Biz Blog Profile Series: Share - March of Dimes

09/06/2005

Biz Blog Profile is a behind the scene look at how corporations, non profits and higher education institutions are using blogs to support their marketing goals.

The design aspects of the Share Community set the tone for the March of Dimes blogs that provides a safe place for families to share their stories and experiences about having a baby in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). How could you not feel safe in a world where you can almost smell the baby powder freshness?

The March of Dimes has innovatively integrated blogs into an established rich micro site that supports a current program to provide a community for its members and volunteers. Patty Goldman, e-Business Director, is showing us that there is an exciting world beyond 'babble blogs' that hang off a website and swirl where the winds take them. Blogs can support objectives, enhance strategies and add value to 'customers.'

Special thanks to Nancy White, Full Circle Associates, for helping provide some of the  back-story and introductions.

Biz Blog Profiles: Share: March of Dimes

About the March of Dimes
The March of Dimes isMarch_of_dimes_logo a not-for-profits organization. Our mission is to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth, and infant mortality. We carry out the mission through programs of research, community services, education and advocacy to save babies' lives.

Why the March of Dimes is Blogging?
Actually it's not really the March of Dimes blogging, it is our community of families affected by premature birth and Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) families that are blogging. With the exception of one or two blogs, the bloggers are not staff of the March of Dimes. They may be volunteers, they may be donors, but mostly, they are simply people ("Share" community members) who have been affected by our mission.

We are giving them a safe place to blog, release their thoughts and commune with others who understand. It's the least we can do, given all that they are struggling with in the physical world. Blogging is a common form of expression for parents on parenting issues in general, we felt that this niche in particular was under-served and needed a place to share. This is echoed in the comments we see on Share about how important it is to be able to "talk" with others who have babies like their own. No one knows better.

How Blogs Fit Into The March of Dimes Marketing/Community Outreach Strategies
Actually, we started with message boards and people began to really pour their stories out. The format didn't allow them to come back and serialize their experiences. Nor did discussions (boards) create the "personal" space quite like blogs, a place for one person to really let their story unfold.

When we first launched, our blog tool was not quite user friendly, so the community sprung up mostly around the discussions (boards) with some exposure to blogs by our "Ambassador" families. Once we made the blog tool user friendly, blogs began to spring up like wild fires. The need was there first, then some exposure to the form, and we simply enabled it. Now the community uses a thriving blend of blogs and discussion boards. The latter are used for more topical, resource-focused interactions.

Why Volunteers vs. Staff Bloggers?
We have a few staff bloggers, and they are always welcome, but in this particular environment, the subject matter really lends itself to these families. The community IS by and far for the families. We consider ourselves a volunteer organization - much of our strength comes in the form of a deep-seeded foundation in volunteer mobilization - back to the polio days, so why not give families tools they need? "Share" is just the first step in this direction. We are currently revamping our foundation Intranet - once the new tool is in place, we hope to allow internal blogs to take off there.

 

What Are Some Of The Challenges Of Managing And Motivating Volunteers To Blog?
Quite frankly, we aren't doing much at all to motivate people. The option is just there - very apparent - but just there. We've created a very beautiful template for the blogs including easy insertion of photos which really lends itself to families' story sharing.

The motivation is coming entirely from the community members. Parents in general love to chat about the trials and tribulations of having and raising kids - this group has even more to say, and those that seek support find us and some even get "addicted" to blogging, both as an outlet for their experiences and to connect with others. In fact, the most rewarding thing about introducing this functionality is that they are keeping up with their blogs for the most part - not abandoning them. It is now their personal journal, and I think they don't want to lose that. Some are now starting to point their extended families to their blogs as a way to keep them informed about their baby's progress in the NICU and beyond.

Selling-in To Management
We didn't have many. I think enough time had passed that the idea of community wasn't scary anymore. Plus our Senior VP of Revenues at the time championed the idea after the Dean campaign had so much success. In addition, the conference set up by the American Cancer Society in Atlanta put blog bee in our management's bonnets.

As long as we are monitoring the site to make sure inaccurate health information was not circulating, the worries about content are mitigated and it's clear that the opinions do not reflect the positions of the March of Dimes. We just couldn't hold out any longer.

How The March of Dimes is Marketing/Promoting Its Blogs
>Volunteers
We aren't really promoting blogs per se. We encourage any member to start a blog. We are promoting the community. It has been proven to us that if they come, they will create blogs. We just need to find these families and tell them we are here. We are doing this with a combination of print PSA's and web banners.
>The Blogs
Our two consultants, Nancy White and Lee LeFever, who helped us build and maintain the site are making an effort to notify the blogosphere of our project and we've already seen some great feedback from around the globe. We also feature blogs and quotes in other things we do both on and off the web. We expect parents will also be telling other parents.

