Starting a blog for new charity - help!

13 replies
Hey guys,

I'm starting a blog for a charity a colleague and I have started. I'm also 100% new to IM and everything that goes with it.
I've been lurking through the posts in the WF and tbh its just getting confusing, theres so many different topics on so much stuff I've never heard of!

Wondering if someone can simply point out the order of how I should be looking at getting started. What should I be educating myself on, when/how do I look at directing traffic etc?

The aim will be to direct a fair bit of traffic to the blog, which will mainly be a blog with posts by myself and my colleague, and will aim to grow some awareness and a following for our cause, which will (in theory) grow donations to our cause and ultimately allow the charity to grow.

Am happy to invest some money into this, but just have no idea in which of the 50 directions presented by this site to go in!

Hopefully someone can put it layman's terms for me .
#blog #charity #starting
  • Profile picture of the author Steve B
    I would start with a self-hosted blog using WordPress, an appropriate domain name, and a method of taking payment on site. I would also get an autoresponder account at aWeber (or any number of others) so you can send out emails and build a list of subscribers. You don't need a lot more.

    Doing all these things is explained in detail if you use the search function and find threads about these steps. You can be up and running today with almost no expense.

    Then when your site is ready, you can learn about targeting, testing, and driving traffic.

    Good luck,

    Steve
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    • Profile picture of the author kilgore
      I guess I'm confused.

      Why exactly are you creating a blog? Is it to promote the work of the charity? Is it as a way to help fund your work? Or is the blog the charity itself? (Or something else completely?)

      Having worked in and out of the NGO sector for over 15 years on staff and as a technology consultant, the one thing I can say with confidence to your question is that there is no one-size-fits-all answer. There are a lot of good reasons an non-profit might want a blog and there are also a lot of equally valid reasons a non-profit might not.

      Originally Posted by Steve B View Post

      WordPress
      Wordpress? That's a type of software, not a strategy. Granted it's great software, but it seems strange to choose your software before you know what you're trying to accomplish.

      Originally Posted by Steve B View Post

      a method of taking payment on site
      Payment? For what? Are you selling something? Are you trying to get individual donations? In that case, collecting payment can be useful, but don't think that you'll get donations just by putting a "Donate" button on your site. In my experience people only give when they come to a site with an intention to give, they very, very seldom decide to give just because they noticed that donate button.

      Originally Posted by Steve B View Post

      send out emails and build a list of subscribers
      What exactly would you email people? Who would be your subscribers? Email lists can be great for non-profits -- but they also can take a lot of time and energy. And if your content isn't compelling it can be a big waste of time.

      Originally Posted by stevenjacobs View Post

      I would setup a really good looking landing page and I would also look at buidling a email list
      Landing page? For a charity? With an email list? This sort of technique may work if you're trying to spam people into buying some crappy Clickbank product, but I'd really think twice about doing this for a charity.


      So given how much smarter I seem to think I am than everyone else (well, not really -- but re-reading what I wrote it kinda looks like that's what I mean and I'm too lazy to tone it down) what would I recommend?

      1) Focus on your charity and the work you are trying to accomplish. If your organization exists to help illiterate wombats learn to read, make sure that you're doing that really, really well. The blog, the email lists, everything else in fact -- come second (or twenty-second).

      2) Put up some sort of website because it's sorta expected. Describe what you do, have some way for people to get in touch with you and make sure you have a picture of a white guy shaking hands with a person of color because that's apparently the litmus test to ensure an organization embraces diversity. If you're going to be driving people to your site to donate then, yes, put that donate button there. But unless there's a huge demand for you to have a lot of online content, I just wouldn't bother putting a lot of effort into it. I'd want to spend as much time focusing on my charity and the work I'm trying to accomplish (See #1).

      3) As you continue to do great work (see #1), you'll find lots of people who want to help. Find a way to channel their energies -- in particular, you might find that you meet someone with technical or marketing expertise. Use them to worry about the blog, email lists, etc. so that you can focus on the work of your charity (see #1). And if you grow you might even hire for positions like this.
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      • Profile picture of the author himynamesjoe
        Originally Posted by kilgore View Post

        I guess I'm confused.

