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Funding Advice on the Web

Since 1991 FunderFinder, a very small national charity, has produced software for grant-makers. We produce a stand-alone application, distributed on disk and updated every six months, which helps voluntary organisations identify which charitable trusts might give them money for a particular need. We have about 700 organisations using the program This summer we launched a second application doing the same thing for individuals needing money - again, disk based.\ \ Our users are mostly local development agencies, small to medium-sized voluntary organisations and local authorities giving advice and information to community and voluntary groups in their area. Some have reasonably powerful kit and good support systems but many have old computers and an ad hoc approach to using and understanding IT. About 20% of our users have DOS as their only operating system.\ \ FunderFinder itself has had an email address for over a decade but until recently we mainly used email amongst ourselves - to send work in progress from programmer to office to manual writer, for instance. When our Internet service provider offered access to the world wide web via a local phone number we took up the offer and I spent some months 'surfing' - very sporadically and mostly as recreation rather than work. During the same period people started asking whether we had a website and members of our Board of Trustees began to put pressure on us to develop a site.\ \ I was fairly resistant to the idea. FunderFinder tries to work with technology people feel comfortable with; we're keen that the technology we use doesn't become an end in itself and try and ensure that we don't discriminate against voluntary and community groups with older, more modest technology. Were our target market really going to be clicking their way round the web? And what would they get if they found us? The site would need to be more that a glossy brochure.\ \ On the other hand, we were, and are, trying to think how to strengthen the support available to marginalised and isolated voluntary groups - those geographically remote, those that for one reason or another unlikely or unable to take advantage of local training and other 'infrastructural' services. Maybe the Internet would be a good medium for reaching them. Maybe we could put bug-fixes or new versions of the program on a web-site - a much cheaper way of reaching our users between updates. Maybe it was worth experimenting at least.\ \ Perhaps too we could use a website to deflect enquiries from people who really weren't our target market. Our email address was flagged up on someone else's website and we were getting an increasing number of messages from postgraduate students looking for funding to develop their academic careers - not something we could help with on a case-by-case basis. Maybe our website would help make it plain what we couldn't do, as well as what we could.\ \ So we started to construct a site. What's there so far is information about us and our management, which is one way of being accountable. There's information, including screen-shots, about the software we produce, although ordering it up isn't yet seamless. There is quite a lot of information about fundraising, in the form of down-loadable 'leaflets'; some are about how to do it and some about sources of money.\ \ Still being constructed are two of the more interesting experiments. One is a way of identifying 'a local development agency near you' and the other a 'forum' for threaded discussions and debate about funding issues. These are technically a bit more complicated and, like the rest of what's there, embody the tension between what the site looks like and what it does. For us, creating a website was fundamentally hours and hours worrying about shades of yellow.\ \ It's too early to know who's really using the site, and how. It's generated requests for more information about our software, though no actual orders. People have said they've seen it. We hope the forum, when it's working, will be a way of people sharing funding information peer-to-peer. It would be great if groups new to fundraising could 'overhear' more experienced organisations in discussion. It would be great if the metaphor of the web, the spaghetti underlying the links, helped the sector create the kind of networks and connections that include rather than exclude.\ \ I remember all sorts of initiatives, at a local regional and national level, to network and share information and skills. The Voluntary Sector Luncheon Club, the Information Officers Group…. sometimes they work, sometimes people share more than a sandwich and a set of gripes. I suspect the factors that influence the success or otherwise of these initiatives - the effort and resources involved in attending, how comfortable people feel when they get there, the style and tone of the discussion, how much new information or how many new contacts people come away with - will be the same factors that will determine how successful an electronic forum is. If we've cast ourselves as hosts, we may need to be much more active than just providing a venue.\ \ Jo Habib\ Funderfinder Web site\ \ Back to the Guide to Community Internet

partnerships/articles/finder.txt · Last modified: 2017/06/12 10:20 (external edit)