Home Non-Profits: Plenty of Web Resources, But How Much Success?

Non-Profits: Plenty of Web Resources, But How Much Success?

Earlier this week we took a look at the non-profit spaces on Facebook and MySpace, as part of our non-profits week. The conclusion was that both were good resources, but in terms of raising money — they weren’t quite succeeding. Which leads us to ask: is this common on the Web? Are non-profits utilizing the Web well?

You only need to read Beth Kanter’s guest post today on Read/WriteWeb to discover that there is a lot of great work happening in the non-profit and charity sector, using Web tools. Beth provides an inside look at non-profit Web activity from an experienced practitioner. For example, Beth recently went to Cambodia to take part in a blogging summit there. Beth herself admitted that there is still a lot of work to be done making the transition from web 1.0 to web 2.0. But her discussion about blogging in Cambodia shows that there is great progress being made.

Resources and Success Stories

To prove there is no shortage of resources, this week Josh Catone published an excellent Non-Profits Tool Kit, a list of web-based tools to make running and organizing a non-profit or charity organization easier.

Some of the success stories on the Web include Firstgiving, which has raised $50 Million and counting for charity, and Kiva.org, which has just crossed $11 Million in microloans to developing nations.

In the comments to our opening post this week, Allan Benamer pointed out that “the three biggest success stories so far [in Web-based non-profits] are modestneeds.org, globalgiving.com and Kiva”. He noted that “the biggest nonprofit social network is Project Agape’s Causes with 4,000,000 users and counting.” Also check out Allan’s post Philanthropy and Nonprofit Top 25 List – September 2007, which lists cancer.org, aspca.org and aclu.org as the top 3 nonprofits online.

We may still be in the early stages of non-profits utilizing Web 2.0, but there are a lot of fantastic non-profit and/or charity websites with web 2.0 functionality – e.g. changing the present and Care2. Also there are lots of resources – e.g. check out NTEN, the Nonprofit Technology Network, which supports nonprofits who are using tech and the Web to change the world. Others mentioned in our comments were Free For Today, idealist.org and NetSquared (which we’ve profiled before on R/WW). There are many more mentioned in the comments to our opening post.

No Home Runs Yet?

Ben Rattray from the excellent Change.org emailed me this week with his thoughts on non-profits and the Web. He suggested that there haven’t been any “home runs” yet. Ben wrote:

“I find the most helpful way to think of the space is to divide it in the following two groups:

1. organizations set up to be purely online platforms to help other organizations or causes raise money or recruit volunteers online, and

2. existing bricks-and-mortar organizations that are using the web as one (of many) ways to advance their mission.

As you might suspect, most of the interesting activity using the social web has been by the first type of organization. The best two success stories are Kiva.org and DonorsChoose.org, both of which I’m sure you’ve heard much about. (Although it’s worthy of note that neither of these are actually that new – Kiva.org was founded in 2005 and DonorsChoose.org way back in 2000.)

There have been a few other marginal successes outside of these two (despite a lot of attempts), but the honest truth is that there haven‚Äôt been any real home-runs yet.”

Given the list of sites above and Beth’s guest post, do you agree with Ben that there haven’t been any huge success stories yet? I’m sure we all agree that there’s a lot of great work happening in this space, but how effective it is — seems to be open to debate.

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The ReadWrite Editorial policy involves closely monitoring the tech industry for major developments, new product launches, AI breakthroughs, video game releases and other newsworthy events. Editors assign relevant stories to staff writers or freelance contributors with expertise in each particular topic area. Before publication, articles go through a rigorous round of editing for accuracy, clarity, and to ensure adherence to ReadWrite's style guidelines.

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