The question of why foundations don’t encourage/allow their employees to blog has quickly turned into a discussion of whether it is OK to blog anonymously:
“If you have something worth saying and your intent is to influence or guide others, put your name on it. Otherwise we have a bunch of sheep talking to sheep.” – Tom Belford, The Agitator
“Let’s not lose sight of the fact that for far too long nobody wanted to provide insider’s commentary about foundation work. And, if for now, for the very smart reasons Don says he wants to stay hidden, let’s still be grateful for the fact that he — and others I know of who also write under a disguised name — are helping push the door open wider.” – Bruce Trachtenberg, The Communications Network
My intention in bringing up the debate was not to question whether foundation employees should blog anonymously, but rather ask why there are not more “sanctioned” blogs and why foundation aren’t requesting that some of their top people blog, let alone discouraging it.
In the for-profit world, many companies are finding that blogging is a very good way to engage their customers. Both Microsoft and Hewlett Packard have employee blog portals that the public can access.
The nonprofit sector also understands the promise of blogs. Last month, influential blogger Jeff Brooks at Donor Power Blog cited the post “10 ways nonprofits can use blogs and bloggers to support their cause” from Britt Bravo’s Have Fun * Do Good blog. Jeff added his own list of ways for nonprofits to become engaged in the blog conversation and said “It’s a big conversation, and you can be part of it, even without a blog of your own.”:
- Find the blogs that cover your topic.
- Follow them closely.
- Comment on them (not anonymously, but under the flag of your organization).
- Get to know the bloggers: Who’s reasonable? Who’s always throwing bombs? Who’s likely to admire your organization most?
- When you know them, think about contacting the right ones about issues of mutual interest. (But don’t, don’t, don’t send press releases! You can hardly imagine how annoying that is!)
So what about private foundations? Although maintaining an appropriate public face can be critical, they are far more independent than nonprofits and for-profits since they don’t have customers and donors to please. They also have far fewer competitive issues to deal with. They can freely give away their “secrets” since all their knowledge will do is improve the state of the sector. The more foundations are willing to share, the more effective all grantmakers will be.