When I launched my blog on WordPress in 2011, I received many questions, from how it was designed to the content I posted. This article addresses those questions and provides the context for my work.
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” (i.e., active online) 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 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.
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. Today, my WordPress presence includes two websites: Carolyn’s Nonprofit Blog (where you are now), and Carolyn M. Appleton, Inc. (see the tab at the top of this page for a link).
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 when I began 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 is to be encouraging overall, and to help my nonprofit colleagues by providing solutions to sometimes daunting problems, and by sharing 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 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, I do develop and write all my own content (notice the “all rights reserved” widget at the bottom of the page). There are no other authors. I manage all my social media platforms personally. Yes, it takes work at the start to manage them this way, but I have found today it is no longer difficult. Each platform is unique and it is critically important to understand each one, and to communicate as appropriate thereon. I am not a proponent of automating your social media postings, in contrast to many of my colleagues.
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 amazingly few negative comments. Thus far, the negative comments were statements that did not have anything to do with my content at all. Luckily, WordPress has an internal email comment system so every comment can be read and responded to (or discarded easily).
Presentation, Maintenance, Security
I recommend the WordPress platform highly. 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-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.
Does it take much work (and time) to maintain my blog, now that I have set it up? Today, 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.
Is my blog secure? WordPress has become quite sophisticated in terms of protecting the blogs on its platform from hacking. But just in case, I routinely export all content from my WordPress sites to my computer’s hard drive, where that data is then backed-up and saved “in the cloud.” In addition, every article and post on WordPress is dated and timed upon publication, making it easy to recall when I posted about what topic(s).
I have also found a security ally in Google Authenticator. This simple system is what is called “2-Step Verification” using SMS text message or voice call. It is easy to set-up and effective.
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.
In the end – now several years in the running on WordPress – I can say without hesitation that blogging is one of my most satisfying endeavors. It is a way to claim my own experiences (and to “own” them), to share information that might be helpful to others, and to be present myself and my experiences in a truly meaningful way online. I recommend blogging highly!
- I enjoyed speaking during WordPress Day at the 2015 Nonprofit Technology Conference in Austin. A link to my slide deck is now on SlideShare.
- 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.”
- Jeff Bullas, “10 Tips from Literature to Turn Your Blog Into a Masterwork” (March, 2013).
- 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!”
- Classy Blog, “Nonprofit Blogging: How to Get Found Online” (April 10, 2013).
- Susan Gunelius for About.com Guide, “How to Write a Blog People Want to Read.”
- Andrew K. Kirk has written for Social Media Examiner, “7 Effortless Ways to Find New Ideas for Your Blog” (November 14, 2012).
- 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 have one site with the word “WordPress” in the URL. I do not mind having it there at all.
- Rebecca Lindegren has written a guest blog post for VolunteerMatch, “7 Reasons Why Every Nonprofit Should Create a Blog” (March 13, 2013).
- 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.”
- Julie Neidlinger for JeffBullas.com shares some helpful ideas, “How to Write a Blog with Great Content Every Time” (October, 2012).
- Nonprofit Tech for Good provides a wide range of blogging resources. Follow this link to the search results.
- Pinterest has a terrific board on how to start a blog. Follow the link.
- 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.”
- A guest post by Roxanne Reyes for Nonprofit Bridge (Norman Reiss) provides excellent guidance, “Quick Guide to Starting a Nonprofit Blog” (January 12, 2013).
- 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.”
- Wild Woman Fundraising, “5 Tips for Nonprofit Blogging Success” (n.d.).
- Some people land on my blog and are unaware that it is hosted by WordPress. I use WordPress as my primary written blogging platform (as opposed to visual blogging). 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.
This article was originally posted in November, 2012. I updated it in September, 2016.