Using the Internet to help Jewish organizations

Introduction

This document started as a summary of discussions on the ORGANIZE list which operated on the Jerusalem1 system between November 1993 and March 1995. Now it is oriented toward those organizations which want to start using the Internet to further their goals. Also organizations which already use the Internet can benefit from browsing this document and getting ideas for more optimal use of their Internet connection.

A bit from the history of ORGANIZE list

The ORGANIZE list was, as far as I know, the first Internet discussion list devoted to nonprofit organizations. After it was started, the discussion list usnonprofit-l@rain.org was started and gatewayed with the Usenet group soc.org.nonprofit.

ORGANIZE was a special list for Jewish organization workers. The discussion included ideas, tips and suggestions about using the networks for furthering the goals of Jewish organizations.

This list had the following list of suggested discussion topics:

  1. How organizations can decide which functions they need for their work and which they *don't* need.
  2. Ideas about using the networks for working together with remote branches of the organization.
  3. How different organizations can cooperate through the networks.
  4. Definition and initiation of specialized lists which can help organizations in accomplishing their goals.
  5. Ways of sharing information over the network between Jewish organizations.
  6. Using the network to avoid duplication of efforts among organizations.

Due to various reasons, I ceased to moderate the list on March 1995. As far as I know, it is now inactive.


Administrative notes related to ORGANIZE

The list is currently inactive, so no administrative information is currently available or relevant.

When the list was active, new subscribers were informed about the availability of summaries of past discussions. They were also urged to post information which answers the following questions in an introductory message:

  • What you do in Jewish organizations?
  • In what networking projects are you involved?
  • Any success stories, difficulties and challenges?
  • Any problems about which you would like to get advice from the other ORGANIZE subscribers?

Relevant Internet resources

Putnam Barber produced an excellent page of pointers to Internet resources related to nonprofits, and eventually it turned into a FAQ, which can now be found at http://www.idealist.org/if/idealist/en/FAQ/Nonprofit/Home/default. Large part of the information which passed via the ORGANIZE list is available there in one form or other. You are urged to browse it if you are new to the Internet and/or the world of nonprofit organizations in the Internet.

The mailing list usnonprofit-l@rain.org, which is gatewayed to the Usenet group soc.org.nonprofit, is devoted to discussions related to nonprofit management in general and utilizing the Internet to further the goals of nonprofits in particular. Putnam Barber's page has pointers to the FAQ of this group.

Jerusalem1 used to provides lots of stuff, which could help Jewish organizations. The information used to be available in the gopher at gopher.jer1.co.il and the WWW site at http://www.jer1.co.il/. However, now the links seem to be dead.

Contact information for nonprofit organizations all over the world used to be available from The Contact Center Network Home Page http://www.contact.org/, but now it is blocked.

Perspective on the history of Jewish involvement in the Internet was available in the WWW site of Zvi Lando, the founder of Jerusalem1, at http://www.village.co.il/, but now (as of October 2007) the Web site does not seem to work.


Policy about political discussions on ORGANIZE

Nonprofit organizations (especially Jewish ones :-) ) are often involved in political action. Some of them are mired in issues, which are very controversial in the population, which those organizations serve.

Examples:

  • Supporters ("pro-choice") of abortions vs. opponents ("pro-life").
  • Some religious organizations vs. organizations which try to fight AIDS.
  • Doves (in Israel - "Left") vs. hawks (in Israel - "Right") concerning strategies for dealing with a country's enemies.

The problem is that discussion lists, in which both sides to a controversy participate, are liable to become forums for arguments, which are irrelevant to the original purpose of the list.

Therefore, the savvy moderator should formulate a clear policy about those political discussions and be prepared to ruthlessly enforce it, even against participants who share the moderator's opinions about a particular issue. A key to this policy is the availability, in the Internet, of discussion lists and Usenet groups, in which those discussions are perfectly on-topic and acceptable.

The policy statement used for ORGANIZE is reproduced below

The purpose of ORGANIZE list is to host discussions about using networks to advance the goals of organization. Sometimes it is necessary to provide background information by describing an organization and mention its political goals.

However, direct use of ORGANIZE for advancing political goals is STRICTLY FORBIDDEN. This includes, but not limited, to:

  • Advertising of political rallies and demonstrations.
  • Arguments of political nature.

If you want to flame someone's posting based upon differences in political views, you are urged to do so in private E-mail or in a list appropriate for the subject.

Meta-discussions which list is appropriate for what kind of posting are OK, as the usage of appropriate lists is a legitimate way for furthering an organization's goals. However, if you find you are going to go into a long discussion about this subject, please hold the discussion in private and post to ORGANIZE only the conclusions of both sides of the discussion.

Discussions about specific goals of organizations (for example, which organization is to do what) may, or may not, be appropriate for ORGANIZE. It depends upon the goals being discussed. Goals directly related to networks usage are OK. If you are in doubt, post or ask the moderator.


