Pamela Ashlund talks about blogging in the nonprofit workplace

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Pamela Ashlund's first job was with a small nonprofit that provided services for the homeless and mentally ill over twenty years ago.   â€œI was hired to write their newsletter, but the budget was so tight that I shared an office with the controller.  He wanted to take a vacation so he cross-trained me in accounting.”   She has been a nonprofit finance executive ever since.

Pamela then worked for the YWCA of Sonoma County, a nonprofit focused on domestic violence and childcare before moving to a large community action nonprofit where she became the financial manager.  Along the way, she was a consultant, assisting nonprofits with new accounting software systems.  She says, “One such consulting job brought me to LA and made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.”  Her next job was with the Urban Conservation Corps in downtown LA, her current employer.

In January, 2006, she started a blog, the Nonprofit Eye, to write about professional topics of interest related to her work as a nonprofit finance professional.  She caught my attention when she announced her blog over at Netsquared

Your blog isn't an anonymous blog, but it is somewhat hard to find out about you and the organizations you've worked with.   Does your current nonprofit employer know you're blogging?

That’s a funny story.  I started  a blog as an online parody of my nonprofit workplace, but made a classic newbie mistake of naming my employer.  I thought no one would ever see the blog.  Little did I know ....  Worse yet, it was a two post experiment which I completely forgot about until it was “discovered” by my organization's marketing department. They were doing Internet searches for reputation management and it turned up.

Although I wasn’t fired for writing a blog, I was counseled.  It was a hard lesson and I wrote about it on my blog . Now, I try to keep my working relationship with my employer quite separate from my blogging life.

What advice would you give to other individuals who are staff members at nonprofits and have professional/personal blogs?

I still get a little nervous when I hit submit even though I don't write about my work life.  You have to remember that you are representing yourself and by extension your organization and sometimes both.  There is a gray line between the two.  I think that blogging could be such great buzz for nonprofits, but a personal/professional blog is not a place to air your dirty laundry.  A blog encourages openness and sometimes you might type things that you wouldn't say in other circumstances. I think the key is to use common sense.

Doe anyone at your nonprofit read your blog? 

Well, I don't send links to them.  I just publish it.  I suspect not because they're not techies.  They might come across it professionally now that I write about industry issues.  However, I think they would be proud.


Do you think there is a benefit to a nonprofit organization when  individuals/staff members  have a personal/professional blog? 

I think that is very beneficial for an organization.  But we're entering into new territory and I think you need to negotiate with your employer before hand.  There is a blog - called fispace.  That's a personal/professional blog written by a nonprofit staff member that makes the organization look good.

Should nonprofits have policies around staff blogging?

Some already do, see my blog:  Whistleblogging  & Whistle Blogging Part II.   I find the intersection of whistle blowing and blogging to be a source of humor as technology inevitably clashes with policy. 

How have you promoted and marketed your blog?

Even though I promised myself I wouldn’t blog about blogging, I did one post Birth of a Blog where I tell the tale of my attempts at marketing and promotion.

 

What are the 3 or 4 best blogs by women who write about the nonprofit sector? 

I discovered the nonprofit blogosphere after I heard a speaker at California Association of Nonprofits,  Bruce Sievers,  Visiting Scholar at Stanford University give a talk called “A Tale of Three Cities”.  I looked him up on the net and found SSRI where I found a link to White Courtesy Telephone.  There I found links to other nonprofit bloggers including yours!

If I had to identify three favorites:

Deborah Elizabeth Finn Technology for the Nonprofit and Philanthropic Sector
Nancy Schwartz’s Getting Attention
Kelly Kleiman’s Nonprofiteer

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