Interplast’s blog is one my top favorites in the nonprofit world, because it does such a fabulous job of sharing success stories and letting readers behind-the-scenes, which are two of the best uses of blogs by nonprofits, in my opinion. (Here’s more on different ways nonprofits can use blogs. Also see my Blogging for Nonprofits webinar happening this Thursday.)
Interplast provides free life-changing surgery for children and adults with clefts, disabling burns and hand injuries, and the blog shares the stories of the surgical volunteers and the people receiving care.
Before the holidays, I interviewed Liliana Vazquez, Interplast’s Communications and Technology Coordinator, about their blog. Apologies for just now getting around to posting it, and special thanks for Liliana and Interplast for generously sharing their perspective. Here’s the interview . . .
What did Interplast hope to get out of blogging?
It’s been an amazing tool for us. We really see it as one of our best tools to communicate with donors. We use Typepad and we blog through Flickr, so the pictures are tied to the stories. We also use the blog to announce what else is going on within the organization. We also answer questions that come in through comments.
The posts from surgical trips are written by the volunteers. How do the posts get online?
Our volunteers are doing the writing in their own voices and taking the photos. Since a lot of the countries we travel in don’t have good Internet connections and the volunteers are busy doing surgeries, we ask that they simply send us an email and attach the pictures. Blogging is such a foreign idea for many of the older volunteers, so we had to make it really simple for them, to convince them it would work. Now the volunteers love it too. They send the links to their families as a way to keep in touch while they are traveling.
How much editing do you do?
Outside of grammatical editing, we try not to edit them too much because they are writing from the heart, from their personal experiences. Sometimes the posts come in as stream of consciousness and we clean those up a little bit. We do edit the pictures, because we do get a lot of gory medical stuff.
A lot of it is not specifically written for the blog. We’ll take stories out of quick emails we get or from the back of napkins! Sometimes we’ll hear cute stories about kids donating and we’ll turn that into a blog post.
How many people contribute content to the blog?
We are relying on everyone to contribute: staff, volunteers, everyone who can. We ask people to keep their eyes open to everything going on around them and we pull in stuff from everywhere. It’s easy to ignore the every day, but a lot of impressive stuff is going on! We have over 100 people telling their stories on the blog.
How do you handle comments?
We don’t spend a lot of time on comments. We get lots of positive comments that don’t need a response. For those that do require a response, like a referral, we’ll contact the person directly. We haven’t had any bad experiences on the blog with comments, although we have had some people making inappropriate comments on photos on Flickr and we’ve deleted those and blocked those people.
How does the blog fit in with your other communications?
When we do an e-newsletter, we link to the blog. We also use blog content in the e-newsletter, our print newsletter, and in donor reports. If someone donates to a specific trip, we can acknowledge the donors in the posts about the trip on the blog and keep them updated on the trip. It’s also a great archive for us internally.
Are you considering any changes to the blog?
Interplast does more than surgical trips. We also empower and train local doctors. I’d like to give that part of what we do some more screen time.
What has surprised you about blogging?
I was surprised to see how the blog is being used to refer patients to us, which is also great. We’ve seen people who are traveling and meet people who need our help use the blog to put us in touch with those people. So it helps with our mission that way too.
Want to learn more about nonprofit blogging? Check out Blogging for Nonprofits, this week’s webinar.