For important information
about Federal laws governing non-profit organization involvement in public policy advocacy, visit the Independent Sector's web site at www.IndependentSector.org/clpi/
What’s in it for you?
Once you have an idea of what you or your organization hope to achieve by going online, there are numerous ways to put your Internet presence to use. Here are some of the most basic ways advocates can use email and the Internet to achieve their goals:
Spreading the word – With a website, information about you and your organization is available to the public 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Supporters can keep up with the latest happenings (if you update the site regularly) and people who are just curious can get information without you ever having to lick a stamp or pick up the phone. A good website should include all the basic information about your organization, its mission, goals and activities, along with how a visitor to your site can get involved or contact you offline. Online newsletters are another great way for small advocacy groups to save on printing and postage costs. Information about web development is available through many online sites (see Resources for Internet advocacy) or your local Internet Service Provider.
Mobilizing the forces – Many advocates have taken to putting out email newsletters and e-bulletins as a way to mobilize their supporters to take action in a more timely and effective way. This can be a great way to remind busy people of upcoming events or to get supporters to write letters before a key vote is taken or decision made. But be sure to use email bulletins wisely. Only send to users who have requested your information. You do not want your organization to become known for sending junk or unwanted email messages. It is acceptable, however, to invite your supporters to pass your e-bulletin on to friends and family who might also be interested in your issue.
Signing up new recruits – The Internet can be a great way to allow prospective supporters to check you out on their own time and with no obligation. Whenever you are at an event or speaking to a group, give out your website address as a source of additional information. Integrate the website into everything you do, whether through print media, radio or television. Once a potential supporter or volunteer sees what you are all about through your website, they may want to sign up via email for specific projects that fit their interests or request additional information or a personal contact with someone from your group.
Managing event registrations – Using the web as a means for people to sign up for events is a great way to manage your time and your events more effectively. People can browse your organization’s website to find out about your events, then send an email to ask a question or register online for those events that interest them. Website registration gives people a convenient alternative for signing up and getting involved. It can also reduce hassles for you as an organizer. You will have access to a quick and easy headcount, along with any other information you need to collect about who will be attending your event.
Raising money – Fundraising online is a subject about which many books have been written recently. The Internet presents many new opportunities but also many challenges for non-profit and advocacy groups. Do your homework (See Resources for Internet advocacy) and get expert help if you need it. Remember that a website can do nothing for you or your organization on its own. Only by driving people to your site in everything else that you do, then giving them a secure and convenient way to make donations, will your online fundraising efforts be successful.
Networking with like-minded groups and individuals – More than anything else, the Internet presents a wonderful opportunity for like-minded groups and individuals to learn about each other, share information and get the help they need by networking. Again, relationships are everything in the online advocacy world too. By linking your organization’s site to other similar organizations and encouraging them to link to your site, you will increase traffic to your site and build relationships that can help promote your cause.
Taking action – Many advocacy organizations are tapping into their supporters’ desire to take action immediately by encouraging them to send an email letter to a legislator directly from the group’s website. There are a number of larger advocacy groups that will allow you to hook into their site for this purpose at little or no cost. (See Resources for Internet advocacy).
A place to chat – More and more organizations are discovering that online forums and discussions can be just as effective as town hall meetings and a lot less cumbersome or costly to organize. A number of online groups specialize in developing these sessions for non-profits and advocacy groups. (See Resources for Internet advocacy).
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