Sites along the superhighway.
The burning electronic question isn't should you connect? It's when should you connect? With each new day, a growing number of individuals - many of whom could be members of your association - are opening online accounts and accessing an array of electronic products and services. While some may be logging on purely for the novelty, even those aimless surfers out there are discovering a wealth of interesting information. You may be asking questions like these: Can our association afford not to be there? What online services might our association offer? How does going online affect slatting?
As food for your thinking about these and other questions, ASSOCIATION MANAGEMENT offers this collection of associations' experiences with online ventures. While any such collection is far from exhaustive, these online vignettes are at least representative of initiatives associations are taking to enhance communication with and better serve their members in the Information Age. We hope these profiles give you an idea of the possibilities - and the potholes - that exist along the electronic roadways.
American Chamber of Commerce Executives, Alexandria, Virginia
Submitted by Arlene C. Deverman, CAE, Vice President of Association and Information Services
Association. Membership: 5,000 individual chamber executives representing 1,200 state and local chambers of commerce; staff: 36; operating budget: $3 million.
Services. ACCE went online with a pilot electronic mail system in December 1985 to take advantage of what we saw for the future - namely, that associations need to use the latest technologies to deliver information and services to members. Through ChamberNet, ACCE now offers e-mail, chamber business searchable databases, public and/or commercial databases at special rates, discussion thrums, bulletin boards, publication services and ordering, registration for meetings and conferences, and member surveys.
Users. Between one fourth and one third of ACCE's members use ChamberNet, which also has a growing number of nonmember audiences. ACCE allows organizations with similar interests to connect to ChamberNet, but at this time we aren't able to predict what percentage of users they represent.
Access. Users need a computer, modem, and phone line access. ACCE provides communication software.
Staffing. When ACCE launched ChamberNet, one staff member was dedicated to the effort. As our focus grew to include information development - and not only putting existing information online - we increased staff. Today, 2.5 full-time-equivalent staff are required to train other staff members and to build, edit, and operate ACCE's information services. However, this is part of ACCE's larger information services efforts, not only ChamberNet.
Revenue. While ACCE will maintain ChamberNet as a member service, we would also like to turn it into a profit center for our members by helping them develop and sell their products online.
Advice. It's clear that online networks are only one method of using technology. No one method of communication is going to be the answer for everyone. Associations are going to have to continue to provide information in a variety of formats according to member preferences. Of utmost importance: Develop an information plan or strategy. Don't just use a new technology because it sounds sexy. Do the proper homework and research to determine member needs anti wants, but don't be afraid to be a leader. Get pioneers and key leaders to lead your members into the future.
American Institute of Architects, Washington, D.C.
Submitted by Bill Schallenberg, Director of AIA Online
Association. Membership: 55,000 architectural professionals; staff: 150; operating budget: $35 million.
Services. AIA launched AIAOnline in August 1993 to provide members a low-cost, easy-to-use utility by which they can communicate with each other and AIA staff anti access the growing array of electronic information resources and functions. AIAOnline offers e-mail, bulletin boards, searchable databases, newswires, Commerce Business Daily, and a job bank as well as special areas set aside for AIA chapters and related organizations. AIA will soon introduce Internet access and gateways to other networks.
Users. More than 10 percent of AIA members now subscribe, with an average of 100 new subscribers signing up each week. AIAOnline is an exclusive benefit of membership.
Access. AIA members need a modem-equipped computer, but they receive AIAOnline software free of charge. They pay an access charge (access is made through a local phone call) of 15 cents per minute, with no monthly charges.
Staffing. AIA created three full-time positions to develop and launch AIAOnline and to provide system management, customer service, and content acquisition and management. However, many individuals, including AIA's chief staff executive, have made changes to their work schedules to contribute to the service.
Revenue. AIAOnline is a vehicle for member communication and is not intended as a profit center.
Advice. Information made available online must be time sensitive and of immediate impact. Most members will not pay for access to an electronic reference library only.
