Itís all about access Not a magic pill
Ask yourself why Whatís in it for you? Where
can I go for help? Resources for Internet advocacy
By some estimates, nearly 100 million people have access to the Internet and are using it a combined 65 million hours each day. By 2003, the number of users is expected to grow to 350 million. By 2005, the number may reach 1 billion! Source: ephilanthropyfoundation.org
Itís all about access
With millions of people surfing the World Wide Web each day and the numbers of online users growing steadily each year, the Internet has become a powerful tool for sharing information and getting things done. More and more people are turning to the Internet as a key source for news, shopping, entertainment, travel and communication.
Businesses and non-profit organizations alike are discovering the advantages of doing business online. Particularly after the Sept. 11 tragedy, online giving to charitable organizations has exceeded most expectations. And, in the wake of the attacks, many Americans turned more frequently to the Web for the latest news and information than any other medium.
No primer on advocacy would be complete without a discussion of the Internet and its uses. The Internet can be a valuable tool for advocates to spread the word, mobilize support, network with other advocates and even raise money. Unfortunately, there is often as much misinformation and misunderstanding about the Internet as anything else. This section will offer some basic information on Internet advocacy, along with some valuable resources for you to find more detailed information.
Not a magic pill
One of the most important things any organization should remember about the Internet is that it is simply another tool for getting things done and sharing information - a marvelously powerful tool but a tool nonetheless. It is not a panacea for what ails an organization, such as lack of focus or vision. And it is not a replacement for the basic ingredients of good advocacy Ė good relationships, good information and positive action.
Too often, organizations go online expecting users to beat a path to their website, with thousands of new volunteers, donors and converts coming over to their cause. When that doesnít happen, they are understandably upset and disillusioned. But any online venture is only as effective and successful as the planning and thought that goes into it Ė long before the first visitor signs the online guest book.
Ask yourself why
Before you register your domain name and pay big money to develop a website with all the bells and whistles, consider first your goals for going online. The questions you and your organization should ask are similar to those you would ask before any major new venture. What specifically are you hoping to achieve? Who needs to be involved? What audience are you hoping to reach? How much will it cost? How will we measure our success? Who is responsible for ongoing maintenance and upkeep?
Other questions are more specific to the Internet, its capabilities and limitations. For example, do you simply want to provide information for people to learn more about your organization or issue? Or do you want a more interactive presence, where people can sign up to volunteer or make a donation? How quickly will information related to your issue become outdated or obsolete? How frequently would you be able to update your site? How would you inform people about your presence on the Web and get them to visit your site? Would email be a simpler way to keep your supporters informed? The answers to these questions will help you plan an effective online strategy.
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