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Online hurdles – Nonprofits, funders face challenges

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By Todd Cohen

Private and corporate foundations should get together soon to figure out how to boost the philanthropic world’s use of the Web, a new report says.

The report by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation says the Web can change the way nonprofit organizations and foundations do business.

Yet few nonprofits are sophisticated about technology, and even those that are tech-savvy don’t have the funds they need to make their Web operations thrive, says the report, “E-Philanthropy, Volunteerism, and Social Changemaking: A New Landscape of Resources, Issues and Opportunities.”

Foundations also have a lot of work to do in becoming technologically skilled and in finding ways to support and work with nonprofits in fostering tech projects, the report says.

The report, which examines nonprofit use of the Web, includes a survey of nearly 140 nonprofit and for-profit Web sites devoted to philanthropy.

The report also maps trends in Web use for giving, volunteering and the delivery of nonprofit services. Among the findings:

* Foundations lack Web know-how and make decisions too slowly to keep up with changes in technology.

* Online innovation for social change requires investment by funders, which will have to team up with their grant recipients.

* The pursuit of revenue to sustain philanthropic Web portals and search engines challenges both nonprofits and funders – resulting in the creation of “hybrid” models in which the lines between nonprofits and for-profits overlap.

The Kellogg foundations hopes to publish its report online and keep it up to date.

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