blogs, content

Taking My Own Medicine

22 Comments 14 January 2013

venn diagram


As you may have noticed, I haven’t published my own work in a few weeks (excepting a guest post in early January). The truth of the matter is that I find myself thinking daily about what to blog about, but nothing seems to propel my fingers towards the keyboard. Coincidentally, I published my last original blog post almost exactly four years after my very first blog post on Community Organizer 2.0. After four years, and 224 published posts on my site, I have been worried that I’ve plumb run out of steam.

Whenever I’m stuck on a problem, I go for a run or a vigorous walk in the woods. I’ve been doing a lot of walking these past few weeks (it’s been a bit snowy for a run!) and what I keep coming back to is this: I need a content calendar.

I’ve been blogging for four years with one idea in mind: to write about the intersection of social media, nonprofit organizations, and technology. I’ve tried to keep my projected audience in mind as I develop content here, a mix of nonprofit staff, fundraisers, communications team members, fellow consultants, and activists. I’ve also used this space to explore nonprofit technology through my own inquiry: my inner research geek who has to know “what supports that theory,” the constant questioner who wants to know “how it’s made,” the translator who thinks about “how can others use that?” and the thinker who likes to run in the woods and connect the dots. Now I’ve hit the classic organizational mistake of not creating a content calendar (one which I insist that every client create), and now I need to take my own medicine and create a content calendar for Community Organizer 2.0.

I’m constantly asking organizations “what’s the conversation about?” I conduct an exercise with them to figure out what their online conversation should be about by helping them think about the intersection of what they want to talk about and what their audience cares about. (See the Venn diagram above, image courtesy of the smart Lisa Colton from See3 and Darim Online). Once the conversation is defined, we begin developing a supportive content calendar. I decided to ask you today to help me with both.

Based on your blog comments, and my own thoughts about “the conversation” that could be unfolding here, I’ll develop a regular editorial content calendar for this blog. My ideal would be to blog twice-weekly, as that schedule seems to ignite my own creative juices the most.

I am at the intersection of me and you.

What is it that you want to talk about? What type of content or conversation have you found most valuable on this site over the years? What would you like to read about more?

I’m so very interested in listening to what you have to say. I’ll take your comments and develop a transparent content calendar, which I will publish in a follow-up blog post. Thank you for four years of stellar conversation. I’m looking forward to what is to come.

  • Thank you for creating the conversation. One thought: how to get organizations (and their top leadership) to be proactive, and not reactive, in their engagement. We can’t speak enough about this – especially when dealing with hierarchical organizations.


    Debra Askanase Reply:

    Love it! Great idea, and thank you.


  • Ephraim Gopin

    Happy to help out here- I have one word: measurement.
    Both in the nonprofit and business world, that’s the number one question: How do you measure effectiveness of your social media efforts? Or the dreaded abbreviation: ROI.

    Because it’s still in its infancy, it can’t be fully measured but I’d love to read your take…not only on tools but from a strategy perspective as well.
    (P.S. When I get asked about ROI, I always answer with COI- Cost of Ignoring social media. That term was coined by Erich Marx, dir. social & interactive media for Nissan North America)



    Debra Askanase Reply:

    Ephraim, I’ve written about it a bit here (search through my metrics category), and they’ve always been well-received in terms of traffic and comments. Worth thinking more about incorporating it regularly here. Thanks!


  • Debra – If you’re asking what you should be writing more of here, I’d take a look at your top posts in Google Analytics. It’s also helpful to get ideas from people (like you’re doing here) to put color around the GA reports.

    I will say though that people can be very funny. They often say they want one thing but need quite a different thing. Or they don’t know what they want or need until they see it. So in some ways, you have to use your gut.

    One thing I love about your blog is that you’re very process-oriented in how you look at things. You’re very analytical in your approach and I like that. 🙂


    Debra Askanase Reply:

    John, thanks. Google Analytics definitely gives me some sense of it. When I write my follow-up piece, I think I’ll reveal what keywords people use to search for my posts and site, and what posts have been most popular in terms of traffic over the years.

    I love thinking about process also, and especially the connection between theory and practice. Glad you enjoy reading about it- I’m definitely going to keep that part of my content!


  • Mazarine, I think the idea of more regular guest posts is definitely worth thinking about. I usually solicit guest posts based on what content I want to feature, but it is worthwhile to consider this more thoughtfully – thanks.


  • Debra, this is a challenge a lot of us face. About 6 weeks ago we had a Socialbrite call where folks suggested, wouldn’t it be a good idea to have themed content throughout the week: say, Metrics Monday, Fundraising Friday, that sort of thing. Good idea in theory, since you’re setting readers’ expectations, but it adds another layer of complexity.

    I do love what you’re doing both with your content (you’re still at the top of my RSS reader) and with asking the community what we’d like to see. If I had a preference it would be to see more *short* case studies of nonprofit campaigns.

    What the heck is working out there? What isn’t? What lessons are we learning (and willing to share!) Summarize it in a short series of case studies, with some screenshots and some high level takeaways, without getting too far into the weeds. Hope that helps!


    Debra Askanase Reply:

    JD – thanks so much. I love focused case studies and it’s always been something I’ve enjoyed writing about (the researcher and translator in me, I guess). This is something I’ve been thinking about emphasizing more, thanks for validating my instinct with a comment.


  • Hi Debra,

    As you probably know, I’m a big fan of your blog. It’s one of the first ones that I regularly read as we started up CauseVox. (I still read it just as much!).