Checklist for organizations which use (or want to use) the Internet

  1. Does your Jewish organization use a LAN (local area network) for its operations?
  2. If yes, what special applications (if any) does your organization is running on it (i.e. except for accounting or membership list maintenance)?
  3. Do you know about any additional information resources in the Internet which may help in the operations of your organizations?
  4. What (if any) information databases and resources are compiled and maintained by your organization, and which your organization is willing to make available on the Internet or at least share with other similar organizations?
  5. How sophisticated is your organization in using computers in general, and in using the Internet in particular?
  6. Are there groups (and if yes - which) of people who are geographically (or temporally, by working in different shifts) dispersed and who could take advantage of closed mailing lists?

Checklist of problems which your organization has to overcome in order to use the Internet:

  1. Not every contact person is proficient in English, so we need some sort of translation service to get the message across.
  2. No budget for E-mail access.
  3. People are, in general, unfamiliar with E-mail.
  4. Cost of having an E-mail account.
  5. Cost of maintaining a WWW site.
  6. Availability of gurus for holding the mortal users' hands.

Let's say that a certain nonprofit organization has made a decision to get all of its staff and activists on the net, and that we're talking about a couple hundred people. This organization is now in a strong bargaining position with the various network service providers. What might they want in exchange for their collective business?

  • A group discount?
  • A special area set up on the service for private discussions among people associated with the organization?
  • A customized interface (e.g., menu entries) for those users?
  • Storage of various files?
  • Support for a listserv-like distribution list for information from the organization?
  • Support for distinctive forms of interaction in that group (e.g., instantly displaying notification of certain kinds of alerts)?

How to tell a success story about using the Internet?

Ensure that your story answers the following questions:

  1. What were the goals of your project and were they accomplished?
  2. What tangible benefits resulted?
  3. Were geographically distant people able to collaborate more effectively?
  4. Were people better able to share their knowledge?
  5. Was an effort cordinated more efficiently than before?

What can an organization expect to gain from Internet access?

Basically, an organization needs to justify the costs of obtaining and keeping its Internet connection by benefits in the following areas:

  1. Fundraising
  2. Outreach

However, in addition to benefits in the above areas, Internet connection can help an organization further its goals by utilizing the E-mail, research, networking and information dissemination capabilities of the Internet as detailed below.

  1. E-mail:
    • Use of E-mail for quick and cheap document transfer between sites. This benefit is very easy to justify because people are aware of the costs of FedEx etc.. It also motivates people to quickly get interested in the Internet, understand it and get over the initial training barriers.
      E-mail has the following administrative advantages:
      1. No receptionist to get the message confused.
      2. No paper to get lost.
      3. Immediate action/response to the mail is possible if the receipient checks his E-mail often.
      In summary, E-mail saves time and, therefore, money.
    • Easier communication between various chapters of an international organization (or any organization which is geographically widespread).
    • On-line board meetings (if the officers use E-mail, listservers can be used to hold discussions in private lists).
    • Closed mailing lists can be used to let people working in different locations, different shifts/timezones and different (but related) organizations collaborate.
    • Outreach to potential new members.
    • Outreach to other organizations, non-members, volunteers, etc. for political action.
    • Outreach to foundations and other donors for fundraising purposes.
    • Media contact: looking for best (cheapest) way to distribute info electronically to news media.
    • Surveys on the Internet, carried out by help of E-mail.
  2. Research:
    • Information / idea exchange
      This is really the underlying purpose for the InterNet, so is generally straightforward- but can take unlimited time if you're not judicious...
    • Opportunity to talk to ones peers, ask questions and converse in newsgroups/lists such as usnonprofit-l@rain.org/soc.org.nonprofit.
    • Even if all you have is E-mail access, you can eliminate HOURS AND HOURS of library or newspaper morgue time with net access. People have done research on how to get funding for a position, what people should remember when developing a database, and why nonprofits should get on line. They saved lots of time and money in those researches.
    • Ability to locate relevant information on the WWW.
    • Obtain specialized information and contacts for some members of the organization (such as disability information for parents of disabled children).
  3. Networking
    • The people which you can "meet" in cyberspace and the things you can learn from them. You can use those people all the time instead of going to the library.
    • Locate and contact other organizations as necessary to accomplish your organization's goals.
    • Help members locate other people with similar interests and hobbies.
  4. Information dissemination
    • Organized information sharing via WWW.
    • Inform people about special projects, look for volunteers and donations for those projects, and coordinate the special projects.
    • Distance education classes in various subjects, if the organization organizes online courses (or its members/workers need to enroll in courses).
    • Direct contact between members and the president (and other officials) of the organization - e.g. by means of an "ask-the-president" mailing list (to be managed like "ask-the-rabbi" type mailing lists).
    • Information which might help the members individually (for example, Jews would be drawn toward the religious discussions on such lists as torah-talk, mail.jewish, etc.).
    • Rapid information exchange at times of emergency:
      1. Information about natural disasters (such as earthquakes).
      2. Emergency deployment of resources.
      3. Information about funds which were set up to help victims.
    • Ethnic groups (like the Hispanic) try to use the Internet to communicate information about:
      • culture
      • jobs
      • educational opportunities
      • news

