Internet and Web Resources

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The Internet is probably the most valuable vehicle for gaining new members. There are a thousand techniques for using it effectively and beneficially. This guide will give you some ideas about where to find the necessary resources for effective recruiting on the Web. However, we will mostly focus on the techniques specific to advocacy organizations reaching out to members via the Web.

Your presence on the Net may have much more far-reaching ability than you realize. It is sometimes said that organizations should not rely too heavily on the Web because access is limited, but this has changed dramatically in just the last few years. Web and email access are now readily available to much of the world. The majority of affected individuals who live in remote regions of the world connect with advocacy organizations through the Web. In many cases they report finding disease-specific organizations via Internet access at a local Internet cafe, library, or friend's house in a big city.

Your website can do several things to inform different audiences and connect your members:

  • Post news about research, treatment, or organizational initiatives.
  • Contain current and back issues of your newsletters—print and email.
  • Host a bulletin board or discussion forum where users can interact.
  • Host a list of "vetted" Web sources for information about your condition.
  • Alert members to a special need—a letter-writing campaign, donations to support a particular goal, or chairs for your office!

Tell Me about Blogging

"Blogs" have sprung up all over the Web, along with dozens of articles in major media about what they mean. Blogs combine the first type of content widely found on the Web (lists of links) with commentary, and some blogs are primarily essay-based. Alongside blogs is a tradition of online journaling, which focuses on the daily life of the writer.

The first blogs were maintained as any website—pages were built from scratch and added to the server using a file-transfer program. Eventually, free tools were made available that made it easy for less technical users to add new entries using a Web-based form, create searchable archives, and even email members of a notification list when a blog was updated.

These tools can be set up in minutes by someone who wants to make a simple journal available on the Internet. Many options are available for free, while others require the purchase of a hosting plan to store your journal. A few places to check out include Blogger, TypePad, and Word Press. Other stand-alone tools, such as Movable Type, may take a little longer to set up, but with a combination of built-in features and a growing number of "plug-ins," these tools can be used as an elegant, free content-management system, greatly easing creation and update of websites.

You can learn more about this at our Blogging page.

Web Site Tips

Your website must do several things to inform and connect effectively:

  • Explain your mission clearly and prominently
  • Offer at least basic information about the condition, as well as the organization’s functions, acting as an all-hours press kit
  • Prominently display your contact information—and make it easy for visitors to give you their contact information
  • Make it obvious and easy for people to donate time, effort, services, or money

Your website must do this in a format that is easy to read, easy to navigate, and viewable on many different (and older) browsers. Above all make it easy for people, with a click of a button, to contact you, ideally with a fill-in form that submits information directly from the website to your organization. And don't forget to ask people to donate to your foundation, preferably online.

You can learn more about this on our Building a Website page.

Watch the You Know Your Web Content is Great, But Do Others? webinar to learn how to establish website credibility with the Trust It or Trash It Tool.

Forms: Hire a programmer, or do it yourself?

Many forms are very simple. Once you have a handle on basic html, whether you write the code yourself or use a program such as Dreamweaver or NowPublisher, you can easily create usable forms. The easiest way is to copy a form you like and modify it for your own uses.

If you like PXE International’s registration form, you can look at the source code and copy it. It can be easily modified and installed on your site, provided your Internet service provider (ISP) offers CGI scripting. Some ISPs, such as DreamHost, even provide the backing scripts in a centralized location, where anyone can use them, for example, to capture information from a form and email it to an address you specify in your webpage. You don't have to move or install any code, just add some formatting to your webpage. You can learn more about ISPs on our Internet Service Provider page.

Note that forms usually require two pieces: a piece you can see on the webpage, and a piece you must install elsewhere. Forms that are driven by, for example, a Perl script installed in your webspace may have their appearance determined by JavaScript that is in the webpage, but that Perl piece still needs to be there in the background.

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