    Two things that we really enjoyed on your blog:

    1. Deep case studies. We saw you walk through case studies and examples that were nitty gritty. People love when we share case studies. People love details. I’d have to agree with JD on this one, and would love to see more of it. Different audiences have different details they are looking for though, so you might want to see who you’re trying to target with each case study as your audience persona is diverse.

    2. Focus on community. Relationships and community building are fundamentals that a lot of nonprofits don’t get nor have the patience to invest in. You’re blog is called “community organizer”, and that is one of the things I love the most. It sets the theme of your blog while bringing insights to how new trends and tech can tied into it.

    I’m excited to see where you take this! Let me know if we can help in any way.


    Debra Askanase Reply:

    Rob – you always give wonderfully directed advice. Similar to what I read on your blog, btw, and love: the directed “what’s working” types of posts.

    I hear ya on the case studies – I love research. Love it. And as JD wrote, below, it seems to be a need in the nptech and nonprofit community.

    Thanks, too, for the note about the focus on community. I have found that I’ve strayed from that sometimes to go off exploring online fundraising or specific tools. This is a good reminder to keep that front and center. Thank you.


  • LOL when I read this. The shoemaker’s children go shoeless. I’m always telling everyone else to develop a content calendar. Yet, they do say that if you’re going to preach religion you’ve got to get religion! So, congrats to you for resolving to do so. I hope it’s contagious. 🙂

    One thing I’m finding helpful is choosing a theme for a month (or even for two weeks). It helps to keep my content focused, and let’s me prepare folks for what’s coming up next. For example, right now I’m doing a series on my Clairification blog on nonprofit blogging. We’ll see if folks like a series. Or not. Good luck, and I’m a fan.


    Debra Askanase Reply:

    Thanks, Claire, for your thoughts. Given that you just published several posts and a great presentation on creating an engaged blogging strategy, I’m listening and taking notes! I haven’t thought about themes or series, so I’ll give that some thought.


  • Bonnie Koenig

    Debra – LIke many others have noted, I love that you think about and write about a wide range of topics. It’s interesting that you picked the venn diagram to illustrate this blog, as I think one of your particular strengths from this breadth of interests and experiences (and as an analytical and process thinkers) is where interesections lie. Think about the intersections between technology and mission/outcome; the intersection between theory and practice; etc…I would encourage you to keep thinking about topics that draw out these linkages as we need ‘network weavers’ to do more of this! Keep using your wonderful powers of observation – when you see things of interesting happening out there, keep thinking how can I help ‘translate’ this to a range of readers? How can I help busy practitioners to analyze those case studies? I know I’m not giving you specific topics but I hope it might generate some ideas for you!


    Debra Askanase Reply:

    Bonnie, one of the things we connect on is that we both love networking and analytical thinking, so it made me smile when I read your comments. I am going to take to heart the idea of “blogging at the intersections” and drawing out linkages, as they speak to me. I love those ideas and find myself drawn to them unconsciously in any case. By asking me those questions at the end of your comment, it’s inspired more thinking about content for this blog. Thanks for your support and feedback here.


  • geofflivingston

    A writer writes. Find a new muse. I found I couldn’t go any further with NP blogging about six months ago, but I’m writing about other things now and that’s working for me. Find the muse.


    Debra Askanase Reply:

    Thanks, Geoff. I noticed that about six months ago you began branching out in your blogging topics. Glad that’s working for you. Definitely something to think about for me, too.


  • Hey, Debra:

    One way out of this situation is to promote yourself from blogger to the rank of editor-publisher. Imagine that you don’t have to fill up your editorial calender with endless straightforward, information-rich, first-person pieces about social media and nonprofits and technology. Instead, rotate through a number of regular features–all related to your central theme. I can imagine items such as:

    *”What Ever Happened to…” Iin which you look back at a failed technology or org, and wring out of the demise a useful lesson;

    *”How Socialized ARE You?” a regular quiz–sort of like “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me…”–in which you test readers’ knowledge of the latest news stories of the social/nonprofit world;
    *”The Animated Askanase,” in which you use GoAnimate to create animations of the interesting back-and-forth you’ve had with cantankerous commentators online.

    You get the idea. Make your editorial calender interesting, fun, and diverse–the way an editor-publisher might organize a print pub–and you’ll make it something you and your readers will love! More on this point here:


    Ken G.


    Debra Askanase Reply:


    I like the regular features idea, and have tried it in fits and starts on this blog. I also like that the features could become conversation themes, because I’ve always thought of this blog as a conversation place. Great ideas, thank you.

    Oh – and how could I not love a comment that includes the phrase “The Animated Askanase”?!


  • Jaki, I’ve also seen the 1.0, 2.0, now 3.0 iterations of social media implementation and strategy. In some ways, I’ve always written about those iterations here, offering tools and strategies for assessing and reassessing need. I am intrigued by thinking about it as a focus point not only for me now (reflection) but also for readers. Combining this thought with Ken Gordon’s earlier comment re: “whatever happened to..,” I think failure reflections might be a great piece of regular content to offer!

    I was consumed by the article in The Atlantic about Obama’s reelection data platform (Narwhal), and hadn’t seen this previously. It’s a great read for all tech consumers and developers, and such a comment on technology invention, re-invention, hubris, and planning. I think there are a lot of lessons there. One that I thought of right away was keeping the end goal in mind, and making sure the tech can get you there! Thanks for pointing towards this.


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Debra Askanase is an experienced digital engagement strategist, non-profit executive, and community organizer. She works with mission-driven organizations to develop digital strategies and campaigns that engage, create trust, and move stakeholders to action. Debra speaks at conferences worldwide on the intersection of technology, social media, and nonprofit organizations.

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