Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Web Sites for Non-profits

I've been doing a lot of volunteering lately for the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization (GBIO) on their healthcare initiative. GBIO is part of the MassACT coalition, a group brought together by the lobbying firm Health Care for All. I've been out collecting signatures, and our lobbying efforts seem to have made a real difference in the Senate healthcare bill. We got them to include amendments providing for an expansion of MassHealth. The Senate Bill was much stingier than the House version. It's been a lot of fun, but our technology tools have been pretty awful. We send e-mails of spreadsheets back and forth, but a lot of the contact information ought to be managed online. When you call people to ask them to call their Senator or to show up at an ACTION, you ought to be able to enter whether people can come into a database by logging in over the internet. It's just like an election canvass. And you ought to be able to break down access to various databases by congregation. It shouldn't be too hard.

I wonder whether something like Civic Space Labs would work, but they don't really have much of a budget for technology. They've got 2.5 organizers and they're going to hire an office manager, but it's a real shoe string of an operation. Civic Space Labs looks like a great idea, but it still requires a fairly high level of technical sophistication to operate it, and the website doesn't provide easy access to consultants who can cost-effectively help you get a site up and running. It isn't exactly obvious how one would go about suggesting that they set up a list of vendors. They have a forum, but it only provides the information that people post, and it isn't organized. Open Source stuff is great, but sometimes you just want searchable, hierarchically organized information. Who's available to help with this in Boston and what do they charge? It shouldn't be so complicated.

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