Wikipedia defines a blog as a “user-generated website where entries are made in journal style and displayed in reverse chronological order.” (“Wikipedia,” 2007) In November 2007, I presented a literature review and short case study about blogs and wikis as professional development tools for nonprofit managers. Since that time, I wanted to learn more by finding out the actual experiences of bloggers in the nonprofit sector. I decided to conduct a phenomenological exercise to study the, “essence of a phenomenon from the perspectives of those who have experienced it” (Merriam, 2002).
Traditionally phenomenological exercises have only one research question. Differing from that model, my study had six research questions. I conducted a general qualitative research study attempting to describe the phenomenon of blogging in the nonprofit sector from the perspectives of three bloggers: Sean Stannard-Stockton, a principal and director of Tactical Philanthropy at Ensemble Capital Management, an investment management firm, in Burlingame, California, who writes the Tactical Philanthropy blog (Stannard-Stockton, 2008); Trista Harris, a Program Officer at the Saint Paul Foundation in Saint Paul, Minnesota, who writes the New Voices in Philanthropy blog (Harris, 2008); and Rosetta Thurman, Director of Development and Special Programs at the Nonprofit Roundtable of Greater Washington, Washington, D.C., who writes the Perspectives from the Pipeline blog (Thurman, 2008).
Due to the public nature of blogging, all three informants gave me permission to include their real names and quotes in this study. I purposefully selected my participants because I have been reading their blogs since they started blogging less than a year and a half ago.
In this paper, I will report findings from the three interviews. These findings are organized using the themes created from the six research questions. My themes are:
- How did they get into blogging?
- What topics do they blog about?
- How do they handle comments on their blog?
- How supportive or not supportive is their organization about their blogging?
- How has blogging had an impact on their careers?
- What advice would they provide to people in the nonprofit sector who want to accelerate their careers as result of blogging?
My favorite quotes in this paper:
“I wanted to show people, as I kept writing, you know we do have opinions and a lot of them are not so out there.” - Rosetta
“You have to realize that your supervisors and the people you work with are going to see your thoughts that you are putting down and you have to be willing to stand behind them.” -Trista
“[Blogging] is a way to brand yourself as an expert. The easiest way to brand yourself as an expert is to say you are an expert because there aren’t a lot of people willing to do that. …and you better have the background research to be able to back it up.” - Trista
"I wanted to…use my blog as a leveraging point to get onto these [speaking] panels that didn’t have any young people.” -Rosetta
“My biggest problem every day is figuring out what not to write about.” -Sean
“[With a blog] there is the opportunity to really change a field because you’re helping spread ideas to different places where they can actually take root which you can’t do if it is just you in your office talking about something.” -Trista
Harris, T. (2008). New Voices in Philanthropy blog, Retrieved, May 5, 2008 from: http://www.newvoicesofphilanthropy.org/
Merriam, S. B. (Ed.). (2002). Qualitative research in practice: Examples for discussion and analysis.
Stannard-Stockton, S. (2008). Tactical Philanthropy blog, Retrieved, May 5, 2008 from: http://tacticalphilanthropy.com/
Thurman, R. (2008). Perspectives from the Pipeline blog, Retrieved, May 5, 2008 from: http://fromthepipeline.blogspot.com/