What's a Blog, and Why Should Nonprofits Care?

Austin Free-Net, a community technology nonprofit, has found blogs both an effective supervisorial tool and a means for communicating to stakeholders and the public. From an article at NonprofitQuarterly.org:

When she encouraged her staff to blog about their work, Sisnett recognized another benefit of nonprofit blogging: She could now easily keep up to speed on her staff’s work and the progress of various, concurrent projects. Soon, between the executive director, the technical staff and volunteers, Austin Free-Net had three staff blogs full of updated and archived information that could easily be incorporated into strategic plan updates, VISTA reports, press releases, newsletters and grants. When a colleague, a sponsor or even a journalist needed information about a project or issue, Sisnett could refer the interested party to a blog.

Free-Net’s experiments with staff blogging fit a trend developing in both the nonprofit and for-profit sectors. According to Teresa Crawford, Technical Director at Advocacy Project and a leader in the movement to provide technology assistance to international nonprofits, blogs with an “internal focus” have made it easier for organizations to capture the knowledge of teams and support their collaboration. “Rather than only a linear discussion list for a team,” she points out, “individual and collaborative blogs make it possible to see ties among team members and issues they are working on.”

More typically, an externally focused blog can transform informal knowledge sharing into a new asset for an organization. Blogs can enliven your group’s Web presence and engage clients, supporters and strangers alike in your work. “We think that there is a good chance blogging is a new way to express the nonprofit voice,” says Jim Fruchterman, CEO of Benetech, a nonprofit organization that puts technology to work for social needs. “We feel we have unique things to say, so we should be saying them.” Since October 2003, Fruchterman has been authoring the Beneblog, a component of Benetech’s Web site where he has highlighted the work of his organization’s staff and partners, commented on legislation affecting his field, documented his speaking engagements and attendance at conferences and described in real-time the impact of world travel on his work as Benetech’s executive. “Blogs provide a more immediate form of communication than my quarterly update,” he says. “They bring new content to our homepage and give us a chance to bring up ideas and links in a less formal context.”

Article concludes with a four-step procedure for “Getting Your Nonprofit Up and Blogging.” (Link via Weblogsky.)