Think a blog is just another name for a online journal, not really suitable for a serious non-profit organization? Think again! A blog can be whatever you want it to be.
There are many blogs out there that don’t even “look like blogs” —
in look and feel and style, they mimic a traditional website, and only
the very observant (or very tech-savvy) might know the difference. (The
next time someone tells you they “never read blogs” — ask them if they
ever visit the websites of any other major media outlets!)
In fact, the main differences between a website and a blog are in the
technology behind the scenes, and how your visitors interact with your
Static Website vs Dynamic Blog
Static websites are a series of separate web pages, which usually
share a common look and feel in their design. Typically all of those
pages are hosted at one web address (domain), but the separate pages
are connected only by clickable links to let you move from one page to
another. Traditionally, websites have been coded with HTML (HyperText Markup
Language), the basic “language of the Web” that tells web browsers how
to display text, images, and other content on your screen.
Blogging platforms, in contrast, are dynamic (using PHP or ASP, most
commonly, rather than HTML on the backend), pulling together various bits of content
from a database to create a web page. If the content in the database
changes — if you write a new article (post) for your blog, for example,
or a reader leaves a comment — the page will change automatically to
reflect the new content. And any related pages, such as archives, will
automatically change as required, too.
So, what difference does it make to you, if a site is “static” or “dynamic”?
To begin with, if you’re the one responsible for your non-profit’s web presence,
you’ll probably see a difference in the time and effort it takes to make changes to a blog or website, or simply to add new
Blogs are generally easier to maintain than static websites if you
are in the habit of adding new content on a regular basis.
you add content to a static website, you’ll have to create new pages
(and link those pages from all the others) or delete older content to
keep the front page from getting unreadably long. And you’ll have to do
it manually. Blogging software, on the other hand, will do all that
shifting around and archiving of older content automatically.
What about the learning curve?
WYSIWYG or visual editors are a standard feature of most blogging
platforms, making it easy for anyone to add content to a blog, without
special technical skills or training. Publishing a blog post can be as
easy as using a basic word processor, or writing an email.
a static website, too, the right WYSIWYG software means you may not
have to learn HTML if you don’t already know how to hand-code a website. But unless your web hosting company provides an online
website-building tool, you’ll likely need to install your own software
to run on your computer. (Dreamweaver is one of the most popular
commercial WYSIWYG editors for website creation, for example, and
KompoZer is a free open-source alternative, but there are many others.) Don’t forget that you’ll
need to make sure that all who need to be able to update your website —
staff and/or volunteers — have access to it and are trained to use the
Read-Only vs Portable Content
Websites don’t travel. Your readers must remember to keep checking
back to the website to see if you’ve published new content, so there’s
a great likelihood of them missing a critical piece of news or
forgetting about you entirely in the bustle of their busy lives.
On the other hand, blogging software generates an RSS feed that
lets readers subscribe to your blog, choose how they prefer to receive
your updated content — by RSS feedreader (such as Google Reader or
Bloglines) or by email — and have updates delivered to them
automatically whenever you publish new material to your blog.
RSS also means that your blog can be set up to alert any number of
directories and search engines, and other websites, news services,
blogs, and social networks that there’s new content to be found on your
site. And that content can be displayed on other blogs and websites —
including social networks — to help draw traffic to your organization’s
As you’ve probably heard, blogs are naturally “good for SEO” (search
engine optimization) because of the way they are coded and structured.
And when updating is quick and easy, a fresh flow of content keeps the
search engines interested in your site — making it all the easier for
new readers to find you when they search for information on your
organization or your cause.
Broadcast vs Engagement
Hands down, the most important difference between a blog and a
website is in the way content is provided to the reader, and what they
can do with it.
You see, static websites are the digital equivalent of a print
brochure: they’re great at describing who you are, what you do, and how
people can contact you by email or offline — but it’s a one-way
On a static website, visitors are passive consumers of the
information you publish. The only way they have to interact with you
is via a contact form or email, by snail mail, by visiting your office,
or by talking about you on some other site that does permit users to
contribute. Not ideal for building an online community around your
Blog readers, on the other hand, have the ability for your visitors
to interact with your blog — to ask questions, make comments, share
links, and in general become engaged in whatever conversation you’ve
started. (That active exchange of ideas made possible by a blog is key to Lance Trebesch and Taylor Robinson's 10 Reasons why every nonprofit must have a blog.)
Granted, the opening up of two-way communication channels — “losing
control of the message” — is also one big reason why some highly
conventional non-profit boards can be reluctant to set up a blog, or to
engage in any other kind of social media. The truth is, as we're gradually learning in social media, “control” is an
illusion. People are going to talk about your organization, whether or
not they have your permission… but that's a topic for another day!
Website or blog?
Take a look at John Haydon’s "Blog vs. Website" video, comparing a static website and a blog from the user's viewpoint, and see what you think…
Could adding a blog help you to connect more directly with your website
visitors and online supporters, to better understand the constituency
you serve, and to attract new supporters for your non-profit
organization? Is blogging right for your organization — or do you find that a traditional static website is simply a better match?
What's your choice, a website or a blog — or both?