The Intelligent Edge by Helen Brown

Introducing the best non-profit blogs in the world

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Blogs and social media are critical communication tools for non-profits. In fact, according to research by the University of Massachusetts, a higher percentage of non-profits have active blogs than any other category. And it makes sense:  blogs are a cost-effective way to tell stories and build a consistent emotional connection with constituents.  But how are they doing? Which are the best in the world?

So I embarked on an ambitious project in partnership with Mark W. Schaefer, a well known blogger at {grow} and author of The Tao of Twitter. Mark really knows social media and blogs — in fact he teaches a course on the subject at Rutgers University.

Together we examined more than 250 blogs from some of the largest and most important charities in the world (and I mean that literally – we didn’t just look at blogs in the US). We looked for the blogs that were engaging an audience, offering superb content and aligning with the organization’s strategies. Last year, when Mark compiled a list of The Best Company Blogs in the World he noted that it was a depressing experience.  He found that most company blogs aren’t that great and I’m sad to say that we struggled similarly to find non-profits communicating and interacting with their constituencies.  In fact, we found a lot of  dreck.

But we did find some truly inspiring blogs out there.  Here, in no particular order, are the best non-profit blogs in the world:

Feeding America

This is simply one of the best blogs you will find anywhere, profit or non-profit.  It has it all:

  • Superior content
  • Non-intrusive yet effective calls to action
  • Good use of multi-media such as photography and video
  • Superb use of story-telling to align with objectives
  • Attractive and functional design
  • Convenient social sharing
  • Features that involve key stakeholders

This blog is a role model for any organization.

The Salvation Army

This is a wonderful, interesting blog.  Of course it serves as the place to go in the event of a disaster, but it is also an entertaining read.  As a good example, read this post about the historical role of The Salvation Army in the devastating 1906 San Francisco earthquake.  Another post features a “fashionista” getting her clothes from a Salvation Army Thrift Shop. Not only is this type of post great story-telling, it connects readers with the history and rock-solid foundation of the organization in an entertaining way that cuts through the noise.

While a good-looking and well-organized blog, inexplicably, it seems to stand alone from the primary Salvation Army site. There is no easy way to connect directly to the organization or donate money right from the blog, which is a missed opportunity.

Holland Bloorview Childrens Rehabilitation Hospital

Mark said that this blog brought tears to his eyes.  (He acts all tough on the outside, but I suspect a moosh lies within).  Okay, I admit to some mistiness myself – but in a good way.  I’m guessing that it will probably have the same effect on you.

Bloom is about parenting special needs kids.  It isn’t fancy.  In fact it’s just on Blogger.  But what it lacks in sophistication it more than makes up in courage and heart. Writer Louise Kinross has something unique and personal going on here. She has nurtured an active, loyal community and with good reason … this is blogging at its best.

Operation Blessing

Check out this gutsy, effective blog.  With My Own Eyes is a firsthand, photo-journalism account offering users the opportunity to see some of the most devastated, disaster-ravaged and previously inaccessible places in the world, as well as a look at Operation Blessing’s efforts to help people that live there.

This multimedia site features video footage, photos and the personal diary entries of some of the team leaders from more than 25 countries including China, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Peru and the U.S.  Each blog post provides concrete ideas on how to connect and help.

World Vision

This effort just began in 2011 so we’ll have to check in later to see if they can sustain what is starting out to be an excellent blog.  World Vision works with impoverished children and their families throughout the world and is also effectively using eyewitness accounts to connect to constituents.

Some of the hallmarks of this journal are fantastic, colorful articles that pull you in to the organization and its mission. This blog seems to have jumped out of the starter’s gate quickly — some of its daily posts are already getting more than 1,000 ‘shares’. While the design of the blog is quite busy, check out the beautiful and effective design of the main  website while you’re visiting.

Broad Institute

Simply put, The Broad Institute is creating methods, tools and massive data sets and makes them available to the general scientific community to rapidly accelerate biomedical advancement.

The charming thing about their blog — Broad Minded — is that it frames complicated subjects in accessible terms. I’m partial to science literature any way so this blog was a delight. I mean how can you miss with a blog post titled “Lifestyles of the Fungal and Famous” or another that explains unraveling mysteries of DNA as a Julia Child recipe?

This is a lively, straight-forward blog that is very well-aligned with the mission of the organization.

Refugees International

Refugees International advocates for lifesaving assistance and protection for displaced people and promotes solutions to displacement crises. This blog achieves story-telling excellence through extraordinary writing, compelling videos and dramatic photography. If you want an example, check out this video on how refugees struggle to find an education. The almost daily blog is unafraid of confronting difficult political issues and take a stand as it boldly raises awareness for its cause. A smart, superb blog.

MEMRI

The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) explores the region’s media (both print and television), websites, religious sermons and school books. This blog stands out in a special way because essentially, the blog IS the organization.

This respected non-profit scans the Middle East for important news and trends and provides timely translations of Arabic, Farsi, Urdu, Pashtu, Dari, Hindi, and Turkish media in separate blogs. Other sections provide original analysis of political, ideological, intellectual, social, cultural, and religious trends in the Middle East. This series of blogs is the centerpiece of this important effort. Pretty cool.