American Lung Association, New York City
Submitted by Rudy Niemiec, Management Information Systems Manager, St. Paul, Minnesota, office
Association. Membership: 57 constituent and 53 affiliate associations (state and regional lung associations and branch offices); staff: 150; annual operating budget: $20 million.
Services. ALA launched Aladin (American Lung Association Data Information Network) in 1993. Aladin operates as a data exchange vehicle through which members receive biweekly updates of information specific to their donor and prospect lists; in turn, members provide updated donor contact information to update ALA's national database. ALA is working to make the system fully available in a Windows environment this month.
Users. While not all of ALA's 80 local lung association offices nationwide use Aladin, most do. We have no nonmember users.
Access. Users access the network via a 486 computer with a minimum of 4 megabytes RAM (minimum of 8 megabytes RAM for a Windows environment), a 500-megabyte hard disk, and a modem. Users are charged per thousand donor names (mostly by file size) at $90 per thousand per year. We have a donor list of 10.5 million names on file.
Staffing. ALA did not hire any new staff members in connection with Aladin. Existing staff members have absorbed file maintenance data entry, and transmission duties.
Revenue. Aladin is not an ALA profit center.
Advice. Associations interested in embarking on an online venture would do well to determine their MIS needs (both software applications and hardware), buy a system that will best meet all needs, involve users in the decision-making process, and set a time limit for final decisions regarding implementation.
American Nurses Association, Washington, D.C.
Submitted by Garry R. Turner, Senior Systems Officer
Association. Membership: 53 state nursing associations representing more than 200,000 registered nurses; staff: 170; annual operating budget: $20 million.
Services. ANA began development of ANA*NET in 1989 out of a growing need for ANA and its constituents to enhance communication among the national office, state associations, and individual members. Our bulletin board system offers e-mail, conference areas, and file libraries. ANA-developed databases include information on workplace issues, association-governance-related policies and positions, and state and federal health care legislation and reform. Commercial database services include legal, business, and industry-related information, nursing care research, biomedical article citations, and information about employment and collective bargaining issues.
ANA plans considerable expansion of ANA*NET, including access to ANA*NET by other nursing and/or health care organizations. ANA and CompuServe have been developing a commercial online service called Nurse*Forum, to be located on CompuServe's network, that will be available to nurses and health care professionals worldwide. In addition, ANA's World Wide Web site on the Internet will offer users access to political action and legislative information, a calendar of ANA events, a resume/job bank, nursing practice discussion groups, a current events area, online orientation to ANA, audio access to speeches and presentations by ANA officials and guest speakers, and gateways to other nursing-related Internet resources as well as online virtual tours of ANA headquarters.
Users. The three classifications of ANA*NET users are ANA members, association officials, and corporate subscribers (organizations). Members comprise roughly 80 percent of ANA*NET users. Because state associations vary in size, ANA developed a graduated access program whereby five users from each state association are given full access to ANA*NET, while remaining staff are granted access to the communication components of the network truly. Association officers (both national and state), who comprise 20 percent of ANA*NET's user base, are given access to ANA*NET. In 1995, ANA hopes to expand ANA*NET access to other nursing and possibly other health care organizations.
Access. To access ANA*NET, users need a DOS- or Windows-based PC, a modem, and communication software. All ANA*NET users access the network either by calling a toll-free number or using local access numbers anywhere in the United States and from certain areas in Europe. ANA's 53 state members currently access ANA*NET free of charge with no subscription fees. Association officials have access to selected components of ANA*NET, including the bulletin board, e-mail, and ANA-developed databases, free of charge. Access to the commercial services for association officials is handled on an individual subscription basis. Access to all portions of ANA*NET for corporate users will be based on an annual subscription rate.
Staffing. When ANA began development of ANA*NET, we gave two existing staff positions responsibility, for the network's development and implementation. In 1993, ANA hired three full-time ANA*NET staff to work with four existing information systems department staff. Information systems consultants have been used to supplement certain project objectives.
Revenue. ANA*NET is actually several different products. One, the corporate access program, is anticipated to become a future profit center. Membership access is not a profit center, but is something much more important - a member benefit.
