Successful Blogging for Non-Profits Tip #1: Know Your Audience
Sitting down at that blank computer screen to compose a blog for your non-profit organization, you’re facing a different task than a business blogger faces.
You’re not trying to convince customers to buy; you’re persuading donors to support. You’re not converting shopping readers into paying customers; you’re drawing folks with needs to come use your services.
In other respects, however, your non-profit blogs for the same reasons as a business does. You want to:
- attract attention to what you have to offer—because you believe in it
- earn trust by establishing yourself as a caring expert in your field
- build relationships with people for mutual benefit
That means the principles that guide blogging for any organization will—with the right tweaks—work for non-profits, too.
In this series of articles, we’ll look at the three A’s that can focus your non-profit blogging efforts, add power to your posts, and save you precious time. Because you have valuable work to get back to! For each post you write, know your audience, your aim, and your ask.For each post you write, know your audience, your aim, and your ask. Click To Tweet
Let’s start with your audience. (Read my next posts to gain clarity on your aim and your ask.)
Know Your Audience
Who are you writing for?
Your supporters and donors? Potential and current clients? Or others working in your field?
You must answer this “who?” question first. The nature of your audience will shape everything about what you write: your objectives, your content, and your tone.
If your non-profit has only one blog that serves all these audiences at different times, you have an additional challenge. (Even if you have more than one blog, each audience can find the other’s blog.)
- When writing for your supporters, speak as if your clients will “overhear” this conversation. Don’t turn your client stories into sensationalized fundraising appeals; no client wants to feel used like that. Ask permission* to share personal stories, and change names if appropriate.
- When writing for clients, speak so donors will be encouraged by the conversation, too. Let your supporters listen in as you meet your clients’ needs. They’ll be impressed with how you work. Think of your client blog post as a chance to let donors watch you in action.
- When writing for colleagues in your field, give your donors and clients a sense of community. Colleagues will hear you sharing what you’ve learned from experiences they can relate to. Donors and clients will find out they’re part of a bigger story by being involved with your non-profit.
*Note: Clients who know they’ll be featured in your post are likely to watch for and share that post, if you handle their story with care. Then everybody wins!
Key takeaway: Write for your primary audience. Edit for your secondary one.
What is your audience like?
You’ve identified your primary audience as a group. But don’t panic: you’re not giving a speech to a huge crowd in an echoing auditorium. You’re writing to one reader at a time.
So create a clear mental picture of that one reader. One of these techniques can help you create that picture:
- Find a photo that captures the ideal reader for your post. (Maybe it’s a photo of a real board member, donor, or client; maybe it’s an image you spot online or in a magazine.) Tape that photo to the top edge of your computer screen. Now write to that person.
- Go deeper and create an ideal reader profile. This can be fun. You can give your reader some backstory, some interests, and some relationships. (Things your real readers have!) Try this creative visual approach from Philip Van Dusen of Verhaal Brand Design.
This visual approach may seem a little corny at first. But when you’re stuck for words, spend a moment looking at the picture. Then begin with: “What I want you to know is…” and see what comes next. (You can always delete that dam-burster sentence later.)
Key takeaway: Picture your ideal reader. Then write to that person.
What are their pain points?
What kind of questions, needs, or desires does your ideal reader have? The answer to this question should drive your content. So how can you find out?
- Ask the members of your staff who work directly with your reader. (Maybe they will even contribute some blog content based on their experience!)
- Look at what they’re searching for online. For a helpful approach to finding keywords and search phrases, read this article from Hubspot.
Key takeaway: Learn what your readers need by asking those who know them best.
How does your reader talk?
Your supporters, clients, and colleagues probably use different vocabulary, sentence structure, and tone in their conversations about your work. Listen to them carefully so you can speak their language when you write to them.
- Visit their favorite social media sites. What are they engaging with? If you’re connected personally, visit their pages. What do they post about? What do they share? What do you observe about the style and content of those posts?
- Review your blog’s analytics. Which of your posts did your ideal reader respond to most? Which posts seemed to touch your reader’s hot buttons? What can you learn about your reader’s preferred topics, style, and content (like images versus text)?
Key takeaway: Listen to your readers talk so you can speak their language.
Where and when will your message reach them?
Your blog post needs to be placed where your reader can find it, when your reader is looking. Will that ideal reader come to your website directly? Probably not. But you can send them there from links carefully placed where your reader will find them.
- Email list members have already given you permission to reach them via their inboxes. So email them the blog—or a link to it. But consider Kissmetrics’ findings on the best timing for that email.
- Social media users can be encouraged to like or follow you—if you have a presence on their favorite platform(s). Research where your ideal readers go—and when they’re there. For example, HootSuite’s post about social media demographics by platform and CoSchedule’s infographic on social media usage by times of day offer guidance.
Key takeaway: Plan to plant your post right where your reader will find it.
Before I go…
Why are you blogging?
Blogging for your non-profit can be a great way for you to share your passion for your work, engaging with others who—for a variety of reasons—wish to connect someone like you. Don’t lose sight of that goal.
Then streamline your blogging workload by focusing on your audience, your aim, and your ask.
Time to pass the hat?
If being your organization’s Chief Blogger is simply one too many hats for you to wear, pass the hat! Find a freelance blogger who will take a personal interest in you and your organization. Karen Ingle Freelance can do the writing for you, so you can focus on the work you love. Let’s talk about how we might work together.
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