NetAction Notes

Published by NetAction Issue No. 55 March 21, 2000
Repost where appropriate. See copyright information at end of message.

IN THIS ISSUE:

A Circle of People Learning Together
Michael Stein: Web 1.0
About NetAction Notes

A Circle of People Learning Together

Last year, in an article entitled "Email Empowerment in Indonesia," we reported on how an email list was used to bring hundreds of women together to challenge state-sanctioned violations of women's human rights in post-Soeharto Indonesia. See: http://www.netaction.org/notes/notes48.html. Moderator Nani Buntarian told us the list was used to coordinate the efforts of numerous women's organizations that mobilized in response to the momentum for change that had swept the nation.

Nani recently wrote again with an update on how women in her country are using the Internet to organize for women's rights.

"Maybe without you realizing it, you have opened many doors for me. With the help of another woman activist, I have set up a tiny mail list of Indonesian women activists," Nani wrote.

The women call themselves VisiNet (aktivis perempuan di Internet - women activists on the Internet) and the mail list address is . The 250 women who are subscribed to the list are truly putting the Internet to use for grassroots activism.

Nani has also translated the Virtual Activist web site into the Indonesian language. The site is at: http://www.lingkarbelajar.homepage.com. She told us that "lingkar belajar" means "a circle of people learning together" in the Indonesian language. (NOTE: this URL is no longer valid as of 05/23/2001.)


Editor's Note:
The following article was written by Michael Stein. Got a question about nonprofits online? Ask Michael: Send your questions to Michael Stein at . Questions of general interest will be answered in a future issue of NetAction Notes.

Web 1.0

QUESTION: My organization is preparing to develop its first Web site. How do we go about finding someone to develop and host our site? What basic questions should we ask during the selection process? What can we expect as a range in terms of the cost? Can you recommend any companies we should call that are "nonprofit friendly?"

ANSWER First of all, put together your "Web site development committee" and write a Strategic Plan to identify what you want out of this process. What do you want your Web site to accomplish for your organization? How will it relate to the real world activities you are undertaking? How will it relate to your print materials? What content do you want on the Web site? Will you want e-commerce or online fundraising tools? What staffing resources are available to you to build and maintain the Web site?

Then, write a two page document that describes all these needs and title it REQUEST FOR PROPOSAL (RFP). Your RFP is the document you will use to solicit bids from companies to develop and host your Web site. I recommend you do not say in the RFP how much money you have to spend on the project. Leave that for later.

The next task is to identify companies that can bid on your RFP. Ask other nonprofits that have developed Web sites to give you positive referrals. You can also surf the Web and find nonprofits whose Web sites you like and try to track down the developer. It's often listed on the site, or you can call the organization and ask. People are usually happy to tell you one way or another if they liked the firm they worked with.

During the selection process you're trying to determine a few things: did they respond well to your RFP; did they lay out a clear plan for building your site; did they use language that you could clearly understand; is the timeline sensible; do they allow plenty of back and forth interaction between your committee and their designers; do they understand your organizational culture; do they express an interest in your mission; can they work within your budget; will they support you after the Web site is built; what is their time availability on this project; how will they assemble a team to build your site? Also determine if there's a good "fit" with the firm. Firms tend to specialize in working with specific sizes of organizations. You're often better off with a firm that's worked with organizations similar to yours. Finally, ask for references and call to check up on them.

Regarding cost, don't put this in the RFP, but you can discuss your range when you make contact with a prospective bidder. Once you get a bid, don't hesitate to negotiate on cost. You're likely to get a lot of different size bids, and while you're not buying a used car, it's fair to ask "why is your bid twice as much as their bid." The answer will help you evaluate the pros and cons of the firms. Some firms are more "high end" and always bid high. Others are "mid range" and have some flexibility because they're building their portfolio. Some firms are one or two person shops and will work extremely hard on the price to get a contract.

In terms of what you can expect to pay, that's very hard to say out of context. In the last two years, I haven't seen a bid under $3,000 for a Web site, and that's a small site for a small organization. Many of the firms I've worked with won't even consider a site under $5,000. A mid-range site is probably between $10,000 and $20,000. A high-end site is probably over $50,000. Tools such as e-commerce, shopping carts or online databases will almost certainly put your site into the mid-range budget. Again, these are very rough estimations.

