of your blog is, who should read and comment on it, and stay focused. Your blog should support your mission and engage people toward some good end. Writing a brief or a set of objectives for the blog before you start blogging will help you stay focused and keep it meaningful.
  • Don’t build a blog in Siberia (unless your org is in Siberia). That is to say, you want the folks who visit the blog to connect it to your other work. Build a blog into your organization’s website seamlessly, rather than as a freestanding element. It’ll be a bit more work up front to develop, but the results will be significant in terms of reinforcing its connection to your organization and your brand.

Keep me posted!