Nonprofits prevail

It took little more than five years for the adage "all businesses are Internet businesses" to take root in public thought. The current dotcom flameout in technology stocks not withstanding, most companies know their future is tied to the manipulation and transmittal of information.

But what about nonprofit organizations? Volunteer and philanthropic entities, from the local homeless shelter to national organizations such as United Way? How are they coping with a wired world and the technological imperative of the Internet?

The answer: They are coping pretty much like the rest of us, perhaps at a slower pace. But their life online is bright because of the nature of the Web itself and the way we use it.

One simple fact: 9 out of 10 transactions on the Internet are information-based and not linked to the sale of something. I learned this and more while attending a conference in Washington recently on "the impact of information technology on civil society." It was sponsored by the Independent Sector, a non-profit umbrella group.

Resisting the business onslaught to turn it into a grid for the perpetual marketing of anything to anyone, the Web, in part, has evolved into countless forums each freely exchanging information among citizens.

Like the invisible hand guiding Adam Smith's version of capitalism, I am confident that the more than 1 million charitable, education, religious, health, and social-welfare organizations coursing through the Web will energize a current of civility.

The mission statement of the Independent Sector is precisely the promise the Web holds: "a just and inclusive society of active citizens, vibrant communities, effective institutions, and a healthy democracy."

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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