Advice. As pressure on association executives to find new sources of nondues revenue continues to grow, many organizations will look to online services to fill the gap. Set obtainable goals; establish a strategic plan; get buy-in of stakeholders; include your information staff during all phases; provide information that users need - not what you think they need; stay dynamic; think globally; dare to be innovative; don't sell your association short (you have something to offer); don't let senior managers abdicate their responsibility, in systems development; and copyright and trademark everything you develop.
American Psychological Association, Washington, D.C.
Submitted by John Bales, Internet
Association. Membership: 139,000 scientific and professional psychologists and affiliate and student members; staff: 450; annual operating budget: $50 million.
Services. APA launched PsychNET in January 1995 to make information about the association and the field easily available to both members and the public. Currently, APA offers searchable text-based information on World Wide Web and Gopher servers - primarily information about science programs and scientific psychology - as well as material on APA books, journals, and its database service. In addition, news releases, newsletter copy, and information about the association's annual convention and membership are available online. APA also maintains a number of electronic bulletin boards and listservs. APA will eventually have information regarding all aspects of the association online. We would also like to offer publications and database services for sale, interactive services such as membership, and possibly teleconferencing services.
Users. We're being accessed by mostly educational domains, commercial domains, and a substantial number of international users. Academic and/or scientific psychologists are generally much more plugged into the Internet and, as a result, probably comprise most of our users at this point. Consequently, most of the material available is currently aimed at them.
Access. Users can access our Gopher server with a regular Internet account. Listservs require only e-mail. To access our World Wide Web site, those with regular accounts can use text-based browsers and those with a direct link can use graphical browsers. User payment can vary widely, but is essentially the cost of an Internet account.
Staffing. APA created one full-time position in connection with launching the association's online service, but a lot of work is done by staff members in other departments that provide information. Management information systems staff members provide technical support and put in a fair number of hours as well. We are considering outsourcing some of the HTML (hypertext markup language) coding.
Revenue. Currently APA's online network is not a profit center, although we hope it will become one as we offer books, journals, access to databases, and other services for sale. The cutting of costs associated with distributing information and services to the APA membership electronically could also help PsychNET become a profit center.
Advice. It's most important to balance needed resources with what is doable. Recognize that putting information online and keeping it updated, as well as offering other services, will require personnel, money, training, and time.
CAUSE, the association for managing and using information resources in higher education, Denver
Submitted by Leslie Lea, Marketing Manager
Association. Membership: 3,600 individual member representatives from 1,200 member institutions (colleges and universities); staff: 18; annual operating budget: $2.2 million.
Services. CAUSE began using the Internet for corresponding with its members via e-mail in 1988. Since then, online services have evolved to meet member demand. Most association information resources are now accessible online, including a 2,600-item library with searchable abstracts. Members can search institution database profiles and proceedings of CAUSE annual conferences. CAUSE operates listservs for several constituent groups, archiving discussions for general access. Opportunities for online transactions, including ordering publications, registering for conferences, completing surveys, and voting, are provided. Some services are offered exclusively online. These services include the association's new job posting service and CAUSE's electronic newsletter, Campus Watch, which is sent via e-mail monthly to more than 4,000 subscribers. The online interactive membership directory allows users to search the association membership by name, state, institution, or corporation; view a color photo of the member (where available); and click on an e-mail address to send electronic mail or to access institutional or individual home pages immediately. All CAUSE publications will soon be available online, although some may have a lag time to allow for sales of the print version.
Users. Ninety-eight percent of CAUSE members have access to e-mail, 88 percent to Gopher, and 76 percent to World Wide Web. Approximately 125,000 sessions were initiated with the CAUSE Gopher server in 1994, while the Web server is receiving some 2,500 hits per week. There is no way to tell whether these users are members or nonmembers; however, we estimate that the vast majority (80-90 percent) are from CAUSE member organizations. Although there are mechanisms to limit or deny access to nonmember users, the procedures are time-consuming for staff and tend to make access more complicated for members.
Access. Member access is exclusively through the Internet, using hardware and software determined by the institution. CAUSE does not provide dial-up services.