Discuss the issue of Web site hosting with your bidders. Nowadays, most Web site design firms are also hosting firms, or they have partnerships with Internet Service Providers to do the hosting. You'll want to pay particular attention to setup or monthly fees related to hosting. Also make sure that the hosting deal comes with monthly access and referrer logs so you can track site activity. If you need e-commerce, shopping cart or online fundraising tools, be sure that's addressed. If you're doing an online database, you'll want to scrutinize that aspect.

Let me recommend a collection of resources at Helping.org that the Benton Foundation has assembled on planning and creating Web sites that I think are quite helpful:


QUESTION: How do I find out who's linking to my Web site and what can this tell me about my Internet presence?

ANSWER The easiest way to find this out is to use a free service called LinkPopularity. Enter the URL of your Web site, and see how AltaVista, InfoSeek and HotBot have you in their databases. This is a useful tool to identify Web portals and other Web sites that have listed you. Maybe you've added new resources to your site recently that you'd like to bring to their attention. Or perhaps you've started an online fundraising campaign and you're looking for partners to help you publicize your efforts. This service can also help you identify links that are going to old URLs (if you've moved a site).

Another way you can use this type of service is to visit Alta Vista and enter URLs of pages that have been removed from your site. The syntax for a search would be: +link:www.childrennow.org/myoldpage.html and it will only show you sites still linked to that specific page. Very useful!

Variations on this theme include setting up "link spies." A free service at http://www.spyonit.com will send you email whenever someone links to your site. You can then go check to see if the link was entered correctly and has a good description. This is a good service to use when you're first publicizing a site and sending out lots of link requests.

Finally, a pay service called LinkWalker will check all the links on your site plus links from other sites, and tell you about any broken links in a weekly email report. This is useful if you maintain a large directory of links on your site, and are tired of manually checking them, or simply have a really large site. It assures that people linking to your site won't encounter any 404 File Not Found errors. It's like having a great staff person, volunteer or intern who is constantly checking for errors. It costs between $70 and $100 per year to subscribe.


QUESTION: My small nonprofit has a Web site hosted for free by a graphic design firm that also did our brochure. It's a really nice site, but the Web site address is not ours, it's the address of the graphic design firm. We'd like to have a better domain name but we don't want to lose our free hosting. What can we do?

ANSWER You can partly solve your problem by registering your own domain name and then using a Web site redirection service to point to your free Web site hosted by the graphic design firm. A service that I'm quite fond of is http://www.myinternet.com which will help you with the domain name registration and then do the Web site redirection for free. You'll have to pay a yearly registration fee to purchase the domain name, and with a service link MyInternet.com they'll let you "redirect" it to point at the graphic design firm. Keep in mind, though, that the URL will change back to the design firm's URL, which can cause some confusion, particularly when bookmarking. But at least you can publicize your own URL, which will help a bit. You can even redirect email to your new domain and have it forwarded to an account at whatever ISP you use. MyInternet.com isn't the only service that does this. Check out this list at Yahoo: http://dir.yahoo.com/Computers_and_Internet/Internet/Domain_Registration/Free_Name_Registration/. Also, there are several new domain name registration services under development that will register your domain name for between 1 and 10 years, at a cost substantially lower than $35/year (more like $20/year), so the $70 domain name registration fee is no longer mandatory. We'll write more about this in a future issue of NetAction Notes.


QUESTION: I'm the new Webmistress at my organization and I'm still learning the ropes. What's a good listserv to join to meet other people like me?

ANSWER A good mailing list that I recommend is called the Orgwebmasters Discussion Group. It's a great forum for nonprofit webmasters to connect and share with one another. You can ask questions, or just lurk and learn. Also, check the Web site for the complete archive of past topics.


Michael Stein is a nationally renowned Internet strategist with a decade of experience working with advocacy groups, nonprofits and labor unions. He is the author of two books about the Internet including "Fundraising on the Internet: Recruiting and Renewing Donors Online." He is currently the Manager of Internet Presence at CompassPoint Nonprofit Services in San Francisco (formerly the Support Center for Nonprofit Management), and an Internet consultant serving nonprofits and unions. Projects have included United Nations World Food Programme, California Labor Federation AFL-CIO, Children Now, Environmental Defense Fund, Service Employees International Union AFL-CIO, Landmark Education, Independent Media Institute, Trust for Public Land, Womenís Economic Agenda Project and Peninsula Open Space Trust. He is a frequent advisor and lecturer on Internet strategy to nonprofits worldwide, and has been featured in The Chronicle of Philanthropy and The Industry Standard.


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