Blogging: How I Began, Set it Up & More

“Beginnings are the Hardest Part.” Read about starting a blog from Soshable.

Since launching my blog on WordPress in fall, 2011, I have received many questions, from how is it designed to the content I have posted. This article addresses those questions, and provides the context for my blogging.

Happily, I am delighted to have received many kind comments. Thus far, the blog has attracted more than 39,000 site visits from more than 200 countries. I have posted a few comments on SlideShare: Comments.

The Beginning

I began blogging in 2010 on the heels of the NTC, or Nonprofit Technology Conference held at CNN Center in Atlanta, Georgia, and hosted by NTEN: Nonprofit Technology Network. Holly Ross had invited me to present a small session on major gift fundraising and social media.

At the time, I felt shy about accepting the request because I thought my experience working with major gift donors who are highly “networked” might simply be a “niche” experience. Nevertheless, I accepted and was amazed when my presentation room for 50 guests was unable to accommodate the growing crowd that lined the hallway hoping to get in.

This experience gave me the confidence to share some of what was contained in the presentation in an NTEN community blog following the conference. The blog involved several bloggers contributing information for the NTEN community. I kept up with that for just over a year, then decided to go “rogue” and develop an independent blog on the WordPress platform. That 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 called, Dusk to Dawn by Automattic. At that same time, I purchased my domain (URL), and I also paid for the option of having no outside advertisements on my sites.

Once I converted to the new design, I moved two other home-grown websites developed originally on Earthlink (provided gratis for several years courtesy of my longstanding e-mail account), to WordPress. I made use of the same template for each one, so that my website “trio” would be easily recognizable as, Carolyn M. Appleton. Note: in January, 2014, I changed my theme of two and a half years to a more modern theme provided by WordPress called Suits. With a new year comes a more modern life, and a more modern style for my three WordPress sites!

Click to reach Sonic Editions.

Click to reach Sonic Editions.

Content

The content of my WordPress blog is drawn from life experiences and interests. As one of my favorite people, American musician Billie Holiday (1915-1959), once 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 that I would blog with real feeling. My blog discusses both the success stories and the tribulations of working in the nonprofit sector. My aim has been to encourage my colleagues, and help them by providing new ideas and 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 convey important ideas and opinions, to acknowledge our sources when they are not our own.

In response to those who have asked, yes, I develop and write all my content. I do manage all my social media sites personally (and yes, it takes work, but I’ve found it to be very rewarding). In a “widget” located at the bottom of my websites I post a precautionary note, “All Rights Reserved.”

Fear Factor

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 very few (less than five) negative comments, out of hundreds that have been posted. So far, the negative comments are statements that don’t have anything to do with the content at all. The vast majority of comments I receive are positive, and many contain questions that I endeavor to answer within a few weeks. Luckily, WordPress has an internal e-mail/comment system so that every comment can be read and responded to (or discarded) right on the platform. This keeps blog comments from clogging-up my public e-mail.

Random Notes

I recommend the WordPress platform highly. WordPress makes me look more sophisticated even, than I am in reality! The wide variety of attractive templates, the strong “searchability” of the platform, the logical system for developing and updating posts, and the fact that it “loads-up” so 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 its capabilities.

Does it take much work (and time) to maintain my blog, now that I have set it up? Today, it does not take long at all to update and expand upon existing articles, which is the primary way in which I work. Writing an entirely new article does involve some 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. I routinely export all content from my blog to a secure file on my computer, where it is then backed-up and saved “in the cloud.” In addition, every article and post on WordPress is dated and timed upon publication. Hence, should verifying authorship be needed, this provides powerful evidence.

In closing, I would also like to mention that while I use WordPress for my professional musings, I also use the Tumblr platform for more personal (less wordy and more visual) blogging. I recommend it highly if you are looking for a bit more “artful” blogging platform. Here is the link: Tumblr.

Blogging Resources

The following are resources about blogging that I have found helpful. I will continue expanding on this list as I discover new ones!

  • Carolyn M. Appleton, CFRE, “Blogroll” (a list of blogs I like reading from time-to-time), from my tandem WordPress blog, “Fundraising Resources.” See the right-hand margin. There are some terrific examples for nonprofits to follow on that page, not only from the content they provide, but also in terms of their unique formats.
  • 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.”
  • BlogHer: Life Well Said, “creates opportunities for more than 50 million women who blog and their readers to gain exposure, education, community, and economic empowerment.”
  • 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!”
  • 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 like having the word “WordPress” in my URLs (I have three WordPress sites, interlinked). I am impressed with the system and I’m quite loyal.
  • 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.”
  • 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.”
  • Stay Classy blog notes something important for all of us: “You probably already guessed it, but blogging is one of the best ways to create relevant content and build up more inbound links.” Click to read more in, “Nonprofit Blogging: How to Get Found Online” (April 10, 2013). Another Stay Classy post of note is, “Using Your Nonprofit Blog to Power Your Fundraising” (May 2, 2013). “A nonprofit blog can bring a variety of benefits to your organization. In addition to helping attract new visitors from search engines, a blog filled with quality content can turn into a powerful magnet to draw existing supporters back to your website. It makes sense that if you are regularly putting out interesting articles, supporters will come back and visit your site more often.”
  • Tumblr is a different kind of blogging animal. I have both Tumblr and WordPress blogs. David Daw of PCWorld Magazine has written, “How to Get Started With Tumblr” (April 12, 2012). As noted above, I use Tumblr for “visual” blogging, and I greatly enjoy perusing those that focus on the visual arts, performing arts, graphic design, and historical topics. You might also enjoy reviewing the Tumblrs of charitable organizations.
  • Emily Weinberg has developed the Nonprofit Blog Exchange. It is a blog/project that connects nonprofit bloggers with each other. The features of the blog/project are the roundup blog entries and the blog list of 150 nonprofit blogs.

WordPress

  • Quite a few people land on my blog and are unaware that it is hosted by WordPress. I use WordPress as my main blogging platform, and it is where I provide significant written documentation (and research). “The Daily Post: The Art and Craft of Blogging” is designed to help authors improve their blogging. There is also the guide, Learn.WordPress.com. You can find inspiring “tweets” on blogging from WordPress on Twitter.
  • WordPress.tv provides a variety of videos of prior educational sessions on various aspects of WordPress, and using it effectively. I receive quite a few questions about WordPress security, for instance; if you have similar concerns, see this video featuring Victor Granic.

 

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