A5 Nonprofits as Networks of Help

A5 Nonprofits as Networks of Help

Figure A5.1. VolunteerMatch uses the Web to help volunteers and nonprofit organizations find each other.

(www.volunteermatch.org, December 4, 2001)


graphics/common.jpg Background

This pattern forms the core of all nonprofit sites. Integrate other site genre patterns into a nonprofit site to expand its capabilities or use this pattern to add a charitable service to a VALUABLE COMPANY SITE (A7), PERSONAL E-COMMERCE (A1) site, NEWS MOSAIC (A2), or EDUCATIONAL FORUM (A8).

graphics/common.jpg Problem

Nonprofits rely on financial sponsors, volunteers, and staff members to benefit the needs of a client cause. But if these groups are not brought together in a network, a major benefit of the Web is neglected.

A nonprofit's financial sponsors, volunteers, and staff members are all looking to help its beneficiaries, but each group has its own needs and criteria for participation. Addressing these needs is the first and most basic step of developing a nonprofit Web site. Such a design may provide access to information anytime anywhere and start to build an individual relationship between the nonprofit and each visitor.

A True Network of Help

Providing only "the basics" keeps each visitor isolated and does not leverage the tremendous power of the Web as a network. A Web site can be the nexus of communications that allow people to connect directly to one another.

There are many reasons to connect everyone involved in a nonprofit. Most nonprofits are organized around projects and schedules that bring together volunteers, beneficiaries, and sponsorships from financial contributors—all organized and coordinated by staff members.

Coordinating these projects requires effort and precious staff time, as well as continual updates to the entire team about the project status. Invariably, issues arise that you must address with employees, volunteers, sponsors, beneficiaries, or the entire project team. Individual volunteers and beneficiaries can benefit others by sharing what they have learned. Financial sponsors benefit from seeing the project process in action. Staff members seek to learn and help their systems evolve from one project to the next. Each project becomes a success story to document and publish. Everyone involved becomes a key part of the success story.

Connecting people on a nonprofit Web site reduces management costs, while improving communication between the players. Tools such as MESSAGE BOARDS (D5), online schedules, and site-publishing tools facilitate the coordination of teams and the sharing of information without costly overhead and administration. By providing these tools on a central project management server, you can create a system in which people communicate more frequently because the tools eliminate time and location constraints. Such a benefit is called a network effect because everyone gains more benefit as more individuals use this network of connections.

Providing Specific Solutions

Financial sponsors, volunteers, staff members, and beneficiaries will have different questions, and they will carry out different tasks. These needs form the basis for the solutions shown in Table A5.1.

A basic nonprofit site must entice each group to participate by answering these key questions. An advanced nonprofit network of help provides the means for entire projects to be coordinated online. In such a case the Web site becomes the primary vehicle for connecting groups in a coordinated activity and shared dialogue.

Table A5.1. Sample Questions, Tasks, and Solutions for Nonprofits
Group Question or Task What to Provide as a Solution
Financial sponsors (see Figure A5.2) Why do I want to fund this nonprofit? The benefits of funding this nonprofit
  What does this nonprofit do? ABOUT US(E5), an overview of the program
  Who are the beneficiaries? An overview of beneficiaries and some of their stories
  How will my money be used? Statistics on how much of each dollar is used for the cause and how much covers administrative overhead
  How do Imake a donation? Instructions for making donations offline or online, with the online version providing a SECURE CONNECTION (E6) through aPROCESS FUNNEL (H1)
Volunteers (see Figures A5.3 and A5.4) Why is this a worthy cause? ABOUT US (E5), an overview of the program
  What do volunteers do? The benefits for volunteers and some of their stories
  How do I become involved? A schedule of events, a volunteer sign-up form, E-MAIL SUBSCRIPTIONS(E2) for newsletters and nearby events
Staff Who are the current volunteers, financiers, and beneficiaries? Secure page listing volunteers, financial sponsors, and beneficiaries
Beneficiaries Who are the people helping me? Offers of gratitude to all the financiers, volunteers, and staff members, and what they contributed (in general)
Everyone What are the latest developments with current projects? MESSAGE BOARDS (D5) with current topics open for discussion, HEADLINES AND BLURBS (D3) of new events

Figure A5.2. The Rotary Foundation, a division of Rotary International, is the charitable-works arm of Rotary clubs. Its site allows visitors to make gifts to the foundation, manage their gifts, find local sponsors for initiatives, and see what their district has donated.

(www.rotary.org/foundation, February 8, 2002)


Figure A5.3. Kiwanis International is dedicated to serving its community and promoting the needs of children worldwide. Its Web site features relevant news headlines and makes it easy for members to join events and discuss issues.

(Reprinted from www.kiwanis.org, February 5, 2002)


Figure A5.4. Network for Good promotes civic participation and philanthropy. Its Web site aggregates content and resources from over 20 nonprofit organizations, making them conveniently available all in one place.

(www.networkforgood.org, February 12, 2002)


graphics/common.jpg Solution

At a minimum, provide information that addresses the questions posed by financial sponsors, volunteers, staff members, and beneficiaries. To harness the power of the Web as a network, give people the ability to sign up for projects in a place where all team members can coordinate, participate, and record project developments for future reference.

Figure A5.5. Basic nonprofit sites provide compelling reasons for people to become financial sponsors, volunteers, staff members, and beneficiaries. To make the most of the network, a nonprofit site must help coordinate people around specific projects.


graphics/common.jpg Consider These Other Patterns

Basic Nonprofit Networks of Help

Build a site that provides program information targeted to your distinct audiences: financial sponsors, volunteers, staff, and beneficiaries. Provide MULTIPLE WAYS TO NAVIGATE (B1) to a CATEGORY PAGE (B8) for each audience, where you publish success stories and past accomplishments in CONTENT MODULES (D2) for easy updating. Keep your project calendar up-to-date.

Provide volunteers with a basic form for them to sign up by using a PROCESS FUNNEL (H1). Also place an E-MAIL SUBSCRIPTION (E2) form on or just off of the HOMEPAGE PORTAL (C1) to make it easy for visitors to remain informed about events.

Make your FAIR INFORMATION PRACTICES (E3) clear through a simple and understandable PRIVACY POLICY (E4).

Advanced Nonprofit Networks of Help

Make it easy for people to contribute by giving visitors the opportunity to make donations online through a QUICK-FLOW CHECKOUT (F1) process.

To take advantage of the Web's network effect, use your project calendar to help volunteers choose a particular project by qualifying their participation online using a PROCESS FUNNEL (H1). Give them a SECURE CONNECTION (E6) to use a SIGN-IN/NEW ACCOUNT (H2) and access a PERSONALIZED CONTENT (D4) area of the site specifically for the project team.

In addition, publish progress reports through CONTENT MODULES (D2) and provide MESSAGE BOARDS (D5) so that otherwise disconnected volunteers and financial sponsors can talk with other volunteers and financial sponsors, as well as with staff members and beneficiaries. On the public site, excerpt and publish the results of each project using CONTENT MODULES (D2).

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