        Why exactly are you creating a blog? Is it to promote the work of the charity? Is it as a way to help fund your work? Or is the blog the charity itself? (Or something else completely?)

        Having worked in and out of the NGO sector for over 15 years on staff and as a technology consultant, the one thing I can say with confidence to your question is that there is no one-size-fits-all answer. There are a lot of good reasons an non-profit might want a blog and there are also a lot of equally valid reasons a non-profit might not.


        Wordpress? That's a type of software, not a strategy. Granted it's great software, but it seems strange to choose your software before you know what you're trying to accomplish.


        Payment? For what? Are you selling something? Are you trying to get individual donations? In that case, collecting payment can be useful, but don't think that you'll get donations just by putting a "Donate" button on your site. In my experience people only give when they come to a site with an intention to give, they very, very seldom decide to give just because they noticed that donate button.


        What exactly would you email people? Who would be your subscribers? Email lists can be great for non-profits -- but they also can take a lot of time and energy. And if your content isn't compelling it can be a big waste of time.


        Landing page? For a charity? With an email list? This sort of technique may work if you're trying to spam people into buying some crappy Clickbank product, but I'd really think twice about doing this for a charity.


        So given how much smarter I seem to think I am than everyone else (well, not really -- but re-reading what I wrote it kinda looks like that's what I mean and I'm too lazy to tone it down) what would I recommend?

        1) Focus on your charity and the work you are trying to accomplish. If your organization exists to help illiterate wombats learn to read, make sure that you're doing that really, really well. The blog, the email lists, everything else in fact -- come second (or twenty-second).

        2) Put up some sort of website because it's sorta expected. Describe what you do, have some way for people to get in touch with you and make sure you have a picture of a white guy shaking hands with a person of color because that's apparently the litmus test to ensure an organization embraces diversity. If you're going to be driving people to your site to donate then, yes, put that donate button there. But unless there's a huge demand for you to have a lot of online content, I just wouldn't bother putting a lot of effort into it. I'd want to spend as much time focusing on my charity and the work I'm trying to accomplish (See #1).

        3) As you continue to do great work (see #1), you'll find lots of people who want to help. Find a way to channel their energies -- in particular, you might find that you meet someone with technical or marketing expertise. Use them to worry about the blog, email lists, etc. so that you can focus on the work of your charity (see #1). And if you grow you might even hire for positions like this.
        Thanks for your advice!

        The point of the blog is to grow awareness for our cause, which is raising money for our partners abroad. The charity is called 'Tea Time for the Homeless' and is an initiative that another volunteer and I begun whilst we were volunteering in Nepal for a few months.

        As the point is to raise money and grow awareness for our partners, we would be posting about the achievements of the partners with their projects, and about our own initiatives in our countries. I suppose you're correct in saying that there wouldn't be a heap of content in terms of offering information to people, however I would love for people to be able to see it, connect with it on some level of compassion through seeing the posts, and consider donating, even a little.
        Right now we do this via a Facebook page, but we would like to convert that following into a website/the posts we put on FB to go onto a blog.

        I'm with you on the landing page - I don't think or want there to be a selling vibe, more of a website people can visit to see the progress of our cause and the initiatives we are growing.

        Do you think this is possible?
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        • Profile picture of the author kilgore
          Is it possible? Well, anything's possible -- but I think it's an uphill climb the way you describe it.

          First, in my experience, most organizational blogs never do much in raising awareness. They might start out with great intentions and enthusiasm, but once the blog maintainers realize how much work they've signed up for, they quickly denigrate into pretty boring organizational announcements. It might be interesting to them that their board of directors just had a retreat at which they decided to amend Bylaw 10(a)3(e), but nobody else is going to care.

          Second, even if you had the resources of Greenpeace and you were able to put up oodles of compelling content, who is going to read it? And I mean that very literally as in who would be the audience for such a blog? I'm guessing that academics who study homelessness might be very interested. Other activists and allied organizations working on issues of poverty and homelessness would also be keen to read what you're posting. If you have a strong local focus in your blog, you might get some local elected officials or city administrators interested. But I really don't see the "general public" (a concept that doesn't really exist anyway) being interested in your blog on a day to day basis unless they already have a strong tie to your organization or are already deeply interested in homeless issues. What you might hope to happen is that every once in a while a particularly compelling post would be shared widely outside of your network which really could raise awareness and potentially money. But if this is your strategy, I think there are probably easier ways to do it, namely using social media which by nature is designed to be shared.