Staffing. CAUSE created two new staff positions to help implement our online services. One of the new staff members is a data/document specialist responsible for taking print and other association materials and making them available on Internet servers. Two other staff members are responsible for maintaining the network, providing user support, and linking in-house databases to Internet services.
Revenue. Our online service is an additional membership benefit - not a profit center - but it has proven to be an excellent marketing tool.
Advice. It is important to have at least one knowledgeable person dedicated full time to getting an enterprise online. Other staff can and must help, but this is not something to be tackled in a staff member's spare time. While it may take your membership time to learn to use online services, if the services are well-designed and relevant, members will use them again and again. And you may find that many nonmembers become users and, eventually, members.
Data Processing Management Association, Park Ridge, Illinois
Submitted by Gary Keller, Association Secretary/Treasurer
Association. Membership: 16,000 information systems professionals; staff: 13; annual operating budget: $1.4 million.
Services. DPMA launched its online services in April 1994 to provide additional member services without the traditional delays in delivery of those services. Information Management Forum, available to any CompuServe subscriber, provides members with chapter membership system software, association manuals, and discussion of industry and association issues. Nonmembers are provided with information about DPMA's meetings and services and with news letter articles. Our online network also serves as an advertising vehicle for other associations' meetings and services. DPMA recently added a government actions section and is investigating additional message and library areas to offer the public.
Users. Approximately 1-2 percent of DPMA membership is currently using our online service. About 98 percent of our users are not members of DPMA.
Access. Users can access the network with a modem and a PC, Unix station, or any type of keyboard terminal. They can use several public-access networks or access the service through 800 numbers in the United States. The cost to the user is $9.95 per month and $4.80 per hour of connect time; 800 access is surcharged.
Staffing. DPMA has experienced no direct impact on staffing. Services are managed completely by volunteers.
Revenue. DPMA's online service has provided a small monthly income since its inception.
Advice. This is DPMA's second attempt to provide an online service to members. Our first venture involved managing our own bulletin board system on an in-house PC. With hardware, software, and personnel costs to manage this system, we were losing more than $1,000 per month. The bulletin board was being used by fewer than 50 members and was cumbersome, slow, and unreliable. Worth noting: The original venture was initiated without member input.
The Healthcare Forum, San Francisco
Submitted by Ellen Griffin, Director of Marketing and Membership
Association. Membership: 1,100 organizational and individual members representing 11,000 health care leaders; staff: 70; annual operating budget: $10 million.
Services. The Healthcare Forum launched Health Online in April 1994. Several years ago, we conducted a nationwide study that identified key leadership competencies that future health care executives must demonstrate, one of which was comfort with and mastery of technology. Created as a collaboration between The Healthcare Forum and Kaiser & Associates, Brighton, Colorado, HealthOnline is dedicated to fostering collaboration among the thousands of diverse health-care-related organizations and associations across the nation and internationally. Each subscriber member of HealthOnline automatically receives an Internet address, enabling the exchange of messages with anyone else connected to the Internet. In addition to e-mail, HealthOnline offers access to many databases and to private areas for interactive conversations on specific topics, as well as the ability to review publications, research papers, and national studies from a variety of sources. Our goal is to become the place where a busy health care leader goes to find the resources and solutions he or she needs.
Users. Health Online is a multifaceted community composed of individuals, organizations, associations, and related interest groups. Subscribers include more than 1,200 individuals involved with health care - from medical staff to hospital administrators, educators, consultants, architects, students, and authors. Healthcare Forum individual members and member organizations comprise 20 percent of HealthOnline subscribers. An array of other membership organizations, including Catholic Health Association of the United States, St. Louis; Medical Group Management Association, Englewood, Colorado; and other smaller affiliated health care groups, make up 80 percent of HealthOnline. users and act as co-developer or sponsoring organizations. These organizations pay an annual fee based on the number of services provided and customized spaces where their members can hold private meetings, conduct educational programs, or communicate briefings.
