Joanne Fritz is the guide to Nonprofit Charitable Organizations” site. A former high school and university teacher, she has also been a senior manager at two nonprofits and two universities. The interview was conducted by Don Akchin, a principal of and a frequent contributor to the MKCREATIVE blog.’s “
MKC: Is About.com a blog or something else?
JOANNE: About.com is sort of its own animal. It has close to 1,000 guides. Each guide is an expert in a particular topic area. Each of us has a mini-website that includes a blog. So when you first see, for instance, my landing page, it has the blog, but then over to the side are topics, and those links will generally lead you to articles that are meant to be evergreen information. We typically use the blog to keep up with what’s happening in the here and now. The articles go into more depth and are more like reference materials. We’re constantly creating evergreen content because most of our traffic comes from search, and they turn up on one of our articles. I usually blog at least three times a week. There’s a lot going on about nonprofits these days, so it’s a constant struggle to keep on top of it.
MKC: How do you go about measuring whether anybody is paying attention?
JOANNE: Actually, About.com is very sophisticated about metrics. There’s a whole content management platform that we use. All the guides receive metrics within about 24 hours of how many people have come to the site, what they’re looking at, what they’re searching for, so we have some very sophisticated tools we can use right on the About.com site. We get a lot of help and information aroundso we can identify key word phrases that should promote more traffic. Some time ago, when I first got online and started fooling around with it, I tried to do my own blog, and man, was that a lot of work! And I had to do everything myself. So when I landed with About.com, I was really relieved. It’s such a great platform, and it does a lot of things that otherwise I would be just out there in the wilderness trying to do for myself.
MKC: How long have you managed the nonprofit site?
JOANNE: I’m coming up on six years in the spring. I’ve been very happy with it. It’s really kept me in the loop as far as nonprofit work goes. It’s allowed me to keep up relationships and make new relationships across the profession, and it’s just a really feel-good thing to do. I’m kind of a nonprofit family: Both my daughters work in nonprofits, one in an international health care NGO in Washington, DC, the other at a tiny nonprofit in Tucson. They help me keep in touch with both sides of the nonprofit world.
MKC: Based on what you hear from your audience, what are the most pressing issues that nonprofits are struggling with right now?
JOANNE: Most of my readers are working in smaller nonprofits that are really strapped for money, resources and personnel, and they’re looking for ways to get just the basics done. So I try to stick with the basics primarily for that one-person development shop or marketing shop, or even the executive director of a small nonprofit, struggling to do all the things he or she has to do to serve those people’s needs. What I see cropping up mostly on my metrics is that very basic information never goes out of style, whether it’s about fundraising or grant-making or what the heck is social media and how do we even tiptoe into it. Basic topics are the most popular – how to write a grant, how to write a thank you letter, how to write a direct mail letter, where should I start first with social media or should I even start it. Those kinds of things are the most in demand.
MKC: Sounds like you’re catering to a continuing new crop of newbies.
JOANNE: I think that’s so, but I also think that we get an unbalanced view of nonprofit work because the most visible nonprofits are the really big ones. The average person thinks of nonprofits like American Red Cross or Goodwill. Those are the ones with the marketing muscle and the ones we see information about most often. But most nonprofits are small. They really have to work hard for every dollar they raise, and that’s been particularly true in the last few years with the recession. I think small nonprofits can learn a lot by watching what those larger ones do. But then they have to translate that into something they can manage with their own budgets, with their local supporters.
MKC: How do you see your own role in this shifting firmament? Are you a connector? A curator? An information provider?
JOANNE: I guess I see myself as a provider of basic information. I’m constantly returning to the call of people’s basic needs for information. I also feel that the term “content curator” applies to me. That term has only come into existence recently, but it just fits what so many of us who have blogs and websites do. We’re constantly finding information, interpreting it, and making it available to people who don’t have time to look it up.
JOANNE: I think the social networks are having less of an effect on my readership than you might think, simply because most of the traffic is coming in over the search engines, not from the social networks. However, I think you have to be on the social networks, or you’re just out of the game. We don’t know two or three years down the road, how people will actually be coming to our websites. We just have no idea right now. The other thing is, I really like social networking. I didn’t know I’d like it. Particularly Twitter. For some reason I understand Twitter. I have found that nonprofit professionals are all over Twitter. It’s an incredible community for the nonprofit professional world. I haven’t found Facebook quite as intuitive. For most people it’s the other way around. This is something I’ve been grappling with lately. There are so many social networks, and which do you pay attention to? You can’t apply all of them equally well, so we have to decide which ones we’re going to focus on. If it’s difficult for those of us who work in this sort of milieu all the time, I can only imagine the problems confronting people in nonprofit organizations who are trying to use the social networks for fundraising, volunteer coordination, and the like. I think it’s really important for those of us who work with social networks to provide good examples and best practices for people working in nonprofit organizations, because for them, it’s just a head-turning, head-spinning world.
Guest blogger Don Akchin writes frequently about marketing and philanthropy at donakchin.com.
This interview series is produced with the generous support of the Nonprofit Marketing and Fundraising Zone.