In June 2011, Santa Barbara’s Nonprofit Support Center closed, disrupting communication between local community organizations seeking to share ideas on marketing strategy, outreach and other topics that are key in the nonprofit sector.
Now, one year later, a new online alternative known as the Nonprofit Resource Network (NPRN) is gaining momentum and reigniting discussion in the nonprofit community. The site, which already has more than 250 members, requires a login and uses profile information to match users with similar interests.
IntroNetworks, a Santa Barbara-based company whose clients include NASA, Sony and the United Way, designed the platform. Founded in 2003 by CEO Mark Sylvester, introNetworks has created 350 similar sites, which include interest, role-based and closed groups, as well as a forum section for general discussion.
“It’s a nonprofit marketplace for skills,” Sylvester said of NPRN. “Board members who want to meet one another, staff members, volunteers can all be on to give help or get help. These are people who genuinely are trying to find the best practices in different areas so the organizations run better and the people they serve get better help.”
Work on the project began in January as a result of nonprofit organizations seeking a replacement for the Nonprofit Support Center, which closed in part due to a lack of funding and the tough economy.
“It provided many opportunities for volunteers, staff and directors to meet, share ideas, attend lectures and learn about the nonprofit sector,” said Pam Lewis, executive director of the Hutton Parker Foundation and one of the earliest advocates for the network.
“When that venue closed last June (2011), we thought we needed an easy way for the nonprofit community to stay connected.”
The Nonprofit Resource Network was launched June 1. The pace was slow at first but the site is now seeing greater use and more developed functions, Lewis said.
“The folks who are joining now and are starting to use the features and functions are seeing the benefits,” she said. “It’s more about the individual than the nonprofit agency. It is our hope that those individuals can learn and help so that they can do their job better.”
Users report the network to be user-friendly, like Facebook but group-based. A resource section allows for postings of relevant documents and materials, including sample reports and web layouts, Lewis said.
As excitement surrounding the website grows, project leaders are looking to recruit more users from within the nonprofit community.
“Those who are signing up and are starting to use the project are excited about it,” Lewis said. “I’m thinking our next step is to do a little push to expand membership a bit.”
Click here to view a video demonstration about the Nonprofit Resource Network.