          I've checked out your website and your Facebook page. In my opinion, unless you're getting a lot of feedback from your constituents that you're website is lacking something they really need, it looks like it's already doing what it needs to do. It explains who you are, establishes legitimacy, and has that donate button. You might consider having a small organizational announcement page (or better yet widget on your front page) to make it easier to share the latest news about your work, fundraisers you might be having or other relevant tidbits, but really the pieces are pretty much there already. Good job!

          Your Facebook page is also a good start. I like that not every post is about you, but is relevant for people who care about the issues you care about. One piece of advice I have here is not to believe any of the "rules" people spout out for how long your posts should be, how often they should be, etc. Experiment with different post lengths (my page has very, very long posts and this works great for us, but might not for you!), posting frequencies (again, we post 5 - 9 times a day, but this may not work for you either!) and types of posts (almost every single post of ours includes a compelling image). As you learn and grow your engagement will improve.

          I should also note that while I didn't like the idea of a landing page, collecting emails and developing some sort of monthly or weekly newsletter can be really effective. Not only do you get a chance to talk about yourself, but it's a great opportunity to ask for donations! Of course, this too takes work...

          As for the blog... Well, it all comes down to competing priorities. Like most organizations, you don't look like your flush with cash from the Gates Foundation, so it all comes down to where you think you can spend your money -- and more importantly your time -- better. Personally, I don't see a lot of utility in creating a blog. The kind of information you described could easily be incorporated in your website in a way that wouldn't make you feel pressured or compelled to be constantly updating it.

          From my perspective, I'd rather focus my energies connecting with students, activists and local businesses -- in other words, growing your organization the traditional way. But that's just me. But that said, it's really not that hard to set up a blog, so you could create one, see how it goes and if it doesn't meet your expectations disband it. I run a social entrepreneurial venture and we actually do this kind of thing a lot -- try an idea out on our community and if it sticks we run with it and if not, we just let it run a quiet death. Then again, I don't have to answer for our failures to a board of directors

          Regardless, it looks like you're doing great work and I wish you much success moving forward!
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      • Profile picture of the author Steve B
        Originally Posted by kilgore View Post

        Wordpress? That's a type of software, not a strategy. Granted it's great software, but it seems strange to choose your software before you know what you're trying to accomplish.
        The OP knows what he's trying to accomplish and stated he wanted to set up a blog in order to "grow some awareness and a following for our cause." Without the OP having to go into more detail, I think that is enough for us to understand he wants an online presence for his new charity and a platform to blog about it.


        Originally Posted by kilgore View Post

        Payment? For what?
        The OP stated it was his desire to "grow donations to our cause and ultimately allow the charity to grow. " That suggests to me that he needs a mechanism for accepting online payments (contributions). It doesn't preclude donations by mail, or phone, or in person, but it seems obvious that having a way to accept payments online at the charity web site is a part of the equation the OP is asking about.


        Originally Posted by kilgore View Post

        What exactly would you email people? Who would be your subscribers?
        It was my recommendation that the charity begin an email list of those who showed some kind of interest in being a part of the charity. Over time, this list can become a valuable asset in nurturing subscribers, keeping them informed about the activities of the charity and in soliciting various levels of support and contribution.


        Originally Posted by kilgore View Post

        Landing page? For a charity? With an email list? This sort of technique may work if you're trying to spam people into buying some crappy Clickbank product, but I'd really think twice about doing this for a charity.
        Yes, I've used landing pages to direct traffic from various marketing efforts as entry points to a charity web site. We've tested this approach and found it superior to driving traffic to a generic home page.


        Your suggestions are certainly welcomed as well. The idea of a public forum is to entertain dialogue and ideas from many sources as one person rarely has all the answers.

        Steve
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  • Profile picture of the author stevenjacobs
    Banned
    I would setup a really good looking landing page and I would also look at buidling a email list
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  • Profile picture of the author himynamesjoe
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  • Profile picture of the author ryanbiddulph
    Steve B, good advice. Simple and to the point. So important to offer advice from a high energy, positive, helpful space
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  • Profile picture of the author kilgore
    Steve B,

    Naturally a public forum is useful to entertain ideas from multiple sources -- but I think it's also fair to state when you disagree.

