Nonprofits, Charities, and 'Causes' Go On-Line

Article excerpt

It's hard to call it junk mail. The cause is worthy, the need is genuine. Still, I get so many of these pleas for help. Sometimes I wonder: "Isn't there a better way to give?"

There is: the Internet. And nonprofits are beginning to discover it. Charity may never be the same again.

The problem with today's mailed appeals is that they're not efficient. Printing and mailing material costs money, and the results are hit-and-miss. That helps explain why the average charity spends 25 cents of every dollar it gets on its own operations.

On-line, the tables are turned. Instead of charities going to donors, donors go to the charity. Jim Clark, president of an information-technology firm for nonprofit groups, has a vision for this:"I'd like to think that this Christmas season, families will sit around the computer ... and decide which organizations to give to."

The trick is to connect to the World Wide Web (the graphical way to look at the Internet) and search for your special cause. You can search the Web yourself using Infoseek. (Point your Web software, called a browser, to http://www2.infoseek.com and type in key words). Or use Mr. Clark's company, access.point, which lists various organizations lending a hand in hundreds of ways. The service is available on America Online - go to access.point - and is scheduled to show up on the Internet's World Wide Web in a couple of weeks.

Not sure which hot spot should get your help? Click on "current crises" in access.point. The service will point to hurricane relief and Bosnian refugees , listing references to hundreds of groups.

Non-profit groups aren't always looking for money; they also need volunteers. The Internet makes it easy to rally supporters of a particular cause.

When France said in June it would go ahead with nuclear testing, Internet activists began a boycott of French wines. …