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A free resource for nonprofit organizations, NGOs, civil society organizations,
public sector organizations, and other mission-based agencies

Jayne Cravens,

This is the text from the original "history" page from the original Impact Online web site:

What Impact Online Is All About

Impact Online is a 501(c)(3), nonprofit corporation based in Palo Alto, California, and opening an office in the Washington, D.C. area this summer (1996). Our mission is to facilitate and increase community involvement. Using technology, Impact Online has become a vehicle for turning good intentions into action. We are a collaborative organization that seeks to complement existing services and build on community resources to get more people involved.

We all want to leave the world a little better than we found it. But having lives and jobs that keep us busy most of the time, we try to find ways to participate in the activities of organizations that are already addressing the social problems that concern us the most. And then, even before we actually do any of the good work, it may take a lot of effort to make the connections. For a lot of people this is a major barrier to participation.

The people who started Impact Online saw the potential of the Internet to revolutionize the way people became involved in social causes. The World Wide Web can be a conduit for quick, easy access to both issue information and information about organizations who need volunteers. So, at Impact Online we are creating a meeting ground in cyberspace for PEOPLE with the desire to make a difference, and ORGANIZATIONS that are coordinating action to change our world for the better.

We are here to help PEOPLE to use the Internet to transform their good intentions into actions.

We are also interested in encouraging nonprofit and social change ORGANIZATIONS to make use of the Web for getting their message out and recruiting volunteers. The Internet can be a cost-effective and useful tool. And in this information age, it is imperative that organizations be able to leverage new technologies to their advantage.

Once Upon A Time?

Impact Online was founded in 1994 because of a market need -- there are many individuals that have good intentions to get involved with their community but it needs to be easier. There is a large and growing population of people online. In 1994 there was little or no information about nonprofits online for those people that wanted to get involved.

Using Internet technology to facilitate and increase community involvement was the idea behind Impact Online. For the inside story about how we got started, read our story as told by Steve Glikbarg, Co-founder of Impact Online:

. . . A woman leaving work encounters yet another homeless person on the way to the train station. On the train home, she ponders her own lack of response to this problem and her growing immunity to the street requests. That night at home, she signs onto the Web and goes to Impact Online. First she learns the basics about Homelessness. But she still has a couple of questions -- and so she sends an e-mail to "Ask Impact Online," an e-mail "question and answer" that is being answered this month by Innovative Housing.

She then goes to the online directory and finds a list of major national and state organizations that are working on the homelessness issue. There are links to many other home pages. A search of the San Francisco Bay Area yields numerous agencies and shelters -- one currently has a major initiative underway to expand its services in the city. She looks at an online picture of the site for the new shelter, and hears the shelter manager describe the plans. She decides to e-mail the manager with an offer to help in some way. She also notices that a few of the agencies offer products for sale, and decides to order her Christmas cards, designed and printed by the formerly homeless, while she is online. She feels compelled to get involved and make a difference, and Impact Online enables her to do just that.

Pure fantasy? Not anymore. Last Fall, all this was the vision of four MBA's interested in how the "information superhighway" could help make it easier for individuals to become more involved with local nonprofits. Working together, Mark Benning (MBA '94), Joanne Ernst (MBA '94), Cindy Shove (MBA University of Toronto) and I (PMP '94) created a business plan for starting a new kind of nonprofit -- one that would operate entirely online to promote community involvement.

Just one short year ago, the vision looked pretty outlandish. Being well-trained MBA alumni, we diligently developed a business plan, made financial statements three years into the future, extrapolated the rapid growth of the Internet and explained how this new medium could revolutionize community involvement. But we were early and few people seemed to grasp the potential.

At first the main problem was that no one had heard of the World Wide Web (WWW). At the time we wrote our business plan Netscape hadn't made its first browser yet, none of the commercial services offered access to the Web and, more importantly, businesses and the media hadn't yet discovered the Internet. After explaining e-mail, the Internet, the World Wide Web and hypertext links in all our proposals, charitable foundations assumed we were looking to fund a technology project (something few do) instead of funding a community outreach project (which many do fund). In hindsight, we were just early and operating like entrepreneurs who act quickly when they see an opportunity.

We could have waited to get funding. Maybe we should have, but my guess is that we would still be waiting. When Edison invented the telephone and offered it to Western Union, they responded, "This 'telephone' has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us." (Western Union internal memo, 1876.) Getting an innovative project funded has always had its challenges.

Now, a year later, we can show potential funders that the concept works. For example, a recent survey showed that over 75% of those online say they would do more community service if volunteer information was available online.

