A nonprofit organization can take advantage of the Internet for at least eight purposes:
Let us look at brief examples of each of these uses in turn.
Good sites gain attention. Attention or awareness is exactly what all non-profits need… it accelerates fund-raising efforts, and enhances all the following essential needs:
There’s a fine line between grabbing the public’s attention and educating the public about an important social problem or cause.
Whatever the mission statement of your non-profit organization is, it needs to be presented with clarity to the various “publics” that all non-profits must influence if they are to be successful.
All organizations have several different “publics” which they must influence in a positive way in order to achieve their organizational goals.
Some of these “publics” are:
centers of influence
government officials and departments
A properly constructed and strategized web site can reach all of these “publics” cost effectively and with immediate “calls-to-action.
Large sums of money are now changing hands over the Internet. One early barrier to online fund raising was the perceived insecurity surrounding online financial transactions. With dramatic improvements in online secure data transmission, this is no longer an issue.
Now there are multiple ways for donors to make direct donations without worrying. Several companies offer secure methods for performing online financial transactions.
PayPal and Amazon now provide free mechanisms for the proper transmission of credit card donations to non-profits… eliminating the need for the non-profit to own and manage their own credit card merchant account… and saving the organization on transaction fees.
Another advantage of online credit card donations is that they are usually for larger amounts… and given more often during the year.
The biggest single benefit of a well crafted non-profit web site is the fact that you are now opening up the entire online world… almost a billion users (and growing) worldwide… to your organizations needs and goals. It is not unusual for organizations to recieve substantial donations from complete strangers living in foreign countries. These folks will have found you on the world-wide-web, feel an affinity to your goals… and donate money using your online form and their credit card.
Building a donor database allows the organization to “go back to the well” seeking additional donations for specific projects, needs, or general support.
Volunteer recruitment and management is a well developed and proven use of the Internet. The Internet allows for a new and powerful way for people to support nonprofits by becoming virtual volunteers. Virtual volunteers have more control over their time and the ease of working from home because they take advantage of the convenience of online communication. All the factors that motivated volunteers face-to-face still operate forcefully over the Internet. A spirit of community and personal relationships thrive abundantly in cyberspace. Of course, many nonprofits have effectively used their web presence for recruiting volunteers that show up on their premises. Recognizing volunteers… a vital component of developing a strong volunteer is made simple and easy through a web site.
Our economy is increasingly based on the timely exchange of information, All successful non-profits must deliver the right information to the right person, at the right time.
A web site is a powerful way to deliver services for those organizations in the business of providing people with information. Since this includes almost all non-profits, the need and benefits of a website accessable 24-hours a day, seven days a week, become obvious.
To mobilize people around an issue, an organization must get the word out quickly and provide people with convenient tools for responding. Because it’s so easy to update a web site and have the vital details available instantaneously, the web is a perfect way to encourage people to act on issues that greatly concern them. Timely action alerts can be sent via email to various organization maintained data bases …instantly. It’s easy to respond to a call for action when one can email one’s legislative representatives or link to other volunteer bulletin boards on the Internet. Cross linking with other like-minded organizations provides a “synergy of action” that would be impossible with a well crafted web presence.
Research may take many forms. An organization may wish to keep up with legal, political, scientific or other mission related developments. Alternatively, it may wish to learn about grant getting opportunities.
Two excellent starting points for almost any kind of searching are Google and Yahoo. Probably the best directory devoted entirely to nonprofit organizations on the web is the Action Without Border’s web site. This includes a page of foundations and links offering grant opportunities. Cross linking with these organizations provides a wonderful networking opportunity and usually leads to additional opportunities for all the linked organizations.
It would be hard to overemphasize the advantages, cost savings, or numerous virtues of email. Email offers the best of the phone and the mail. It is as fast and as reliable as the phone, while compensating for the frailties of human memory by preserving a written record, as does the mail. Further, email allows for asynchronous communication, meaning that one can read one’s email on one’s own time, rather than having to play telephone tag. Of course, it also encourages clarity of expression by remaining a form of *written* communication.
Web sites facilitate email correspondence when they make publicly available the email addresses of organization staff. Sites can offer options which make sending a message as convenient as filling out a form. They can also invoke an email mailer on many browsers when the visitor to a site clicks on the right button.
If you are worried about getting too much email, more than you have time to answer, consider discarding any mail delivered by the US Postal Service and using the time you save to answer the few email messages you are lucky enough to receive. They will likely be more valuable, more interesting and you will be able to respond to them more quickly with better results than most of your incoming “snail mail”. 🙂
In summation… the strong benefits enjoyed by all non-profit organizations, from the development of a custom website, are many and varied. A strong web presence provides a solid economic basis for additional revenues (donations), cost savings, and enhanced services to members, volunteers, and the public at large. Since most non-profits are understaffed… the dramatic labor savings and management efficiencies gained with a comprehensive web site can mean the difference between success or failure… growth or survival!