Blogging: How I Began, Set it Up + More

“Beginnings are the Hardest Part.” Read about starting a blog from Soshable.

Since launching my blog on WordPress in fall, 2011, I have received many questions, from how is it designed to the content I have posted. This article addresses those questions and provides the context for my work.

The Beginning

I began blogging in 2010 on the heels of the #10NTC, the Nonprofit Technology Conference held at CNN Center in Atlanta, Georgia. The NTC is hosted annually by NTEN: Nonprofit Technology Network. Then-director Holly Ross invited me to present a small session on major gift fundraising and social media.

At the time, I felt shy about accepting the request. I thought my experience working with major gift donors who are highly “networked” might simply be a “niche” experience. Nevertheless, I accepted and was amazed when the room for my presentation, which held only 50 guests, was unable to accommodate the growing crowd that lined the hallway hoping to get in! I knew at that point what I had to say was of interest.

During the session I received both accolades and critiques. But the experience gave me the confidence to share what was discussed in that presentation in an online NTEN “community blog” following the conference. The blog involved several contributors from all walks of life. I kept up with it for just over a year, then decided to go “rogue” and develop an independent blog on the WordPress platform. This is the blog you are reading now.

Launching on WordPress

From a technical standpoint, I jumped into WordPress one weekend by signing-up and selecting one of its many attractive free templates. As is often the case when exploring a new platform, I became so immersed in learning how to use it and in “tweaking” my design, that one hour became eight hours in no time, then two full days before I finally had the semblance of a professional-looking blog. I transported the text of my favorite posts from the NTEN community page onto WordPress, polished and expanded them. Voila! I had a real blog.

In early 2012, I decided I would opt for a more elaborate paid template (updated twice since then). At that same time, I purchased my domain (URL), and I also paid for the option of having no outside advertisements on my sites. Today, I am using “The Wilson Theme,” which is more modern in style.

Once I opened my account on WordPress, I moved two other home-grown websites developed originally on Earthlink to WordPress as well. I made use of the same template for each.

Content

The content of my WordPress blog is drawn from life experiences and interests. As one of my favorite people, American musician Billie Holiday (1915-1959), once said:

“You can’t copy anybody and end with anything. If you copy, it means you’re working without any real feeling.”

I made a conscious decision that I would blog with real feeling. My blog discusses both the success stories and the challenges of working in the nonprofit sector. My aim continues to be to encourage my colleagues, and to help them by providing new ideas and resources. Because I believe the impossible can be achieved, my blog explains why I believe it. I challenge opinions of trusted authorities – all in the spirit of good will – and I affirm and share their advice as well.

And one thing I do religiously is quote my sources. How often have I found my own words and experiences used by others without being referenced. The Internet is free! But it is the responsibility to those of us using it to acknowledge our sources when they are not our own.

In response to those who have asked, yes, I develop and write all my content. I manage all my social media sites personally (and yes, it takes work, but I’ve found it to be rewarding and after a few years, not terribly difficult). In a “widget” located at the bottom of my WordPress websites I post a precautionary note, “All Rights Reserved.”

Get over it.

Fear Factor

One reason I almost did not start blogging was my fear of “haters.”

The Urban Dictionary defines “hater” as:

“A person that simply cannot be happy for another person’s success. So rather than be happy they make a point of exposing a flaw in that person. Hating, the result of being a hater, is not exactly jealousy. The hater doesn’t really want to be the person he or she hates, rather the hater wants to knock someone else down a notch.”

In the brief time I have been blogging, I have received few negative comments out of hundreds that have been posted. So far, the negative comments are statements that don’t have anything to do with the content at all. Luckily, WordPress has an internal e-mail/comment system so that every comment can be read and responded to (or discarded).

Random Personal Notes

I recommend the WordPress platform highly. WordPress makes me look more sophisticated than I am in reality! The wide variety of attractive templates, strong “searchability” of WordPress, its logical system for developing and updating posts, and the fact that it “loads-up” well on a variety of browsers make it an ideal blogging partner. But, as with any new system, it takes time to learn how to use WordPress. And I admit, I am still learning its many capabilities.

Does it take much work (and time) to maintain my blog, now that I have set it up? Today, it does not take long at all to update and expand upon existing articles, which is the primary way in which I work. Writing an entirely new article does involve time, but for the writing aspect rather than the installation process on WordPress.