Today, Impact Online operates an award-winning Web site boasting information on volunteer opportunities from around the country, in-depth profiles of organizations such as the Points of Light Foundation and California Commission on National Service and links to nonprofits around the world. In addition, Impact Online's Web site features information on such social issues as homelessness and public education and a course for nonprofits interested in using online technology for social change. By the Fall of 1995, more than 30,000 people had visited Impact Online registering in excess of 300,000 hits (page views). Funders include Applied Materials, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, National Semiconductor and the Roberts Foundation.

While proving the concept of Impact Online through the creation of a Web site has worked to raise interest among funders and the public, Cindy Shove and I devoted nearly all of 1995 to working on the project without pay. Was it worth it? If someone had told me how much work it would take to get this project off the ground, I might have had second thoughts. The lure of funding, which always seemed just around the corner, kept us going month by month. Moving Impact Online from my home to a cubicle in shared office space, Cindy Shove and I have gone through all the pain of a true startup. With clients around the country, a rapidly changing industry and a new product, we've been using all our MBA skills to the hilt. Marketing our organization nationally, developing a focused service and responding to clients -- all while keeping costs to a minimum -- has meant relying heavily on the core concepts we learned at business school.

Impact Online is a real bootstrap operation where the return on equity is the social capital created when new sources of creativity and energy are used to support social change. While Impact Online is still seeking a major investor, the word on the street is that our product is hot and the need is real.

In the last few months, Impact Online has grown tremendously. We've hired a fulltime Webmaster, established a national board of directors and opened up a second office in the Washington, D.C. area. While the road ahead has many challenges, looking back, I'm proud at how far we've gotten in such a short time.

-- Steve Glikbarg

The archived version of the Impact Online web site, which we all had access to via but was removed by request of VolunteerMatch, said, "Using Internet technology to facilitate and increase community involvement was the idea behind Impact Online." As noted above, Impact Online was founded by four MBA students: Steve Glikbarg, Cindy Shove, Mark Benning and Joanne Ernst. Impact Online, and particularly Steve Glikbarg, deserve a lot of credit for getting nonprofit organizations in the USA online, particularly on the West Coast, both through the web site and through the founders' many meetings with and events for nonprofit organizations in the San Francisco Bay Area. They also deserve credit for something else: in 1996, Impact Online secured funding for what became The Virtual Volunteering Project.

More about Impact Online

 The Last Virtual Volunteering Guidebook

available for purchase as a paperback & an ebook

from Energize, Inc.
Completely revised and updated, & includes lots more advice about microvolunteering!
Published January 2014.

Also see:

  • United Nations ICT4D Initiatives
    Various United Nations offices have launched initiatives to promote the use of computers, feature phones, smart phones and various networked devices in development and humanitarian activities, to promote digital literacy and equitable access to the "information society," and to bridge the digital divide. This web page is my effort to track UN Tech4Good / ICT4D programs, from the oldest through 2016. My goal is to primarily to help researchers, as well as to remind current UN initiatives that much work regarding ICT4D has been done by various UN employees, consultants and volunteers for more than 15 years (and perhaps longer?).
  • Studies and Research Regarding Online Volunteering / Virtual Volunteering
    While there is a plethora of articles and information about online volunteering, there has been very little research published regarding the subject. This is a compilation of publicly-available research regarding online volunteering, and a list of suggested possible angles for researching online volunteering. New contributions to this page are welcomed, including regarding online mentoring programs.
  • Incorporating virtual volunteering into a corporate employee volunteer program (a resource for businesses / for-profit companies)
    Virtual volunteering - volunteers providing service via a computer, smart phone, tablet or other networked advice - presents a great opportunity for companies to expand their employee philanthropic offerings. Through virtual volunteering, some employees will choose to help organizations online that they are already helping onsite. Other employees who are unable to volunteer onsite at a nonprofit or school will choose to volunteer online because of the convenience.
  • Al Gore Campaign Pioneered Virtual Volunteering
    Back in 2000, when Al Gore ran for president, his campaign championed virtual volunteering by recruiting online volunteers to help online with his election efforts. I've tried to present some of what his campaign did - this pioneering effort deserves to be remembered, as do some of the lessons from such.
  • Using Third Party Web Sites Like VolunteerMatch to Recruit Volunteers
    There are lots and lots of web sites out there to help your organization recruit volunteers. You don't have to use them all, but you do need to make sure you use them correctly in order to get the maximum response to your posts.


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