How to Start a Blog Carnival: Five Tips from Experience

As the founder of the Carnival of Nonprofit Consultants, I’m happy to see that the success of this carnival has inspired two of our participants to start their own carnivals. Sean Stannard-Stockton at Tactical Philanthropy started The Giving Carnival and Michele Martin at the Bamboo Project started the Wiki Carnival.

A quick web search will uncover the basics on starting a carnival (there’s even a new Blog Carnival Tips Blog). I’d like to offer some not-so-obvious tips.

1. Use BlogCarnival.com to manage your carnival. At first, I was updating my own list of past and future editions on my blog as well as the BlogCarnival list, and it was a pain. BlogCarnival has a widget now that lets you add their schedule to your blog. It works great — see it in action here. I highly recommend using BlogCarnival’s tools to manage your carnival. I update the Carnival on their site and the changes automatically appear on mine. Plus, it’s where everyone interested in carnivals will go, so you want to be listed there so new contributors and readers can find you easily.

2. Give your carnival its own feed. If your carnival will move around to other blogs, readers will easily lose track of it. I created a Carnival of Nonprofit Consultants category within my blog and when each edition of the Carnival is posted by the week’s host, I create a post on my blog in that category. Nothing goes into that category but the Carnival posts (not even this post).

I then created a separate feed at FeedBurner just for that category of my blog. This way, people who want the Carnival of Nonprofit Consultants can get it each week without having to also subscribe to the rest of my blog or the blogs of all of our hosts. People who subscribe to my blog as a whole also get the Carnival, since it’s one of my categories. Readers could just check the Carnival home page or BlogCarnival.com each week, but a separate feed is much more reader friendly. As of today, 85 people have subscribed to the Carnival of Nonprofit Consultants feed.

3. Create a central submission process, no matter who is hosting. Keeping track of a carnival can be tough for contributors too. If you use BlogCarnival.com, you’ll get a submission form page like this one for the Carnival of Nonprofit Consultants. I also recommend creating a separate email account just for your carnival. This way contributors will know exactly where to send their posts each week, even if they don’t remember who is hosting. Your BlogCarnival.com submission form results can also be sent there automatically. Then give your hosts access to the email account and they will have all the posts for that week in one place.

4. Create a contributors’ mailing list. We are all busy, and people need to be reminded about your Carnival deadlines. One way to do that is to create a contributors’ email list that people can subscribe to on their own. I send one message a week to the list, which currently has 36 subscribers, with a reminder about the deadline, who is hosting that week, and any theme for the week. We limit the Carnival of Nonprofit Consultants to seven posts a week, so if a third of the people currently subscribed respond each week, the host has plenty to pick from. I use IntelliContact to manage this list.

5. Limit the number of posts per edition. Lots of carnivals print everything they receive each week, and if the goal of your carnival is passing out link love, then that’s great. But if you have a more specific goal in mind, like compiling the best of the blogosphere on a specific topic each week, you need to be more selective. Keeping the number of posts relatively small also makes hosting the carnival much easier. Readers also know that they are getting a manageable chuck of information to digest, instead of some massive link list they will never get through.

In closing, I want to give a shout out to The Tarheel Tavern, which is the first blog carnival I ever submitted to. The Tarheel Tavern is a carnival of North Carolina bloggers and inspired me to start the Carnival of Nonprofit Consultants. If you live in NC, please join us and if not, stop by the Tavern anyway — it’s always an eclectic group!

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