Access. Users access HealthOnline through their PCs using communication software, a modem, and a dedicated phone line. Once the software is installed, a password is issued for each subscriber. Subscribers desiring limited access to the topic areas on Health Online pay $180 per year, while organizations seeking access to a variety of topic areas pay $750 per year and receive passwords with access for five individuals within their organizations.
Staffing. Staffing from sponsoring organizations varies according to their level of participation in Health Online. Healthcare Forum staff dedicated to Health Online totals 3.5 full-time-equivalent staff.
Revenue. Health Online is currently breaking even, but we expect to achieve profit by the end of year two.
Advice. Key to the success of HealthOnline has been an honest assessment of our association's strengths and needs and a commitment to partnering with others who can bring complementary strengths and expertise to the venture. A solo effort would have required a fivefold investment and a longer development time frame.
Michigan Association of Realtors, Lansing
Submitted by Dan Dressman, CAE, Executive Vice President
Association. Membership: 23,000 individual Realtors and 2,600 member firms representing 52 local associations; staff: 23; annual operating budget: $2.8 million.
Services. MAR developed MARNET (Michigan Association of Realtors Information Network) in April 1994 as a cost-effective means to enhance the association's communication with its members. Among MARNET's offerings: e-mail, association events calendar, education course schedule, text-based versions of association publications, membership roster, membership polling, legislative updates and policy positions, industry statistics, credit reporting service, special-interest forums, news alerts, computer software demonstrations, and USA Today. MAR plans to increase the network's number of pop-up menus and possibly make MARNET a home page on the Internet.
Users. About 4 percent of MAR members use the service. The service is currently only available to Michigan Realtors and staff at member associations.
Access. Accessing MARNET requires an IBM-compatible PC, industry-standard communication software, and a Hayes-compatible modem. There is no charge for the service.
Staffing. MAR did not hire any new staff in connection with the launch of MARNET. Currently two MIS staff members administer the system, but all MAR staff members are responsible for updating information as needed.
Revenue. MAR has no immediate plans to make MARNET a profit center.
Advice. Ongoing training and ease of use is critical to the success of any automated information system. In hindsight, it might have been more beneficial for us to go with a Windows-based system instead of a DOS-based one because of the simplicity of a Windows format. At this point, our system may be a more sophisticated means of obtaining and receiving information than what the average Realtor is accustomed to using. However, we feel that for our organization to be an industry leader, we must attempt to remain on the cutting edge. We must try to bring members up to speed on the benefits of applying technology to their business operations.
National insulation Association, Alexandria, Virginia
Submitted by Michele M. Jones, Director of Marketing and Membership
Association. Membership: 400 organizations representing insulation contractors, distributors, fabricators, laminators, and manufacturers; staff: 8; annual operating budget: $1.3 million.
Services. NIA launched NIACNeT (National Insulation Association Communications Network) in March 1993 as the result of a member request for a bulletin board that would allow contractors, distributors, and fabricators to post information about surplus and specialty materials that were taking up space in their warehouses. From that original request, NIACNeT now offers a series of databases, regulatory, briefs, industry alerts regarding tax laws and legislation, e-mail, forums anti bulletin boards, and a National Insulation Association calendar of events anti publications listing.
Users. Of NIA's 400 members, 70 currently subscribe (17 percent). Subscribers to the service are usually the chief staff executives of the companies, but we encourage multiple users at any location and have found that many secretaries anti administrative assistants log on daily. Nonmember subscribers are composed mostly of our consultants, who update network features. They represent about 2 percent of NIACNeT's subscriber base.
Access. NIACNeT risers need at least an IBM-compatible 286 or a Mac Plus with 1 megabyte RAM, 640 kilobytes hard disk space, MS-DOS 2.0 or higher, color or monochrome monitor, and a Hayes-compatible modem. The cost is $79 for a onetime start-up fee and $33 per month (unlimited usage). Long-distance charges are separate.
Staffing. NIA did not bite any new staff members in connection with NIACNeT. NIACNeT management is handled jointly with our vendor. Everything having to do with updating information is handled by a designated NIA staff member anti a vendor system operator. Our vendor handles some areas almost exclusively: fulfilling customer subscriptions, technical support, customer billing, and updating the user's manual.