Is my blog secure? WordPress has become quite sophisticated in terms of protecting the blogs on its platform from hacking. I routinely export all content from my blog to a secure file on my computer, where it is then backed-up and saved “in the cloud.” In addition, every article and post on WordPress is dated and timed upon publication. Hence, should verifying authorship be needed, this provides powerful evidence.

In closing, I would also like to mention that while I use WordPress for my professional musings, I also use Tumblr for more personal (less wordy and more visual) blogging. I recommend it highly if you are looking for a bit more “artful” blogging platform.

I have found blogging to be one of my most satisfying experiences. I enjoy sharing information and reviewing my life experiences for the benefit (and sometimes entertainment) of others.

Resources

The following are resources about blogging that I have found helpful. I will continue expanding on this list as I discover new ones!

  • Jay Dolan wrote a blog post that cheered me up, “The One True Way to Blog” (July 8, 2013). “Everyone blogs differently. Some of us write. Some of us post photos. Others draw comics. Some sit in front of a camera or microphone, recording everything. And that’s what makes the internet so powerful. Through our words and creations, we can all find ways to express ourselves. For every person drilled in AP style, there’s another who is writing her first post.”
  • BlogHer: Life Well Said, “creates opportunities for more than 50 million women who blog and their readers to gain exposure, education, community, and economic empowerment.”
  • In Clarification: Philanthropy Not Fundraising you will find a helpful and enjoyable series, “3 Ways to Build a Nonprofit Blog Worth Sharing – RCA Series.” “When building a blog that’s not only worth reading but also worth sharing, you’ve got to think like an RCA Victrola and record.  A great recording captures our attention.  It transports us.  It carries us away.  It brings us into the music/story in an easy flow.  It gets us tapping our toes and up on our feet dancing. Woo-hoo… it’s a party!”
  • Konstantin Kovshenin, a WordPress developer based in Moscow, has made a suggestion that I have adhered to, “Don’t Hide the Fact That You’re Using WordPress” (May 24, 2013). “Sometimes people try hide the fact that they’re running WordPress because they’re afraid other humans will spot that and think they’re ‘unprofessional’ or cheap. Well WordPress is the most professional content management system known to human kind, trusted by some of the largest companies worldwide and although free and open source, certainly not cheap.” Konstantin discusses security issues as well. On a personal note, I like having the word “WordPress” in my URLs (I have three WordPress sites, interlinked). I am impressed with the system and I’m quite loyal.
  • Donna Merrill has written, “How Bloggers Gain Authority” (December 8, 2014). “You can start building authority in your niche, and with your target audience, by creating a high quality content. The content can’t just be of high value, though, it needs to rise to the level of problem solving value.”
  • Patricia Redsicker has written for Social Media Examiner, “Blogging a Top Focus for Marketers” (June 17, 2013). “When asked what social media platform they wanted most to master, 62% of marketers said blogging, putting it in first place slightly ahead of Google+. This answer is consistent with other studies, which show that the appetite for blogging education is growing.”
  • Nancy Schwartz has written a helpful blog post and guide, “Should Your Nonprofit Launch a Blog.” “A blog is the absolutely easiest way to provide regularly updated information to your audiences. Because blog creation process is simpler than website creation or print design and production, blogs enable nonprofits to easily publish a stream of constantly updated, linked content. And search engines love fresh content.”
  • Tumblr is a different kind of blogging animal. I have both Tumblr and WordPress blogs. David Daw of PCWorld Magazine has written, “How to Get Started With Tumblr” (April 12, 2012). As noted above, I use Tumblr for “visual” blogging, and I greatly enjoy perusing those that focus on the visual arts, performing arts, graphic design, and historical topics. You might also enjoy reviewing the Tumblrs of charitable organizations.

WordPress

  • Quite a few people land on my blog and are unaware that it is hosted by WordPress. I use WordPress as my main blogging platform, and it is where I provide significant written documentation (and research). “The Daily Post: The Art and Craft of Blogging” is designed to help authors improve their blogging. There is also the guide, Learn.WordPress.com. You can find inspiring “tweets” on blogging from WordPress on Twitter.
  • WordPress.tv provides a variety of videos of prior educational sessions on various aspects of WordPress, and using it effectively. I receive quite a few questions about WordPress security, for instance; if you have similar concerns, see this video featuring Victor Granic.

This article was originally posted in November, 2012. I updated it in February, 2015.

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