When I say “blog” to some church folks, what they seem to think that means is either “opinionated editorials” or “narcissistic what-I ate-for-breakfast-reports”. But blogs can be a great tool for non-profits.
A blog can be editorial or inane, but more basically, a blog is a special kind of website (or a specific function on a website), usually managed by blog software like WordPress (what this blog uses), Blogger, or others. Articles (aka “posts”) on a blog are arranged on the blog home page in chronological order, with the most recent on top. Each post also has it’s own stand-alone page too (usually accessed by clicking the title of the post). Most blogs also allow readers to comment or question in response to the post, but this feature can be turned off.
Develop a “Feed”
I regularly coach churches and faith communities to develop a “News Feed” by using a blog for all their dated, time-bound content. Most blogs allow multiple authors, so several staff or leaders can contribute. Posts can be:
- news about the organization (“We’ve just received an award”)
- educational (“Here’s what we do to help”)
- promotional (“Attend our big event”)
- seeking help (“We need furniture donations for a family”)
- prompting action (“Come serve at the soup kitchen on Saturday”)
- and probably a dozen other ideas!
Each piece of news needs to have it’s own separate post. Don’t aggregate all your news into one big post. This way you can send people to specific articles or pieces of news.
The real power of the blog as News Feed is when you link it to your other media. The blog posts can be longer and have more detailed information than is really practical in a single email, an email newsletter or in social media like Facebook. With the News Feed, you have a location for that longer info and you can put links to it in those other medias. For example, a short “teaser” couple of sentences in an email newsletter, concluding with a “Click here for more info” that is a link back to the specific stand-alone post page of that topic.
A best practice would be to use the URL of the stand-alone post page in your link (instead of the chronological-order home page of the blog), since by the time your reader gets to the home page, you may have made other posts, so what they are looking for won’t be on top any more.
Simplifies Content Management
This strategy of using a blog for a news feed greatly simplifies dated content management on your website:
- The person putting content on the site doesn’t have to think about which page of the site it goes on — they just create a new post for each piece of news, and it goes into the chronological structure of the blog/news feed.
- The person managing content never has to take old news down, only put new news up!
Number two is an important plus: You don’t want to have past-dated content on your site, but you also want to let potential visitors have an idea of what kinds of things your faith community has been doing. With a news feed, the date-stamped posts give you the best of both worlds– as long as you keep making new posts at least every other week.
Space out Facebook Auto-Posts
If you have set up your blog-as-a-news-feed to post automatically over onto your Facebook Page, then be sure to schedule your posts so that they don’t all publish at one time and “overwhelm” your fans’ FB newsfeed. Not only might they “unlike” your page, part of the power of the posts onto the FB page is that they will appear sporadically in your fans’ news, and keep reminding them of the things that you are doing. In this case, a drip is a lot more effective than a flood.
A blog may already be a part of your established website, or you may be able to easily add a blog. Having your news feed be a part of your larger site is ideal, but if it’s not feasible, WordPress.com and Blogger and other blogging sites offer free (but limited feature) blogs. Most of those services also allow you to buy a domain name to use with that free blog (this can be less than $25 per year).