Does your organization have a blog? Are you looking for content to share on your Facebook page?
These are constant problems that a lot of organizations are faced with. Having great content that engages your organization’s community is key to standing out online. Stories are a type of content that can help explain your organization’s work and also humanizes the organization.
Today Larissa Dalton Stephanoff from Catholic Volunteer network is here to share how she manages their outstanding blog and consistently shares great volunteer stories.
Tell us a bit about Catholic Volunteer Network and your role there.
Larissa, Catholic Volunteer Network: Catholic Volunteer Network (CVN) is a leading membership organization of Christian volunteer and mission programs. We promote faith-based domestic and international volunteer service opportunities for people of all ages, backgrounds and skills. More than 20,000 people serve through more than 200 CVN programs each year.
I work as the Communication Coordinator for CVN. I am a bit of a “Jane-of-all-trades”! I manage the website, blog and social media; produce the annual Response directory in-house; coordinate advertising on our website, in Response and ads we place; cover nearly all of our graphic design needs; and assist with fundraising efforts.
CVN has an outstanding blog that features lots of original content and stories. What prompted you to start blogging?
Larissa, Catholic Volunteer Network: The blog existed when I joined with CVN team last December. It primarily serves as an outlet for sharing stories and reflections from volunteers. Most of the time the posts are written by the volunteers, alumni or program staff, then I edit them if needed and schedule them on the blog.
I also like to post updates from the CVN recruiters and Campus Recruitment Associates. These tend to be simple “slice of life on the road” as the recruiters travel to campuses around the country and host or participate in campus service days.
How do you work with staff and volunteers to regularly collect their stories?
Larissa, Catholic Volunteer Network: Each year we have a call for volunteer stories and choose one to publish in the Response directory. The rest I use in promotional material and blog posts throughout the year. Same with our photo contest.
I also include a monthly blog post theme in the monthly Social Media Toolkit I send out to member program staff. If the theme fits a particular program, they can send me a post for the CVN blog.
Other times we know an event is happening, like a day of service, and we’ll contact participating staff or volunteers to write a post. Occasionally there is a specific topic I want to cover, like the AmeriCorps 20th anniversary, and I’ll solicit someone related for a post.
Honestly, it’s pretty varied month to month where the blog posts come from. Some months I end up with a great collection of posts, while other months are harder to get enough stories. On my favorite days I log in to the blog and find a draft from another CVN staff I wasn’t expecting!
What types of stories has your audience been most responsive to? Have you be surprised by what’s been successful?
Larissa, Catholic Volunteer Network: I haven’t been surprised; not yet at least. Recently we’ve done a few posts about religious vocation discernment as part of CVN’s new From Service to Sisterhood initiative. Those are different from the more frequent volunteer reflections and I’ve really enjoyed them.
So far the blog has been mainly targeted to prospective and current volunteers. I want to add posts specifically for volunteer alums, such as the best way to include volunteer experience on a resume, or post-service career help, or even ways to maintain a community of people even when alums are no longer living in community during their service.
What are your top 3 tips for non-profits that want to curate their stories on a blog or other social media?
Larissa, Catholic Volunteer Network: Number one is having buy-in from the right administrators or staff to support a blog. Unless the blog manager plans to write all the posts – and has the staff time allocated for that – a blog is very much a team effort. It would be very hard to run a sustainable CVN blog if our program directors and volunteers were unwilling to share their stories!
Number two is staff time. Effectively managing a blog or other social media takes time! I don’t only schedule a few posts to Facebook or Twitter; I am actively reading articles that come through my Google alerts for interesting pieces worth posting or scanning member program social media to comment or like their content. The key to social media is interaction. It’s a conversation. If I only post things, but never interact with other organizations, I’m not doing my job well. (Certainly some months are better than others!)
Finally, number three is creativity. It’s very easy to get into a rut of similar stories or posts all the time. They’re quick and familiar! I know I have some standard things I resort to when I’m short on time. If content is king, variety is queen. Keep things interesting!
And I’ll include a fourth for free: be consistent. Don’t abandon the blog from 2 months (been there) or avoid interacting on Facebook for weeks at a time (done that). Find a schedule that works for you and stick with it. Maybe just one blog post a week and one Facebook post per day. Then 20 minutes each day to browse social media, commenting or sharing as appropriate. It doesn’t have to be house per day to be effective.
Larissa, thank you so much for joining us for today’s blog post! You’ve shared some really gems that I think will help a lot of non-profit storytellers!