Revenue. NIA does not consider NIACNeT to be a profit center. While the goal of the association is to continue to break even (as we currently do) or to possibly make some money, we have consciously made a long-term commitment to this member service based on its benefits to the industry.
Advice. The top priority and success of NIACNeT are largely attributable to the strong support and guidance it has received from key members of NIA leadership. Likewise, the partnership that exists between NIA and its vendor has made planning and implementation of NIACNeT's technical development and marketing relatively painless. One weakness has been that NIA goals have not always matched resources, resulting in our not being able to accomplish everything in the time period desired. It has been important throughout the process to reiterate how much we have accomplished given our resources, and to focus on moving steadily forward.
RELATED ARTICLE: Seven Questions to Answer Before You Connect
If you're among those about to join history's most recent wave of exploration - using the Internet to travel to uncharted electronic territories, to deliver the gospel according to your organization's mission, or to trade in the 21st century's most valuable commodity (information) - take heed. While the Internet presents exciting opportunities for associations to develop new services for their members, it also raises a host of financial, technical, and educational issues. But if you take time to answer certain key questions before you make any Internet-related commitments, you will be better positioned to make informed decisions regarding your association's online investments.
The easily answered questions
1. What is an Internet service provider, and which one is right for my association? An Internet service provider is a company that provides the communication access you will need to connect your internal computer network - be it one machine or hundreds - to the Internet. Service providers are your "on ramps" to the Internet, and you must pay a toll to use them.
Internet service providers are national, regional, and local. Gaining Internet access through a local provider is risky at best - even though their fees are the most affordable. Local providers are geared toward personal accounts and limited use and simply are not set up to handle organizational use. In contrast, national and regional providers are able to accommodate high volume and complex uses. While the gap between national and regional Internet providers is rapidly narrowing, some major differences remain:
* Support. Regional providers generally do not offer 24-hour, seven-days-a-week support numbers and facilities. National providers do.
* Infrastructure. Regional providers are less likely to have multiple connections to the Internet. Likewise, national providers generally offer the highest possible bandwidth connection to the Internet. (Bandwidth is a measurement of the amount of data that can be sent through a given communication circuit per second.)
* Cost. Regional providers charge less for the same kind of connection. For dial-up accounts, regionals and nationals charge about the same for the fixed monthly fee, but national providers tend to charge extra for time spent online above and beyond a few hours a month. In contrast, regionals generally offer 30 hours or more per month of standard online time before they begin adding surcharges for additional usage. An even more ominous note on cost is that the national providers are beginning to change their price structures for dedicated-line connections. In the past, one flat yearly fee covered a high-bandwidth connection, but some national-provider customers must now pay a surcharge over and above the flat fee based on how many megabytes of information they send and receive. If you plan to deliver a lot of information to your membership, look carefully at pricing schemes that take into account the average number of megabytes an organization sends and receives per month.
2. How much bandwidth do I need? The answer depends on what your organization intends to do via the Internet. Do you simply want to giver your staff members access to the Internet and its wealth of information? Do you plan to deliver information to all of your members? Are you going to sell interactive services and publications over the Internet? Or do you want a simple e-mail connection that will enable your staff and your members to communicate quickly and efficiently?
If you simply want to make the Internet accessible to your staff, an e-mail connection with a dial-up high-speed modem connection will probably be good enough. To fully exploit the marketing, publishing, research, and information dissemination capabilities of the Internet, your organization will want to opt for a dedicated 56-kilobyte or T1 line. However, you'll want to make these decisions in conjunction with a technical expert who understands the intricacies involved with Internet connectivity.
3 What platform should I run my Internet gateway on? This question should concern you only if your organization doesn't already have a computer system in place. Otherwise, stick with your current platform, since almost all of today's operating and network systems can be used to connect to the Internet. This will cut down on costs, staff training, and transferability of your existing computer-based information.