There are also reasons against obtaining and maintaining Internet access for an organization:

  1. Money.
  2. People - training, employment of specialists, time wasted on personal business on the Internet.
  3. Apprehension about computer related activities in nonprofits.
  4. The Internet does not replace altogether faxes, phone calls, press releases or face-to-face meetings.
  5. E-mail does not replace mailings because most people don't like to read large bodies of text on their computer.
  6. Some people believe that the ability to post information (using gopher or WWW) is the least benefit, unless one organizes a national or international conference of Internet users. Those people would encourage nonprofits to use only local bulletin boards to promote their events.
  7. Security issues - it is easier to intentionally or accidentally leak information to the outside world via the Internet rather than by traditional means, unless provisions are made to prevent this.

Contacting an organization via the Internet

An organization can make it easier to contact it or exchange information with it - if the following steps are taken:

  1. Register your own domain name. This way your domain name will not have to be changed if you change your Internet provider.
  2. Define special accounts in your Internet domain (in addition to the classical 'postmaster'):
    • info - for queries for information about the organization and its services.
    • registration - to register as member or customer or for any event.
    • yellow-pages - to locate contact information for any person or service which is associated with the organization.
    • services - for requests for service - to get a service performed.
    • Install the appropriate E-mail forward definitions in those special accounts so that the E-mail system will be directed to forward anything sent, for example, to the 'info' account - to the person who actually handles information requests.
  3. Implement meaningful responses to the finger command so that users on the Internet can use this command to obtain useful basic information about the organization.
  4. Develop and make available your own WWW home page. This home page should tell the visitors what services does your organization provide, whom to contact, what does the organization do (in addition to provision of services to the outside world), and any other information which the organization would like to make public.

Connecting an organization to the Internet

Strategy of connecting an organization to the Internet

(Contributed by lando@jer1.co.il.)

If each department of an organization hooks up to the Internet independently, you all know what will happen. Each dept. will want to do *everything* and not give anyone else a place. In short - the mess will be great and terrible, and the entire organization will look bad.

Therefore, the following steps are to be taken:

  1. A committe will be set up of all the department representatives (see below). This committee will decide what projects will be done and *which* dept. will do them.
  2. No more than *one* person in each participating dept. will get an account. This person will be responsible for the departments email work. The rep will have people in the dept. working with him. They will help with getting answers, and gathering info for the organization's WWW site.
  3. *One* worker will be sent *all* materials that the organization wants to put up on the WWW site. This person will be responsible for the WWW site. This worker will, of course, talk with each dept. rep on how it should be set up on the WWW site - but s/he will actually do it, and will be responsible.

The trick here is to make them go slowly, to do a little, and then move on. The big part is to come up with a special project for each department, and to explain why this project is good for them and important enough, so that they don't feel screwed.

How should an Internet consultant help an organization to get connected to the Internet?

(Based upon Jerusalem1 information, which was provided by lando@jer1.co.il.)

The consultant should answer the following questions:

  1. Once I am online - what do I do?
  2. OK - the accuont costs only X number of dollars - what are the hidden costs?
  3. How can I get my workers to get used to this new technology?
  4. How will people know I am on the net distributing information?
  5. When should I use WWW, Gopher and/or listserv?
  6. Should we buy macs or PCs?
  7. What software?
  8. IS ALL THIS EXPENSE/WORK WORTH IT???????!!!!

The Jerusalem1 "Complete Package" Concept

Jerusalem1 has developed what we call the philosophy of "the Complete Package". The organizations that sign up with us pay about the same they would from a commercial provider. They get these additional services that the other providers don't even dream of giving:

  1. A working plan, done through meetings with the organization. This plan includes research of the org's information, it's infrastructure, what hardware/software they should have in order to implement the plan and the needed organizational structure to make work more efficient.
  2. Training from A to Z.
  3. Complete Internet applications; listserv, Gopher, WWW.
  4. Supervision - Jerusalem1 staff follow the project from day to day. They will bring suggestions on further services, and improvements on current ones.
  5. Promotion - Jerusalem1 has developed many varied ways of getting the word out not only to its 175,000 users world-wide, but to all those who may be interested in the organization's information. THIS IS CRITICAL!
  6. Close technical support - including helping the organization in its information gathering needs.
  7. Professional application services - Jerusalem1 does not do things half way. Information is not provided until it is ready. No wonder that David Riggins, the "Guru of Gopher" said on his multi-thousands of users based gopher list that the Jerusalem1 Gopher was one of his favorite gophers on the net and the Gopher manager of NASA wrote that Jerusalem1 had the best gopher on Internet.