How to Chat People up with your Nonprofit Blog – Coda to the R.C.A. Series

Photo of bride with three bridesmaids and one very jealous oneStill a bridesmaid? Or have you gotten engaged?  The R.C.A. Series is all about engagement. It’s the middle part of a three-part series. We move from values (philanthropy)…  to shared values (development)…  to action (fundraising).  Every tip in the series (as well as in the preceding C.P.A. Series  and the upcoming S.S.T.S. Series) also pertains to just about everything else you do in your nonprofit work. So read this even if you don’t have a blog. Yet.

Blogging is not a one-trick pony.  It’s a way of life that expresses who you are, why you’re of value, and how you and your ‘stakeholders’ — those who have a stake in the outcomes you produce — can work together to create positive change. (If this sounds a lot like the “case statement” of yore, that’s because it is!) Think of your blog as your content hub; the place from which all messaging emanates.

Blogging is a three-part proposition.  In fact, so is your entire marketing strategy.  And your fundraising strategy.  And your program strategy. Arguably, your entire modus operandi is a three-part proposition:

  1. CONTENTProducts, services, mission, vision and values that resonate with folks.
    Who are you?
    What do you do?
    Why do you do it?
  2. ENGAGEMENT – Connecting emotionally with folks who find value in your content.
    Who cares?
    What specifically do they care about? Are you conveying relatable content?
    Why do they care?  What’s in it for them?
  3. PROMOTION – Facilitating the conversation to actually ‘make a match’ between the folks in the universe who find value in what you do and your demonstrated outcomes.
    Who knows you exist?
    What are you accomplishing, and do folks out there know?
    Why are you endeavoring to let folks know?

Before you can tell your story you’ve got to own your story. It is super difficult to chat folks up effectively if you can’t easily answer the questions posed above.  So… SERIOUSLY… take a few minutes to do so.  Or bring the questions to a staff meeting and engage in an exercise to find the answers to these questions.  Put the answers up on a white board.  See where there are commonalities and differences (and, of course, if you’d like me to help you just ask!).

Once you’ve got your great story, the challenge is to engage effectively.  Or, as leadership development expert Karlin Sloan outlines in a wise book, communicate with folks Smarter, Faster, Better.  We used to think ‘smarter’ meant knowing more than everyone else.  That was in a pre-digital economy when ‘information was power.’  Since we’ve all got access to the information today, being smart in the 21st century means knowing how to develop, manage and distribute information. It means being humble, asking questions, tolerating ambiguity, sourcing from the crowd and having the vision to leap forward when innovation is demanded. Being ‘fast’ means slowing down enough to listen, be thoughtful and adapt to change. And being ‘best’ means success for everyone; it’s a way we are most fully of service, living our mission and  fully occupying philanthropy without pre-determining our focus on any particular market segment.

If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there, does it make a sound?  You’re blogging, of course, to make a sound. To find people who like the sound you make.  And to move these folks towards commitment and action.  You want to make a sound that is sweet; not a loud, crashing cacophony that scares people off. It sounds easy, but it doesn’t come naturally to most of us.  It takes a thoughtful approach and practice.

Early 1960s cocktail partyOne approach I’ve seen folks take is to think of social media as being like a cocktail party.  The idea behind this is to remove the fear so many feel by comparing something new and frightening to something old and familiar.  The problem with this analogy is that lots of folks fear cocktail parties!  Or they just aren’t that good at chatting people up.  So it turns out cocktail party chatter is no more intuitive than blog engagement. You can learn a lot from thinking about it this way, however, so you may want to check out Social Media Is One Big Cocktail Party with a summary of how to effectively engage:

  • Listen
  • Relate stories
  • Be authentic and transparent
  • Respond to everybody
  • Be valuable

How do you fare at a cocktail party? In Are You Turning People Off? by Chris Brogan we’re reminded there are effective – and not so effective – ways to chat people up. We’ll be talking more about promotion in the upcoming S.S.T.S series but, for now, suffice it to say it’s an art. Yes, you’ve got a lot going on.  And yes, folks generally want to know about it.  But it’s how you approach folks that will make or break you. So, if you have a moment, check out Chris’ post; it’s good food for thought and quite amusing to boot. Otherwise, here’s the relevant summary of challenges and recipes for chatting people up on the web:


  • People don’t know you yet, so have no idea why they should interact.
  • You’re so worried about not being seen that you pounce too fast into your story.
  • You believe there’s only one chance.
  • It’s a loud and crowded space (even virtually, this is often true).
  • Your story doesn’t really have good entry points yet.


  • Start with them. As you “approach the small group,” even (especially!) online, start by commenting on their work, and just “being there.” The people I notice the most in my own community are those who have a point of view, and who always seem there to interact.
  • Add connective tissue. What excites someone that overlaps with what you also love is a great bridge.
  • Be helpful to them far before you ask for something.
  • Make your first “ask” small.
  • Earn the right to move the story over to you.

Other Clairification posts that may be of interest:

Blog Content Checklist: 7 Ways to Assure Your Content Doesn’t Get Away From You

The Keys to Nonprofit Blogging that Drives Engagement

Relationship Building: Everything You Need to Know But are Too Clueless to Ask

8 Answers to Why Nonprofits Need a Blog, and How to ‘Make it So’

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 Flickr photos by Sean Molin and James Vaughan

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About Claire

I’m Claire and I want to help you raise more money, reach more people and build long-lasting relationships with your supporters. Take a look in the archives.


  1. What a innovative and fun way to analyze and teach us about email & marketing. Kudos Claire!

  2. Again, great thinking, wonderful insights, and so wise. Thanks for sharing your wisdom and knowledge to the world.

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