Blogging for a Cause

When Maria Diestro from Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida asked me to be the speaker for a blogger open house, I was eager to help. Second Harvest is one of my favorite organizations. However, it then occurred to me that I was going to speaking to already seasoned, successful bloggers, so I would have to offer something a bit different to hold their attention for the entire hour I was schedule to speak. Yikes! What could I add that they didn’t already know?

I decided to focus on storytelling, because it is only by crafting a story worth telling that our readers will be drawn in and then compelled to join us in our support of a nonprofit.

The Visit

About 30 bloggers gathered at Second Harvest’s newest home in Winter Garden, right off the East-West Expressway. (Psst! Its location is easy-access for people who want to volunteer.) As we made our way inside, we realized we were in for quite a treat! We were welcomed into a gorgeous lobby, where every detail was geared to the food bank’s mission. Check out some of the photos from our tour:

Bess and Brian at Second Harvest Food Bank - read more at BessAuer.com

Posing with Brian Wilson of @CentralFLTop5 in the beautiful lobby.

Sasha Hausman welcomes the bloggers to Second Harvest.

Sasha Hausman welcomes the bloggers to Second Harvest.

As we went on a tour, we discovered the food bank went from 30,000 square feet at their old facility to over 100,000 square feet here. This means they don’t have to turn away any food because now they can accommodate it. The new facility can also hold up to 300 volunteers at a time; whereas the old one only held 40.

Volunteers busy at work inside the new facility.

Volunteers busy at work inside the new facility.

Sasha answering questions about UPS helping to develop a new tracking system for the food bank.

Sasha exlained that UPS helped to develop a new tracking system for the food bank.

Disney Vountears helped decorate the hallways, using Fantasia as a theme.

Disney Vountears helped decorate the hallways, using Fantasia as a theme.

Perhaps the nicest thing about the new facility is the new Darden Foundation Community Kitchen, where Chef Dawn Viola does her magic! Not only does she feature farm to table recipes, but the food bank can cater and host special events like its monthly Guest Chef Night, where a celebrity chef does a pop up dinner for visitors. Yum!

Chef Dawn Viola, Brian Wilson, and Rashmi Primlani - see more at BessAuer.com

Chef Dawn Viola greets bloggers Rashmi Primlani and Brian Wilson.

The food bank invited bloggers to prepare their own dessert - a Bavarian creme donut with bacon on top!

The food bank invited bloggers to prepare their own dessert – a Bavarian creme donut with bacon on top!

Isabel from @FamilyFoodie had to show me how to insert the creme in the doughnut!

Isabel from @FamilyFoodie had to show me how to insert the creme in the doughnut!

I liked the fact that the food bank also has a culinary training program where it takes at-risks youths and puts them through a culinary program that rivals Le Cordon Bleu’s. However, the food bank takes it a step further, so the rising chefs not only learn to prepare incredible food, but they also learn interviewing and marketing skills. This means Second Harvest is not only feeding the hungry, but by preparing people for the work force, they are also reducing the number of hungry they need to feed!

My Presentation: Blogging for a Cause

So, we finally arrived at lunch, where I took the microphone and spent the next hour discussing storytelling with the other bloggers. I used Neil Hilborn’s spoken poetry video as a starting point. Neil has OCD and Tourette Syndrome, so imagine how brave he was to get up and reveal himself in such an honest manner. Take a look:

As a viewer, Neil draws us in to his story, and compels us to watch. He also brought the conversation about OCD front and center. Can we as bloggers do this for other causes? So, we discussed the key features of Neil’s videos and saw how we can apply those to our blogging.

1. Be Passionate

Whether it is coping with OCD, feeding the hungry, or blogging about your gender-creative son, bring the drama! Bring the passion. Let your readers know how much you care.

2. Be compelling

Make sure you write in a way that your readers can’t stop reading. Headlines, opening lines, and interesting photos can help make your writing compelling.

3. Be Unexpected

Oftentimes we can use humor or irony to better communicate our point. Not only is the unexpectedness refreshing, but it draws our reader in further.

4. Be a Call to Action

Just by performing in front of others, Neil became a call to action to discuss OCD. You can create a call to action just by writing about a cause. But you can go further and ask your readers to spread your message, be aware, volunteer, or even donate money.

5. Be Shareable

This is just good blogging advice in general, but especially as your create content that is truly worthy of sharing because it is about a special cause. Make sure you craft your message that is both wordy and visual, so it is shareable across all social media channels, from Twitter and Facebook to Instagram, Pinterest, and even YouTube. People love to share information about nonprofits and special causes because it makes their heart feel good!

Take a look at at the slides from my presentation for more information about these five key features of blogging for a cause:

Final Thoughts

My last piece of advice is find a nonprofit that not only you are passionate about, but also one that works well with bloggers. One of the reasons I love Second Harvest Food Bank is that they have an incredible blogger outreach program as shown by yesterday’s blogger open house. And, they consistently reach out and support bloggers because they have events going year round.

This is why we have chosen Second Harvest to be the beneficiary of this year’s FLBlogging for Good, where bloggers can win a $100 gift card – take a look and consider entering!