One of the biggest concerns nonprofits express to me about launching or maintaining their blog, is lack of staff time to update their blog with compelling posts. (Note, please don’t confuse “compelling posts” with long articles that take hours or days to write, a simple photo and caption that illustrates a good point around your issue is compelling). For nonprofits that are short on staff resources, could empowering your volunteers to regularly guest blog (weekly or bi-weekly) be a solution? Yes, so as long as your nonprofit is not obsessed with micro managing every word and are willing to invest in some blogger training, it could be worthwhile to explore.
“I feel like it's easier than nonprofits think and a huge missed opportunity if they aren't doing it,” said Maddie Grant of SocialFish.
Setting Up a Volunteer Led Blog
“We are about 2 months into a blog. Our plan is to use guest bloggers 4-5 times per month. We have created an editorial calendar for the content as well as who best to ask to submit the post. In this case, parents with kids dealing with substance abuse, local media, medical professionals and law enforcement. No incentive necessary because they are all committed to the cause. So far so good,” said Abbie S. Fink who works with the Partnership for a Drug-Free America in Arizona.
“Many, many people would rather volunteer a little bit of time for a worthy cause than donate money,” said Grant.
What Incentives Should Nonprofits Offer to Volunteer Bloggers?
Aside from blogger training, courting and selecting volunteers to blog, and setting up an editorial calendar, it’s also important to offer incentives. While some nonprofits say that supporting the cause is all volunteers need to motivate them, I have seen very few nonprofits staff a blog with volunteers long-term without incentives. Bottom line - you want a strong blogging program? Your nonprofit needs to invest in it.
If your organizations wants an active blogging program filled with thoughtful posts and voices, offer stipends. Why? While volunteers may be passionate about your cause, they are usually busy people. Depending on their age, they are either swamped with school, work, raising a family, and fitting in a social life. Blogging weekly or bi-weekly is a serious commitment and it takes time to develop topics and craft thoughtful posts week after week. When someone is making such a big commitment to your organization and helping your nonprofit establish a blogging presence, paying them a stipend is well worth the investment. It takes a big burden off of your own nonprofit staff that simply doesn’t have the time to blog. From my personal experience, offering financial incentives to regular contributors helps to ensure your blog is filled with quality content. It also motivates people to meet their deadlines.
“Offering stipends is a good idea,” said Jon Pincus who has guest blogged for several nonprofits and is currently volunteering to guest blog at http://www.nwen.org/blog/. “If I don't see an organization investing in an area, it doesn't seem like a priority to them. So unless there's something significant in it for me, it's probably not a good use of my time.”
Promote Guest Bloggers
If your nonprofit is on a shoe-string budget and can’t afford stipends, there are a few other incentives that you can offer. Does your nonprofit have a sizable email list or thousands of committed fans and followers on Facebook and Twitter? Use these channels to promote guests blog posts and encourage them to cross post it on their own blog and channels.
Volunteer bloggers want “exposure, awareness and impact," said Kendra Desrosiers who is a blogger and was chatting with me on Twitter about this topic.
“Bloggers are hungry for traffic. Feature these people to your list and make sure they get consistent large doses of hits,” said Liu. “It would help make up for the size of the stipend, as very often hits translate into ad revenue or bloggers can parlay this increased traffic into getting into an ad network."
Make Volunteer Bloggers Feel Valued
Like any volunteer program your nonprofit runs, making your volunteers feel valued and special is equally important to offering other incentives such as stipends, promotion, invites to VIP events, etc. It’s also vital to give them creative and editorial freedom, though some light copyediting for grammar is encouraged.
“Assuming that I had the time (which is the real sticking point), I wouldn't need any monetary or material incentives if it was a cause that really lit a fire under me. But I would want my blog contributions to be appreciated and not devalued, and I would want to have a degree of creative freedom and not just be micromanaged or censored. Actually I think a lot of this is just Volunteer Management 101,” said Kathryn Benedicto of Happy Snowman Tech.
Does your nonprofit utilize guest bloggers on a regular basis? Tell us about your experiences. What’s worked? What hasn’t worked?