If you're starting from scratch, however, you may want to consider the Macintosh platform. In my opinion, it's far and away the easiest to set up and configure for Internet access. The latest PowerPC Macintosh line should provide ample power for most start-up Internet efforts. More expensive and more powerful is Digital Equipment's AlphaServer line, which offers one of the best systems for high-end Internet information servers. Once you have a full line of information and publication services available on the Internet, you may want to consider upgrading to the AlphaServer platform. Digital has done a good job of packaging some of the best existing technology into a relatively-easy-to-install system that has been preconfigured to act as a highly powerful and effective Internet server.
The really tough questions
4. How do I educate my staff to use the Internet effectively? As with any new tool, it is imperative that your staff members are trained in the effective and efficient use of the Internet. Relying on staff members to teach themselves leads more often to a drop in productivity than to the effective use of new tools. For instance, being educated in the navigation skills required to find the information repositories that are relevant to their particular business needs will enable your staff to spend less time wandering and more time working. Give this question top priority. You will need to determine both how many staff members need to be trained and how much you are willing to spend on the effort.
5. How should I use the Internet to benefit my members? First, you'll need a clear understanding of what your members want from you and how the various Internet tools can meet those needs. You can start with basic use of e-mail to communicate with members. Or, if your goal is to use the Internet's full range of publishing and marketing capabilities, you can implement a World Wide Web server that can deliver thousands of pages of information, either freely or on a payment basis. Spend time brainstorming with your staff and members to develop ideas for the Internet that will both interest current members and attract new ones.
6. How do I get members involved in the Internet? Providing information via the Internet is different from developing and distributing print media. On the Internet, your members must come to you, so you may need to help your members get connected to the Internet - a huge job for any association that has a large membership. Two new developments should make this task easier. First, all of the major commercial online services (America Online, CompuServe, Prodigy, and Delphi) will soon offer full-function Internet access services. In one fell swoop, 6 million people who already know how to use online services will be able to access your Internet information. Second, Windows 95 from Microsoft is coming out soon. The new product is touted as being able to incorporate Internet connectivity software into the operating system. This should make it easier for those who have computers but are not yet connected to an Internet service to get online.
To service members who are not yet connected to the Internet, find a reputable Internet service provider who would be willing to offer your members a cut-rate deal on access services and technical support. This will eliminate the need for your organization to provide these services.
7. Who should be responsible for determining the information your association provides and effectively presenting and updating content? While most organizations start out thinking that their information systems staff will be responsible for implementing their Internet activities, they quickly realize that effective Internet efforts require the expertise and leadership of their publications, graphic design, and marketing staff members as well. In fact, most Internet efforts are nothing more than publishing activities, albeit through a new and uncharted medium. As with the earlier desktop publishing revolution, organizations must combine the best of their technical and publishing expertise to take full advantage of this new medium. To do so, you probably will need to provide Internet-specific training for your technical and publishing staffs and/or to outsource your initial activities while your staffs gets up to Internet speed.
Frank W. Klassen is chief executive officer of InterVisage, Inc., a Silver Spring, Maryland-based company devoted to providing creative Internet publishing and technical support for associations and other organizations. He also serves as director of information resources management at the American Council on Education, Washington, D.C.
RELATED ARTICLE: ASAE's Technology Section
Member benefits for ASAE's Technology Section, the newest addition to ASAE section membership categories, officially begin September 1. For more information about the section or to become a charter member, call (202) 626-2727; ASAE's text telephone number for people with hearing impairments in (202) 626-2803. Or, send your inquiry to firstname.lastname@example.org via the Internet.
RELATED ARTICLE: Small and Online
We selected participants for this collection from the stream of press releases announcing association online ventures that have crossed the desks of ASSOCIATION MANAGEMENT editors during the past year. While the groups featured are primarily large associations, we know they aren't the only ones out there making an electronic splash. If you're with a small association (five or fewer staff and a budget of less than $2 million), please tell us how you're using the Internet or other online channels to meet members needs. (See the end of this article for how to reply).
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|Title Annotation:||includes related articles; online information services from various associations|
|Article Type:||Cover Story|
|Date:||Jul 1, 1995|
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