Should Your Executive Director Blog?

executive director blog

Please allow me to introduce three Executive Directors.

Pamela Iacobelli, the President and CEO of CultureSource, a Detroit based arts nonprofit with six staffers.

Lisa Goldstein, the Executive Director of the Institute for Jewish Spirituality, a 10-employee nonprofit based in New York City.

Joe Selby, the Executive Director at Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute, a $400 million nonprofit based in Washington DC.

Three different kinds of nonprofits with different goals and sizes. You probably hadn’t heard of Pamela, Lisa, or Joe before today. I know I hadn’t before this week.

But Pamela, Lisa, and Joe have something important in common besides leading nonprofits. It’s something they also have in common with well-known nonprofit leaders like Scott Case (Network for Good, Malaria No More) and Jeff Walker (The Generosity Network).

They all blog.

“Well how nice for them. I guess I could blog, but I have more important things to do with my limited time.” – Most Executive Directors

I hear that from a lot of EDs and CEOs when I first suggest blogging. They don’t see the value of an Executive Director blog.

Or, even if they want to do it, they worry they can’t do it well for any number of reasons, including working at an organization that tightly controls its messaging (what happens if the ED goes rogue???)

Maybe you think every hour you spend blogging is an hour you’re not spending talking to donors, planning with board members, speaking with clients, inspiring staff or organizing volunteers.

But there are some important reasons to overcome these obstacles and start blogging. Or if you’re already blogging on occasion, to do it more consistently.

Several years ago, Joan Garry came to me to help her create an online strategy for her consulting practice. I convinced Joan to start this blog and showed her how to do it well. She’ll gladly tell you it was one of the best professional decisions she’s made.

For all the same reasons it’s worked so well for Joan, an Executive Director blog can have a major impact on the growth of your nonprofit as well.

Here are six good reasons you, as the leader of your organization, need to be blogging. Then I’ll give you a few tips to help you overcome some of the typical challenges.

6 GOOD REASONS FOR AN EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR BLOG

1. You are the public face

As the public face of your nonprofit, it’s your responsibility to communicate to the public. What better way than on a blog where you can fully control the message?

The fact is, you need the world’s attention. While this was always true, the world has changed. People spend hours online daily.

Among adults in the U.S. most hear about charitable causes through social media. Not TV, radio, or word of mouth. It’s mostly on Facebook and it’s not even close.

As the public face of your nonprofit, you need to have something to say to the world. The currency of social media is the link. But what might you link to?

Really, you have 2 choices:

  1. Relevant stuff written by others
  2. Stuff you’ve written

It’s a lot easier to just link to smart content written by others. But then you don’t get to let people see your style or personality. You’re not positioning yourself as a thought leader. You don’t get to craft your own story. You don’t really elevate your nonprofit’s brand.

As the leader of the organization, your constituents want to hear from you more than anyone else. They want you to make them feel confident and inspired by your leadership. A blog is a terrific forum for building trust and understanding.

2. Blogging helps you clarify things

We all have lots of ideas running around in our heads. The act of writing for other people forces us to elucidate those ideas into a coherent and effective whole.

Really, this is true for any kind of writing. You could, in theory, write a personal journal and accrue this benefit.

However, the practice of blogging imposes a longer-term consistency to the process and because what you write has to be clear and persuasive to other people, you are forced to really think through your subject.

3. Blogging increases website traffic

Websites that routinely publish new and compelling content get more traffic. Static websites don’t. Why would they? There’s no reason for anybody to come back and engage.

Each piece of content you publish is another opportunity to be found on Google or linked to on Facebook or Twitter.

Blogging is a terrific way to consistently add fresh and interesting content to your website. Not to mention, your blog posts can easily be repurposed for other uses – your email newsletter, eBooks, checklists, infographics, and so on.

4. Your blog can attract great employees

Who knew an Executive Director blog could be a great recruiting tool? But it’s true.

Consider that when somebody great is considering working for your organization, she’s doing her research online. She wants to know what it will be like to work for you. What’s your personality like? How do you think? Are you inspiring? Interesting? Boring?

Your blog is a great way for all your constituents to get to know you better, including potential recruits.

5. Your Executive Director blog will also attract other like-minded people

A strong blog written with conviction will attract others who think like you do. These readers will engage with you, email you, comment, and share. They will connect with you.

From such connections a network is built. And from such a network comes new board members, donors, volunteers, and partners.

6. It’s a good career move for you personally

Life is fickle. Modern careers even more so.

You might not stay at your position forever. Blogging sets you up for your next job. It raises your personal profile. It allows potential employers to be aware of you, understand how you think, and be impressed by you before they’ve even met you.

OVERCOMING THE OBSTACLES

Obstacle 1: Finding the time

Richard Branson, the CEO of Virgin Group, which comprises more than 400 companies, is a prolific blogger. So is Alan Mulally, the CEO of Ford. You can be sure both of these guys are incredibly busy. But they prioritize blogging as a strategic way to grow their personal brands and the brands of their organizations.

So let’s dispense with this myth. The only reason you don’t have the time is because, until now, you haven’t been convinced of the value.