    I also disagree that the OP necessairly knows what he's trying to accomplish. I've worked with far too many non-profits who create blogs, websites, Facebook pages, campaign tools or any number of other things without really thinking through what they're trying to accomplish and who they're trying to reach.

    For a blog to be a successful tool for an NGO, it has to have a specific audience or audiences in mind. If the thought is, "Let's create a general blog and everyone will rush to read it and donate lots of money" I think we can both agree that that's just a pipe dream. If the thought is, "Let's create a blog about innovative approaches by NGOs and the public sector to solving the problem of homelessness that we expect to have a narrow, but dedicated readership of academics, non-profit service providers, and local government officials" that's when I'd agree that he knows what he's trying to accomplish.

    Or maybe it's "Let's create a blog in which we detail the activities of our partners and other organizations that our charity supports so that our supporters can feel more involved with what we're doing." Again, here's a specific audience (supporters and other lay people interested in the problem of homelessness) and a specific angle on the problem. But these are two very divergent approaches and demand a different blog tone, style and content. I'd also argue that in neither case is the blog likely to be a significant revenue stream in itself -- though you could certainly use the stories you highlight in a blog to bolster a pitch for donations.

    As for the emails, as I said in my second post above, I agree that an email list can be valuable. But as with a blog, it's imperative that he thinks about messaging and content. For a charity the trust people have in their brand is everything. Just collecting a lot of random email addresses and then spamming them might do more harm than good in the long run.

    Granted I'm new here, but it seems like whenever people ask for help on just about any topic, no matter what the question or what the situation they are almost sure to get the same answers. And these answers usually consist of a simple 5-step plan that will somehow work for any situation or a set of tools or software to use. It's sort of like someone saying I need to get from New York to Los Angeles and then recommending that they buy a Honda Accord, fill it with gas from Shell and buy a Christmas tree air freshener. OK, I suppose that might marginally help, but it might be better to find out why he strying to get to LA? Is he moving there? Probably he should take the most direct route. Is he sightseeing? Maybe he should stop and see the Grand Canyon on the way? Does he have an important meeting? Maybe he'd be better off flying. Is he just trying to deliver a letter? Maybe he can just drop it in the mail. Perhaps my answers aren't "simple and to the point", but neither are people's problems.
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  • Profile picture of the author cyberzolo
    Self host the blog with Wordpress and post on forums related to the charity you are running.
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  • Profile picture of the author IMStrategus
    you should first do some keyword research and either get a premium theme or a custom made one. if y you want more advice on blogging you can always pm me.
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    I lie on marketing forums. Social media is for fun, pics & hook ups.

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  • Profile picture of the author kimtame
    Well, It sounds really Motivating!! Charity helps to prepare our community better to live by providing goods and services to people who might not have access to it. When we raise the standard of living of others, we improve our own standard of living in turn.
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    • Profile picture of the author JohnMcCabe
      Originally Posted by himynamesjoe View Post

      I'm with you on the landing page - I don't think or want there to be a selling vibe, more of a website people can visit to see the progress of our cause and the initiatives we are growing.

      Do you think this is possible?
      At the risk of being too blunt, fundraising for a charity IS a sale. You are making the sale that donating to your cause is more worthwhile than the thousand and one other things people could be doing with their money.

      Raise all the awareness you want, but you can't buy anything with "awareness".

      Can you stage some sort of online event, and make your site - or an offshoot blog - the focal point for building for the event, maybe even being a central part of the event and then reporting on the success of the event? If so, I would pick up a copy of Jeff Walker's Launch book at Amazon and look at doing one or more annual launch-type events to both raise awareness and money.

      Build your email list and use it as the base for launching the events.

      One of our senior Warriors, Dr. Mani, is a heart surgeon in India. He has done annual blogathons to raise both money and awareness for his CHD charity work. (He does operations on kids with heart defects.)
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  • Profile picture of the author Mo Goulet
    I do a lot of PRO BONO work for local charities. I built the following WP theme for The Crisis Center here in Sun Valley. Look at it and if you have any questions, message me.

    The Crisis Hotline
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