Getting your organisation online


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Frequently Asked Questions

Is there any useful information on the Internet for non-profit organisations?
What are the benefits to an organisation?
How do I monitor these benefits?
If I'm connected, what resources will I need?
How do I decide what type of connection to get?
Can I fundraise on the Internet?
How do I manage public access?


Is there any useful information on the Internet for non-profit organisations?

Yes and no. There are now quite a few voluntary sector bodies on the Web, particularly in the US, and also some mailing lists and discussion groups, although the UK is cathcing up fast. The information is not yet well organised, and can take a long time to find - but new material is coming on every day.

See the Bede Island Community Association links or our list of gateway pages of community information sites

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What are the benefits to an organisation?


For many businesses, being on the Internet is cost-effective and can improve the efficiency of an organisation. Email is the obvious omney-saver, reducing paper, envelope, photocopying, fax and postal costs.
If information is published on the WWW, it is always up-to-date and costs nothing to print (Internet accounts usually come with plenty of free web space), it may reduce the amount of queires you recieve and mean that the information is available all the time, even out of office hours.

Similarly, you can read your mail as and when it suits you, allowing uninterupted working and no continuous engaged tone on the phone, and to as many people as you want, simply by adding their name to a cc: list.

You may be able to offer new services to clients - anonymous email means clients don't even need you to know who they are, and they don't need to visit your place of work to get advice.

As more and more people get online, it will become increasingly difficult to do business off-line, in much the same way as fax machine have become commonplace in recent years.

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How do I monitor these benefits?

Sending or receiving one or more email costs the price of a local call. Even if you add in the cost of your montly charge, sending two emails a day rather than using the postal system will save you money.

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If I'm connected, what resources will I need?

Of course, introducing this technology to your organisation will have an effect on the way you work. Aside from the initial set-up of the system (see Internet Basics), the ease of duplication of email encourages increased communcation; you may find you have to deal with more messages than before and that not all of them are strictly relevant to you (see Information overload).
Training, therefore will be an important factor in the success of the implementation. Staff need to maek it an integral part of their work practices, for example email should be picked up at least once a day and arrangements made for someone else to check it during holidays.
If you are going to be recieving and replying to email from outside to organisation, you'll need to check that information is acurate and up-to-date and try to monitor what type of enquiries come in, for faster response.
Publishing information on the web requires content management (ask your clients what information they require) and a level of maintenance usually above that of printed materials. Be wary of expensive third parties pffering authoring services.

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How do I decide what type of connection to get?


There are a number of factors to take into account when you decide to go online.
Waht sort of software yuo want to use (although much is free off the net for charities)and the type and speed of connection. Along with the benefits, you'll potentially leave yourself open to large phone bills and even someone being able to hack into your computers.

The easiest and cheapest method is to connect one computer with a modem (see Internet Basics). It's a good idea to get a separate telephone line for this and perhaps even a dedicated computer.

If you want to connect more than one person or computer in an office, the cost increases dramatically as you need a modem and phone line for each person, with the resulting phone bills, as well as having to maintain individual software. A better solucion is to connect all your computers together via an internal network (LAN), giving everyone full access. The network is then connected via a modem ISDN or a permanent leased line, with your file server or a dedicated computer acting as a router for requests. This will open and close the connection as required and organisae the information so it gets sent to the right person. If you get a 28,800bps modem, this should be enough for up to about 10 users for light use. At about 100/month to run it's pretty good value.

For a higher usage, and a faster connection on demand, you may decide to invest in an ISDN link. This can also be used to accept incoming requests from elsewhere, but would probably require a dedicated router for security reasons.

A leased line is a parmanent connection and therefore more expensive, but casn be cost effecitve if you are going to be online for more than 4 hours a day. This will also give you the ablility to publish your own web pages, especilly if they are going to be accessed a lot, and to have files avaliable externally, but again there are security implications to this and it requires much more thought before set up.

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Can I fundraise on the Internet?

As the number of commerical organisation and individuals online increases, so do do the fundraising opportunities for non-profit organisations in this new medium.

The younger, wealthier demographic group which uses the Internet is an attractive target audience for fundraisers. As people visit your weeb site (which may have corporate sponsors), it's a good idea to get them to fill out a simple guestbook or form and to start building an e-mailinglist of contacts. It's no more dangerous to donate than by phone (see Concerns and Issues) and you can then begin to create a relationship with the online donor.

The low cost of the Internet (for example, sending thousands of emails only takes a few minutes phone time) and the growing potential audience means that this is a fundraising opportunity that can't be missed.
The technology is new and getting online now will help you be among the first to take advantage, but ongoing evaluation may be necessary to ensure best results.

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How do I manage public access?

Once you have got on-line, you may wish to offer more services to your clients, including access to information available on the Internet or basic training in its use. You'll need to develop a set of resources and guidance notes, and to train staff to be able to help.
It may be useful to set up bookmarks or develop your own home page which contians easy to follow and user-friendly guidance. It's importnat to use the Internet technology to support personal contact and care and not make it impersonal.

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