One of my favorite things about Web 2.0 tools is that they help me make sense of the enormous amount of information, blogs and news available on the web. Instead of going to 10 or 20 websites and typing their addresses or even going through my bookmarks, all my favorite web resources can be gathered in one place for me to read at my convenience. Sounds great, doesn’t it. Well it is….and that’s the advantage of RSS.
RSS is a very powerful technology, and it is useful for anyone to gather and digest many information sources in one place. And it’s also very useful for nonprofits to get their information out to their members and supporters.
However, like many other web 2.0 technologies, many nonprofits are thinking about it but haven’t taken advantage of it. So let me help you take that first step to start using RSS. I’ll start off with some background information about RSS (I'll describe what it is and how it works) and then I will share some insights and examples about how your nonprofit can use it effectively.
What is RSS?
RSS stands for “Really Simple Syndication” and simply put, it is a structured way of passing content around the web. What this means to nonprofit organizations is that their members and supporters can read their website content as soon as it is published and at their convenience. This is a simple explanation of what an RSS is, for a more detailed definition you can go to wikipedia. There is also a great video tutorial by commoncraft
What are RSS readers?
Many blogs and web sites feature RSS feeds. A feed is a constantly updated version of a website's latest content - for examples, news articles. Here is an example of Wild Apricot's RSS feed.
You can view and read RSS feeds with an RSS reader (also called an RSS aggregator). RSS readers are software programs that collect content from various websites and display it to you in a simple form in one place. But what reader to use? There are many readers available that you can choose from. Some are web-based while others require you to download and install something on your computer. Most are free to use. Here are some popular choices:
1. You can read RSS feeds through portal web sites such as Yahoo or Google.
2. You can use free web-based applications such as Bloglines. Here is how our feeds look like in Bloglines:
3. News Is Free allows you to create a custom news page with RSS feeds from the sites you're interested in.
4. Newsgator allows you to read RSS feeds from within Microsoft Outlook.
How can nonprofits effectively use RSS
The real challenge for nonprofits to use RSS is teaching people how to use it and making it a normal part of their daily routines. So here are some ideas and practical examples of nonprofits that are using RSS to help you get started.
Increase your organization’s visibility
The great thing about RSS is that not only keep your constituents informed, but it brings them back to your website much more often than they would have without feeds. The more traffic you have coming to your website, the more visible you are. And by regularly updating your website with information that your members want, you also build a strong connection. A great example is People Assisting the Homeless.
Update your members
RSS is a good tool to use with your members to update them on a regular basis. You can setup a webpage with an RSS feed on your organization's website - and encourage people to sign up for automatic updates. You can also keep track of how many people sign up for your feed to get an idea of who's reading your website. The Clinical Trials And Noteworthy Treatments For Brain Tumors use their feed to keep members informed about news and additions to their website.
Distribute different kinds of information
RSS feeds can also be used to distribute different kinds of information. For example, you could have one RSS feed for your organization's calendar of events and another could be a call for volunteers. The more feeds you offer on your website, the more targeted the information delivered to supporters.
Publicize your blogs and podcasts
RSS is most commonly used with blogs, and you can also expand it to help promote your podcasts. Association Forum started using RSS in the last few years. Their blog has an RSS feed that contains a summary of each entry and their podcasts are also through RSS.
RSS has a great potential to be a powerful communication tool for nonprofits. So try our tips or if you prefer, experiment with your own ideas. But whatever you decide to do, don’t miss out on this opportunity to get the word out. nptech nonprofit web2.0