In the last week, nonprofit blogging has seen another surge in interest. Now that former CNN reporter Rebecca Mackinnon is championing the cause with the creation of BloggerCorps, the concept is picking up some chatter on the blogsphere.
In parallel to the quick release of BloggerCorps, there have been a few ongoing conversations on Omidyar.net on nonprofit blogging and the business of blogging, as well as a continuing conversations between Marnie and I.
Within these exchanges, I have been steadfast about the need to make sound cases for nonprofit blogs (content creation) and nonprofit content aggregation. While I have no doubt the folks pushing BloggerCorps forward have the best of intentions, like Marnie, I fear that nonprofits will implement blogs, similar to how they implemented websites in the mid to late 90's, only to have gigabytes of content with no purpose or impact. If nonprofits are going to jump on the blogging bandwagon (which I shamelessly support), they need to combine it with overall communication strategies, as well as connect it with overall organizational outcomes. A blog must add-value in very explicit ways to a nonprofit's mission and program; it simply cannot be done for the sake of having one.
I believe the most logical point for nonprofit to enter the blogsphere (and where the most solid case can be made) is through an organization's fundraising function. Fundraising is all about the organization's (and their constituents) story. The best example I can think of at the moment is the March of Dimes' "Share Your Story" site (hat tip: Lee LeFever). Not only does it provide a healing story-sharing venue for people touched by the organization, but, I believe, a great opportunity for donors (and prospective donors) to be engaged by the people they impact with their giving. I would be very curious if the March of Dimes is using their blog in this manor, and if so, can they track the tangible fundraising results.
As the fundraising landscape becomes more competitive for small to mid-size nonprofits, creative means of culitvation will be necessary. At some point, a critical mass of nonprofits benefiting from blogging must be reached in order for this concept to transcend blog trendiness to an identified "movement"; it is then I believe that nonprofit content aggregation can be leveraged in some meaningful way.
In the midst of these ponderings, I came across a posting from the loquacious Dave Pollard on Blogging and the Knowledge Value Chain. It's incredibly relevant here in two ways:
If nonprofits are going to embrace blogging, they not only need to report on "happenings," but contextualize it, give insights to its meaning, and bring people to action. See the visual model here.
Additionally, the same must be done for content aggregation. His concept, as nebulous as it might be, is the best I've seen yet to bring information together in meaningful ways.
Dynamic Libraries: We could create large virtual libraries of news, information and analysis by linking together in one, organized place, everything you could possibly want to know about a particular subject. I don’t like the word ‘archive’ because it connotes ‘old and outdated’, but it’s an up-to-date dynamic archive I’m proposing. … The blog is not a useful mechanism for this, because it sorts content by date and drops it off automatically after a certain period of time. Wikis might work. We need a mechanism for indexing and organizing all this content in simple, powerful ways, ways that allow us to see the context of all this stuff—search engines aren’t up to this task. We need a way to filter all the content on a particular topic by relevance, by value, using some kind of voting mechanism that allows all users to rate articles, but discounts the brief frenzy of sensational news to produce some measure of enduring value. This is a resource that everyone, even the big media, would get value from. Instead of having to go to a hundred sites following link after link, you could just go there. I’ll leave it to the librarians and the technologists to design this. I think it could be dynamite.