Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Starting a Financial Aid Association Blog

This is part one of two in a series about association blogs.

Blogs are not a fancy new thing. Financial Aid Associations have had newsletters since their beginnings. The Wisconsin Association’s first 1966 meeting notes discuss the creation of a newsletter. At that time it was delivered on paper; now it can be delivered electronically. A blog is a new tool for delivering a newsletter and so much more.

There are advantages to using a blog over a paper or pdf newsletter. Each article adds its own value as a separate blog post. Articles can be spread out as shorter weekly posts rather than a long newsletter monthly or quarterly. It may be easier for association members to find time to read one short post a week rather than a long newsletter monthly.

A blog is timely - it allows a more immediate response to be possible when new information needs to be shared. It also allows flexibility for experimenting with what to share with members. In addition blogs have the capability of real-time metrics to determine the popularity of certain content.

A blog allows interaction - members can comment on the blog and keep the conversation going.
A blog reaches new members –members are increasingly using social media to connect with others. It isn’t just the tech savvy or millenials using social media anymore. Today’s professionals have come to expect immediate and real time communication.

Wisconsin’s blog debuted in 2012 with an updated website. The blog is used to create connections among members, share information about association activities, and provide professional development resources. In order to keep track of what is being shared we use categories of blog posts. Keeping track by category allows us to present a variety of content. Categories are always evolving, but some examples include:
  • Updates from the President
  • Committee Updates
  •  We Are WASFAA – Interviews with WASFAA members (See next week’s blog post for more on this topic.)
  •  Meet ED – Interviews with Department of Education Trainers
  •  Tech Tips – Tips for using technology both in and outside of the workplace.
  •   Pro Dev Tips – Professional Development Tips such as getting the most out of conferences, how to present an interest session for the first time, and how to create enticing slide decks.

Coordinating a blog can be an intimidating undertaking, but it doesn’t have to be. We use a spreadsheet on Google Drive that several administrators can access.  It lists the date to post, the category, topic, author, team member coordinating the post, and the status. We also have a column that lists major events such as holidays and conferences to assist with planning. In my term as president this year I oversaw the creation of a new position in the association, Web Content Manager. This is in addition to the Web Editor position. The Content Management person is the primary contact person for coordinating the blog posts while the Editor has become the person managing the technical aspects of the website.  Dividing up the content and the technical aspects of the website and blog has made it possible to best utilize the strengths of the people filling those roles.

The association blog has fostered new sense of communication and community in the Wisconsin association and a blog can enhance communication in your association too. Listed below are several blogs to take a look at as examples of what can be done with a financial aid association blog.

Regional Student Financial Aid Association Blogs
Eastern (EASFAA) http://easfaa.org/b/
Rocky Mountain (RMASFAA) http://rmasfaa.wordpress.com/
Southern (SASFAA) http://sasfaa.blogspot.com/
Southwest (SWASFAA) http://swasfaa.org/b/
Western (WASFAA) http://wasfaa.org/b/

State Student Financial Aid Association Blogs
Wisconsin (WASFAA)  http://www.wasfaa.net/

Did we miss one? Please add it to the comments below!
Part two of this series coming next week – Tips for Writing a Blog Post

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