American Red Cross

This blog provides consistently good content mixed with compelling multi-media.  It has several nice features like a list of all local Red Cross Chapter blogs, weekly round-ups of disaster relief efforts around the world, and connections to many disaster-response related resources.  It also has all-around helpful and targeted information to support the needs of its constituents. I don’t know why this blog is detached from the main Red Cross website – again, it’s a missed opportunity. Also, it is strange that the blog gets no comments when it is such a vital community-focused organization. And in the “maybe we’re picky” category — it seems like they could have come up with a better title for their showcase than “Blog.” : )

 

BONUS CONTENT!

If you’re interested in non-profit best practices, here is a list of some favorite blogs ABOUT charities and fund-raising (again, in no particular order):

Stanford Social Innovation Review Blog

The SSIR is part of the Stanford University Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society (PACS).  Highlighting thought leaders, practitioners and innovative funders and “striking a balance between the pragmatic and the intellectual,” this blog keeps you up-to-date on the issues at the forefront of the third sector.  Contributors include Sean Stannard-Stockton, Amy Sample Ward and Peter Sims.

Chronicle of Philanthropy’s Blogs

The Chronicle of Philanthropy site plays host to a number of blogs including those on prospecting, candid conversations about nonprofit boards, international philanthropy and social media for nonprofits.  Contributors include staff writers as well as experts and thought leaders on their given topic.

Queer Ideas; a bloody good fundraising blog

Sometimes irreverent, usually cutting-edge, always intelligent and interesting, this blog is written by Mark Phillips, founder and CEO of bluefrog, a fundraising consulting firm in the UK.  His observations and links to helpful research and resources make this a good one to expand your mind.

A Fine Blog

Written by the co-author (with Beth Kanter) of The Networked Nonprofit, Allison Fine’s blog is a combination of acute observation and commentary on articles, videos, campaigns and collateral on fundraising, networking and social media.  An extra bonus on her site is links to Allison’s monthly podcast interviews for the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

Beth’s Blog

Written by Allison Fine’s co-author Beth Kanter, Beth’s blog is seen by many (us included) as the go-to blog for nonprofit fitness checks, great ideas, subtle nudges toward excellence and good advice on social media, networking and organizational management you’d do well to take.   Beth’s writing style is accessible and friendly, yet the blog is packed with resources, links to scholarly studies and other references that you need to know about.

Philanthropy 2173; The Business of Giving

Authored by Lucy Bernholz, founder and president of Blueprint Research & Design, Inc., Bernholz is to nonprofits what Rachel Maddow is to liberal politics – intelligent and incisive yet accessible, wonky, and (respectfully) pulling no punches.  The blog approaches nonprofits and their arena as a third business sector, and Bernholz isn’t sitting behind a desk; very often she’s interviewing some game-changing sector leader and sharing their conversations and her insights.

So there you have it! The best non-profit blogs you’ll find anywhere. Of course there are some good ones out there that we missed.  Do you have a favorite? Tell us – we’d love to hear about it!  What blogging ideas did you pick up from this list of great blogs?

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6 Comments

Jen Filla

May 10, 2011

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Thanks so much for putting a lot of effort into this showcase of blogs. Wow! There is soooo much content online and having examples of the “best of the best” blogs really demonstrates what works. I know my blog reader gets out of control from time to time and I have to pare down to content that delivers the most value. You point out concisely what makes these blogs so good you’ve got to share. Cheers!

    Helen Brown

    May 11, 2011

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    Hi Jen! I definitely need to take a lesson from you on paring down… I just keep adding more tabs to my feed reader because I keep finding more great people to follow (like you!). Thanks for your support and for taking the time to write.

Wendy

May 10, 2011

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Thanks for listing the American Red Cross blog. It’s separate from the main site because it was a rogue experiment I set up in 2007. It’s now usually embedded on the homepage of redcross.org (although right now our other rogue experiment the Disaster Online Newsroom has taken its place bc of intensity of recent disasters). It will eventually fold into the main site but our CMS isn’t bloggy enough without options for comments and a steep learning curve for contributors.

We call it simply Red Cross Blog because we have 600+ field offices who all either have or want their own blog and to name it some clever twist on the words Red Cross and Clara. That’s too much clever so we decided to ask all our field offices to just call it their chapter name blog. To follow our own rules…

We don’t cross post everything, but we see lots of comments and conversation on Facebook and never have seen very much here.

I’d argue that the Oregon Trail Chapter does a better job than we do. I’m often tempted to turn over the whole national blog content to Lise Harwin and Robin Parker, who run it: http://redcrosspdx.blogspot.com/

    Helen Brown

    May 11, 2011

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    Hi Wendy, thanks for your response to our picky observations ;)! It’s interesting how our use of social media evolves over time as we experiment and discover what works and what doesn’t. You guys are doing a lot of stuff right and your blog is a great example of engaging with your constituency. We’ll definitely take a look at the Oregon Trail chapter’s blog – thanks for letting us know about it! Keep up the great work.

Erica Mills

May 10, 2011

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What a fab list! You helped me discover new and truly great blogs.

My fav nonprofit blog is DC Goodwill Fashionista: http://www.fashionofgoodwill.org/blog/ They are spot on in terms of what their reader will be interested in and it’s been a huge success for them.

For blogs about the nonprofit sector, Sasha Dichter’s is not to be missed! http://sashadichter.wordpress.com/

Again, thanks for a great post!!

    Helen Brown

    May 11, 2011

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    Hi Erica,

    Thanks for your comment and for the suggestions! Can’t wait to check out the DC Goodwill Fashionista site – what a *fun* idea. I just added Sasha’s blog to the Fundraising tab on my RSS feeds and am looking forward to learning from him – thanks for the heads-up!

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