It is hard now to remember what it was like before the days of e-mail and Google, when colleagues had to leave their desks to ask each other questions and initial research involved card catalogues. Indeed, ten years ago, the Web was uncharted territory for the vast majority of Americans. Only 300,000 individuals subscribed to America Online. The Internet bubble had not yet inflated, nor had it burst.
Long before The Wired Nonprofit came on the scene, observers noted that nonprofits had their own pace and pattern when it came to harnessing the power of the Internet. Washington-based Internet consulting firm Interactive Applications Group (iapps) which works closely with nonprofit organizations and foundations, is marking its ten year anniversary with the publication of a book entitled Foundations for Success: Emerging Trends in Grantmakers' Use of the Internet.
As iapps sees it, there are four specific trends that have emerged in the past ten years, and it is these trends that the book highlights in detail. The first of these trends is transparency. As the book notes, "More foundations than ever are using the Internet to share information with their stakeholders and the broader public." Information that used to be found by rifling through the glossy pages of a foundation's annual report can now oftentimes be accessed by clicking through its Website. Some foundations publish e-zines that include profiles of recent grant recipients; others issue reports on the effectiveness of their grantmaking. Throughout the chapter, the book highlights several foundations that are doing a particularly good job of using the Internet to increase their transparency, including the James Irvine Foundation, the William T. Grant Foundation, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
The second trend the book touches on is network building. Foundations such as the Tides Foundation are using the Internet to create an online workspace in which funders, grantees, and other foundation stakeholders can collaborate and share information in order to maximize their effectiveness. Three distinct types of online communities are discussed: grantee-to-grantee networks; funder-to-grantee networks; and funder-to-funder networks. Online networks can promote the ongoing exchange of information and lead to mutual learning on the part of granter and grantee alike.
The third trend is knowledge management. The book states that "knowledge management is not simply about finding better ways to process data. It's about managing intellectual capital..." Foundations who have implemented web-based systems to capture, synthesize, manage, and disseminate knowledge gathered from funders and grantees include the Annie E. Casey Foundation, whose senior associates use web-based templates to capture what was learned at grantee site visits. And the Grants Manager Network (GMN) a group of approximately 600 grant administrators from over 400 foundations, has created a knowledge-sharing tool known as GIGI, or Group Intelligence on Grantmaking Information.
Finally, Foundations for Success: Emerging Trends in Grantmakers' Use of the Internet documents a fourth trend: e-grantmaking. An increasing number of foundations are streamlining the grantmaking process by enabling nonprofit organizations to apply for grants online. This tends to reduce administrative costs and paper processing delays, and, in situations where the e-grantmaking software includes eligibility screening, greatly diminishes the number of unqualified applicants.
According to the 2003 Grantmakers Information Technology Survey Report conducted by the Technology Affinity Group and the Council on Foundations: "When asked what services grantmakers would like to receive from the Council or TAG, the number one response was 'examples of how foundations use technology/technology best practices document,' indicating foundations want to learn from other foundations' successes."
Foundations for Success: Emerging Trends in Grantmakers' Use of the Internet is a response to the desire of many grantmakers for information on what their peers are doing on the Web. By highlighting successful ways in which specific foundations of varying size and diverse missions are using the Internet, the book may serve as a useful resource tool. It may be downloaded for free at www.iapps.com/success.
Interactive Applications Group is inviting foundations to share their own online innovations. Use the form available at www.iapps.com.feedback to share the ways in which the Internet has helped your foundation further its mission.
*Kate Golden (mailto:email@example.com) is Editor of The Wired Nonprofit and a Director in the Fundraising Division of Changing Our World, Inc. a national fundraising and philanthropy services consulting firm, combining sound fundamentals with innovation to help nonprofits exceed their goals.