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Distributed Collaboration : One of the Keys to Network Advocacy

Nonprofit Advocacy Blog Strategy

What's a Blog, and Why Should Nonprofits Care? by Zafar S. Shah has inspired me to crank out my top five reasons I blog as an Executive Director of a small nonprofit.

1. "Online Thinking Space" - The number one reason I blog is to flush out my ideas into a communication. I am often get these thoughts (Oh we should sell ringtones that generate revenue for nonprofits, we should decentralize our content, someone should work on polling the people who work for nonprofit community to find their common stories and values, etc .etc. but until I sit down and google the concepts, play around with the idea and crank it out as a post for my friends (the 34 of you that read this thing) the idea sits as a one line to do in a notebook.

2. "Build my research library" - I see cool things, rants and concepts and articles that I know come up in my work. (I.e.. someone is going to ask me about internet ads someday...Here is a cool example of an effective ad...bang it becomes a post that I can share and that becomes available on my little Google side bar search)

3. Vanity and Dreams of Greater things. - I am so sick of walking into conferences and meeting with nonprofits only to hear all of us complain about the stupidity of foundations (don't worry if you read blogs you are probably not one the idiots everyone is complaining about) and the way that if they only changed our work would be solved. I dream that someday folks will find the rants and perspective here interesting enough to read it (beyond you 35 people) and slowly the target audience will find messages that help them change the behavior of key opinion leaders. I also hope that my rants give my friends the sound bytes, factoids, examples and stories that they can use to further expand the movement of folks that are willing to look at the network capacity of our movement.

4. Virtual Mentor - Being younger, inexperienced and running a small organization is a huge challenge. In Fortune 500 companies most of us punks would be climbing middle management and being cultivated by senior managers to help us access experience, wisdom and network. The online thinking space has been a huge help in getting building ties with a handful of external mentors so they can see my "thinking" and offer feedback to improve the design and execution of my ideas.

5. Comfort with Mistakes and Being Wrong - I am the type of yahoo who gets lots of thoughts and thinks better "externally". I am not the quiet contemplative type person that tends to think better alone ( I think this comes from the way my mom used to help me work thorough life while we sat in the kitchen). There are some people that (think, edit and speak) and there are some of us that (converse, think,speak,edit) I typically edit last. Unfortunately, it means that I say (blog) lots of dumb things (I still wonder what the hell I was thinking with the computer virus attack on Democratic Primaries post?) but I get to throw them out here and get snagged by fellow bloggers. It catches the mistakes or reinforces good ideas and helps me edit more of my thoughts (beyond 8-6 work conversations). 60% of these post could hunt me in the future and I know the language, witting and thoughts are often way more convoluted than I would ever kick out in a meeting or for work products. I also mess up typing and spelling all over the place. However, I am pretty comfortable with the idea that I am not stupid and that cranking stuff out on the blog helps me refine my thoughts. I am verbose. I am comfortable that I make mistakes and I am not perfect. The blog merely reflects my thought process if it is smart and thoughtful and this line of thinking would be helpful in a campaign I can work with groups. If your staff are ahead of me on this thinking and they write perfect and never make mistakes then you don't need my help so I am comfortable that the blog is a bit of a reflection of the kind of person that shows up everyday. Seeing my thoughts online and may actually just serve to make me more comfortable with the idea that some mistakes are OK.

My general thoughts on the article
Another interesting push for the nonprofit community to consider the value of making more of the thinking and learning of the organization available to staff, friends and the public. while the topic is not new and there are old blogs and rants on the nonprofit use of the blog as a tool in their work, Zafa makes a contribution to the chorus pushing nonprofit staff to be more transparent through use of the blog as an easy content tool.

Related Post:
Weblog Strategies for Nonprofits
Blogs as Training Tools
Going Beyond The Internet: Blogs from the Front
Web Dominance No Longer Tactical Strategy for Campaigns

My favorite clips from this new article:

When she encouraged her staff to blog about their work, Sisnett recognized another benefit of nonprofit blogging: She could now easily keep up to speed on her staff's work and the progress of various, concurrent projects. Soon, between the executive director, the technical staff and volunteers, Austin Free-Net had three staff blogs full of updated and archived information that could easily be incorporated into strategic plan updates, VISTA reports, press releases, newsletters and grants. When a colleague, a sponsor or even a journalist needed information about a project or issue, Sisnett could refer the interested party to a blog.
blogs with an "internal focus" have made it easier for organizations to capture the knowledge of teams and support their collaboration. "Rather than only a linear discussion list for a team," she points out, "individual and collaborative blogs make it possible to see ties among team members and issues they are working on."
While blogs entail a requisite amount of timely attention and care, the work you put into them is not "just blogging," Sisnett adds, thinking about how the research and learning behind her blog have improved Austin Free-Net's projects and partnerships. "That work affects all of your organization's work."