When I launched Carolyn’s Nonprofit Blog on WordPress in 2011, I received many questions, from how it was designed to the content I chose to post. This article addresses those questions and provides the context for my work.
In truth, I am a borderline introvert and I have always been private about my work and accomplishments. I have worked intensely without stopping for more than twenty years. There are many insights to be shared to help others following along in similar pathways.
Where and When I Got the Courage to Blog
I began blogging in 2010 on the heels of the #10NTC, the Nonprofit Technology Conference, which was held that year 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” (active online) might simply be a niche experience. Nevertheless, I accepted the invitation 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 then 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.
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 l blog.
In early 2012, I decided I would opt for a more elaborate paid template, which has been updated a few times since then. At the same time, I purchased my domain (URL), and I also paid for the option of having no advertisements appear on my WordPress website.
The content of my WordPress blog is drawn from life experiences and interests. As one of my favorite American artists, Billie Holiday (1915-1959) 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. Hence, my blog discusses both the success stories and the challenges of working in the nonprofit sector. My aim still today is to be encouraging overall and to help my nonprofit colleagues by sharing solutions to sometimes daunting problems, and by including new ideas and helpful 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 goodwill – and I affirm and share their advice as well.
And one thing I do religiously is quote other sources of information. How often have I found my own words and experiences used by others without being properly 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, I develop and write all my own content (notice the “all rights reserved” notice). My postings focus on my personal experiences and interests. There are no other authors. I also aim to be positive, respectful, and I admit to past mistakes. I write about how I overcame a variety of obstacles. And, I rarely mention donor or volunteer names, but sometimes I can’t resist. Heroes deserve to be recognized.
The process of blogging has actually become therapeutic. Reviewing past challenges, mulling them over carefully, evaluating the lessons learned and the like has helped me better understand my own experiences. This ultimately makes me better at my own work.
Dr. Deborah Serani notes, “There’s a lot of science grounding expressive language writing and journaling as being an extremely helpful piece for maintaining mental wellness.” Amy Novotny notes on the American Psychological Association website, “That’s one reason she [Dr. Serani] encourages her clients to engage in expressive arts, be it blogging, journaling or taking an art, music or dance class.”
I urge my colleagues to take up blogging. Share your experiences, claim your successes, and help others in the process!
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.”
But since I have been blogging, I have received amazingly few negative comments. Thus far, the negative comments have been statements that did not have anything to do with my content. Luckily, WordPress has an internal email comment system so each comment can be read and responded to (or discarded easily), prior to approval for posting.
Presentation, Maintenance, Security
I recommend WordPress. WordPress makes me look my best, perhaps even 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” 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.
Does it take much work (and time) to maintain my blog, now that I have set it up? No, it does not take long 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. I find writing an entirely new blog including research time takes between two and three hours.
Is my blog secure? WordPress has become quite sophisticated in protecting the blogs on its platform from hacking. But just in case, I routinely export all content from my WordPress sites to a cloud storage platform. In addition, every article and post on WordPress is time stamped upon publication, making it easy to recall when I first posted.
I would also like to mention that while I use WordPress for my professional musings, I also use Tumblr for less wordy and more visual blogging. I recommend Tumblr if you are looking for a bit more “artful” blogging platform. Certainly if you are an artist or graphic designer, you will want to consider Tumblr. WordPress also has a “Portfolio” function, however, and I have posted some of my visual imagery there as well.
A decade on WordPress now, I can say without hesitation that blogging is one of my most satisfying pursuits. It allows me to claim my experiences and success stories, and to “own” them. It allows me to share information that is helpful to others in the nonprofit sector (to give back); to recognize outstanding volunteers, partners and technology partners; and to be present online in a truly meaningful way. I recommend blogging highly.
Articles are listed with the newer ones, first.
- Seth Godin has stated the situation well on Seth’s Blog: “The most important blog post. It is on the most important blog. Yours. Even if no one but you reads it. The blog you write each day is the blog you need the most. It’s a compass and a mirror, a chance to put a stake in the ground and refine your thoughts. And the most important post? The one you’ll write tomorrow” (December 29, 2020).
- Mental Health America, “Deal Better with Hard Times” (n.d., see the section, “Write It Out”).
- Heather Mansfield for Nonprofit Tech for Good, “10 Blogging Best Practices for Nonprofits” (August 24, 2020).
- Ilma Ibrisevic for Donorbox Nonprofit Blog, “How to Create a Successful Nonprofit Blog” (August 7, 2018).
- I enjoyed speaking during WordPress Day at the 2015 Nonprofit Technology Conference in Austin. A link to my slide deck is on ISSUU.
- Aaron Lee Wei-Ren for Success, “5 Tips to Write a Blog Post People Will Actually Read” (2015).
- Jeff Bullas, “10 Tips from Literature to Turn Your Blog Into a Masterwork” (2013).
- Julie Neidlinger for JeffBullas.com shares some helpful ideas, “How to Write a Blog with Great Content Every Time” (2012).
- WordPress’ “The Daily Post: The Art and Craft of Blogging” is designed to help authors improve their blogging. There is also Learn.WordPress.com. I do post the WordPress logo in the bottom margin of the website, and I am glad to have it there.
Do you find writing stressful? If so, read my article, “Dealing With Stress.” The same time I started blogging, I began receiving requests for advice about reducing stress, and how to focus in order to write. This is a big issue for many. I have continued to update the article with new resources.