Of course you’re busy. But your job is to be a leader. Great leaders are great communicators and a blog is a fantastic communications platform.

It’s fine to start slowly. Write one post. Then, in a few weeks, write another. Like most things, it gets easier the more you practice. Posts can be short or long – the length isn’t critical. If you have something quick and pointed to share, go ahead. Some of the most popular bloggers write posts of 200 words or less. Others go on for thousands of words. Do what works for you.

Obstacle 2: Your organization avoids transparency

This can be a real problem for certain kinds of organizations. A blog should be authentic and show your personality. Without that, it’s boring and nobody will want to read it, which defeats the purpose. Some organizations have to deal with compliance issues and you need to be aware of that.

Sure, your communications folks might worry you’ll go off message. But remember, you’re the leader. You get to do this.

A blog is a channel of personal communication. If you’re not a great writer, or if you need to have your words vetted for legal reasons, ask your communications team to work with you. Tell them what you want to say, explain the tone you want to set, and let them craft the words. It’s entirely fine to do that. It’s the same reason magazines and newspapers (remember those?) have editors.

Obstacle 3: You don’t know what to write about

Starting a blog is actually pretty easy these days. The hard part is figuring out what you should write.

But is it really so difficult? Try this exercise. Go through your email from the last week. Jot down somewhere a list of every question you are asked. The questions can be about the organization, an upcoming event, a program, a success story, the organization’s progress, etc. There should be no shortage of good ideas.

But ultimately you need to remember one critical thing. People care less about the organization per se than they do about their own interests. You have to understand your audience. What will appeal to them? What do they want to know about. That’s why answering actual questions you’ve gotten is so powerful.

GREAT EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR BLOGS

It’s your turn to share.

If you know of an Executive Director that you think is doing a great job blogging, link to the blog in the comments below. Tell us why you think it’s effective.

In a future post, I’ll compile a list of the best ones and give you my two cents on what they’re doing well.

Follow me

Scott Paley

President at Abstract Edge
Scott and his company helps nonprofits, educators, and mission-driven companies grow, engage, and motivate their audiences. And look great while doing it. Scott, a life-long Mets fan and New Yorker, now lives the American dream in Baltimore with his wife, 2 kids, dog and cat.
Follow me

Latest posts by Scott Paley (see all)

  • Great points! I even agree with you that EDs need to blog themselves, not farm the task out to their communications people. And given that I make my living writing for executives, some people (my spouse included) may find that surprising. But authenticity is essential; readers need to get a sense of your personality and how you think. That’s what people connect with—whether they’re potential donors or potential employees (or employers).

    I suggest a practice of setting aside 10-15 minutes every day—before you check your email!—not necessarily to write a blog, but to make notes about what you might write. At the end of the week, look at the notes and either post them directly or flesh out one or two to make your blog. I don’t think an ED needs to blog more than once a week, maybe even once every other week to start, right? And a platform like WordPress makes it easy to schedule blogs at future dates. That’s been essential for me as I made the transition to daily blogging.

    • Great advice, Elaine!

      I think you can have a ghost writer, but they really need to write with your voice. Not every leader is a great writer, but that’s OK. But communications departments tend to get a little to polished.

      As for frequency, even once a month has benefit. Do it as often as you have something interesting to say (though that should be most of the time.) The harder part is staying motivated, but it helps to understand the benefits brought by being consistent about it.

    • I totally agree. Everyone might not be skilled at writing, but I think everyone has a story to tell and should tell it. You will win every time!

  • Sheri Rettew

    Great post – encourages me to get past my own personal stumbling blocks and get blogging. One small note – the link to the writer’s site (Abstract Edge) should open in a new window, Joan. As it is now, the link opens in the same window, forcing the reader to leave your site. I don’t know if that setting is done by your contributing writers or your webmaster, but thought I’d plant the seed. I appreciate you!

    • Thanks for the feedback Sheri. When you start blogging again, please post a link here.

      The other issue you brought up (opening in a new window) is an oversight and has now been fixed. Thanks for letting us know.

  • I started blogging again. I have too many sites, but I like to break things up into topics. I believe sharing your story is important for any nonprofit for example.

  • Wil Fisher

    I’m inspired to start! One question tho- my org already has a blog. Many different people contribute to it. Should I just use that platform and add my voice more frequently, or start my own?

    • Does the current blog get significant traffic? If yes, jump on board. But make sure there’s a way to filter posts by author (or if not, then tag the post with your name.) You want to have a unique URL to send people to for your blog.

      Good luck! And please share the link once you’re up and running.

  • Rachel Novick Litcofsky

    This piece is truly on point. As a communications professional working with nonprofits I agree with your piece that this is an important instrument an ED should consider using consistently. Naomi Eisenberger, ED of The Good People Fund (www.goodpeoplefund.org) has found a way to integrate her own voice in a blog series she created to fit her organizations mission and model entitled The Tzedakah Diaries. The point mentioned above about knowing your audience and being authentic is truly a great takeaway. In Naomi’s case, her blog submissions are snapshots into the relationships and work she does with the grantees day in and day out. These blog submissions allow her to engage with her subscribers in a unique and personal way. Thank you for reinforcing the powerful message of the benefits of using this tool.