(This post is from Brian Sooy, president and creative director of Aespire, a specialized design and communications firm that works exclusively with nonprofits. Since the topic is relevant again, Brian shared with us this updated version of an article originally written in 2006.)
If I walked into the local pub and sat down at the bar, I'm wondering about the blank stares I would get if I asked the person sitting next to me, "So, how about that net neutrality thing?"
It wouldn't hit them until they want to watch a movie on Netflix, or visit iTunes, or Charity Navigator. If you're reading this, it will affect you. It affects the poor, it affects every user of the internet regardless of class — although some may be able to pay for better access to what our taxes have subsidized — much like access to a professional sports stadium. The loss of net neutrality will affect how your nonprofit or foundation engages supporters and tells the story of its impact.
As proposed, the Telecommunications Act could have a negative effect on your nonprofit's online opportunities for relationship building and fundraising. Your web site (if you have one), is the center of your communication network. How will you raise funds online if access to your web site is restricted?
Alex Jucabenta states (in 2006) on Crain's Cleveland Business:
"Congress has the power to reshape the Internet as we know it and the results of which may not be to the benefit of the consumer. As it now stands, most users connect to the Internet via some sort of wire connected to an Internet service provider. Thanks to the Federal Communications Commission, regulations that required telecom companies to provide open access to the Internet were removed last year (2005)."
It's likely that up to 20% of your web site visitors are using mobile devices to access your site. A recent study reports that 84% of nonprofits have not made their web sites easy to read on mobile devices. Combined with potential slowdown of access, opportunities for online giving and relationship building could be affected.
Social Entrepreneur Andrew Rasiej (rasiej.com) warns
“Without net neutrality the non-profit sector will now be forced to compete directly with for profits on the cost of messaging. For the non-profit sector, loss of net neutrality may be as devastating as losing their tax free status because the cost of reaching their constituency will go so high as to be prohibitive.” Andrew Rasiej
The internet has made it possible for any foundation or charity to raise funds online, but not all are making the most of this opportunity. Fully-featured donor relationship management systems (such as Apricot), or donor-advised fund giving sites such as Razoo have created fundraising opportunities across the full donor engagement continuum.
Your supporters want to connect with you, whether it's in person, at their desks, or through their mobile device. It's important for nonprofits and foundations to have the opportunity to engage donors, and provide an online experience for them that aligns with their face-to-face relationship and experience with the organization.
You shouldn't panic, but you should be aware of, and care about the issue. For more information, visit
- Save the Internet
- Net Neutrality and Social Entrepreneurship
- Why Nonprofits should Care about Net Neutrality