Lessons Learned
Find the set of community members (soon to be bloggers) and help them see how the blogs will serve THEM. Then they are really going to be committed - and passionate about their blog. From that the benefit will flow through them to the organization. Focus on their needs firs.

Make sure the blogs are contextualized - in our case, they are part of a community. Find the right place for them in your own environment, rather than linking out - that way relevant content is right there.

Finally, if there is community, those members will encourage and support each other as they discover how to make a blog that works for each of them.

Future Direction
Really, for us it's about additional communities, for which the blogging tool will be available. We're thinking about a lot of areas - we have a thriving youth program and Spanish language volunteers that we'd like to address. To do it right takes some resources but I hope we'll get there.

Patty Goldman's Take On Blogs
*sigh* I can't wait until the killer app of taxonomy of blogs comes out. I don't think we've found the best way to organize the blog universe yet. I love them, but it's time consuming to keep up with them.

What Are Some Of The Challenges Of Managing And Motivating Volunteers To Blog?
Quite frankly, we aren't doing much at all to motivate people. The option is just there - very apparent - but just there. We've created a very beautiful template for the blogs including easy insertion of photos which really lends itself to families' story sharing.

The motivation is coming entirely from the community members. Parents in general love to chat about the trials and tribulations of having and raising kids - this group has even more to say, and those that seek support find us and some even get "addicted" to blogging, both as an outlet for their experiences and to connect with others. In fact, the most rewarding thing about introducing this functionality is that they are keeping up with their blogs for the most part - not abandoning them. It is now their personal journal, and I think they don't want to lose that. Some are now starting to point their extended families to their blogs as a way to keep them informed about their baby's progress in the NICU and beyond.

Selling-in To Management
We didn't have many. I think enough time had passed that the idea of community wasn't scary anymore. Plus our Senior VP of Revenues at the time championed the idea after the Dean campaign had so much success. In addition, the conference set up by the American Cancer Society in Atlanta put blog bee in our management's bonnets.

As long as we are monitoring the site to make sure inaccurate health information was not circulating, the worries about content are mitigated and it's clear that the opinions do not reflect the positions of the March of Dimes. We just couldn't hold out any longer.

How The March of Dimes is Marketing/Promoting Its Blogs
>Volunteers
We aren't really promoting blogs per se. We encourage any member to start a blog. We are promoting the community. It has been proven to us that if they come, they will create blogs. We just need to find these families and tell them we are here. We are doing this with a combination of print PSA's and web banners.
>The Blogs
Our two consultants, Nancy White and Le LeFever, who helped us build and maintain the site are making an effort to notify the blogosphere of our project and we've already seen some great feedback from around the globe. We also feature blogs and quotes in other things we do both on and off the web. We expect parents will also be telling other parents.

Lessons Learned
Find the set of community members (soon to be bloggers) and help them see how the blogs will serve THEM. Then they are really going to be committed - and passionate about their blog. From that the benefit will flow through them to the organization. Focus on their needs firs.

Make sure the blogs are contextualized - in our case, they are part of a community. Find the right place for them in your own environment, rather than linking out - that way relevant content is right there.

Finally, if there is community, those members will encourage and support each other as they discover how to make a blog that works for each of them.

Future Direction
Really, for us it's about additional communities, for which the blogging tool will be available. We're thinking about a lot of areas - we have a thriving youth program and Spanish language volunteers that we'd like to address. To do it right takes some resources but I hope we'll get there.

Patty Goldman's Take On Blogs
*sigh* I can't wait until the killer app of taxonomy of blogs comes out. I don't think we've found the best way to organize the blog universe yet. I love them, but it's time consuming to keep up with them.

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Comments

Great article about the impact of blogs on families of March of Dimes. True, parents love nothing more than sharing stories about their kids!

Posted by: Evan on Jun 1, 2006 10:20:11 PM

valuable.
Check out this introduction article on Premature birth:
http://www.articleworld.org/Premature_birth

Posted by: Premature birth on Jun 10, 2006 7:53:18 PM

Ask March of Dimes to stop harming animals in cruel, senseless experiments:

www.marchofcrimes.com

http://www.pcrm.org/resch/charities/mod.html

Posted by: William McMullin on Jan 19, 2007 2:57:28 PM

I am so glad that I came across this. A relative recently told me that March of Dimes was only to prevent polio and since it is pretty much gone that there was no reason to donate to them anymore.
I didn't believe that and now I see the good that they are doing and I will be able to tell my relative and point him in your direction if he doesn't believe me.
Thanks for all the good that you do and please continue to do so.
My son was born 2 months premature. Any help to keep others from having to go through that ordeal is so appreciated :-)

Posted by: Michelle on Dec 22, 2011 6:36:28 PM

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