AOL in Nonprofits Game
Oscar S. Cisneros

Wired News
10:00 a.m.  5.Jul.99.PDT

America Online will develop a new portal with the goal of connecting individuals with charitable organizations and helping nonprofits find resources on the Net.

"What we're trying to do is make it easier for individuals to help nonprofits, either through volunteerism or donations [or by connecting] nonprofit organizations with the resources that help them build their technical capacity," said Michele Cavataio, an AOL project director for the yet-to-be-named portal.

"It's not branded by AOL at all," continued Cavataio. "We're going to help promote them though our service, but it's not just for AOL users."

When the site goes up in September, users will be able to search for charities geographically and by topic. The site will offer nonprofits a Web publishing toolkit and include a calendar of events and other features, said Cavataio. She offered few other details of the venture.

"We're trying to put rocket boosters under the efforts that are already in place in the philanthropic community," she said. "Our strength is in aggregating information and making it easy to use."

But a nonprofit Web site may have beat AOL to the punch.

Guidestar has undertaken the monumental task of publishing online the full text of financial disclosure forms for more than 300,000 IRS-sanctioned nonprofits. The database details almost every aspect of a nonprofit's operations.

"We're going to distribute this information and publish it so that people can look at it and see how it's changing over time," said Guidestar spokeswoman Alison Brody.

Like the upcoming AOL site, Guidestar's user-friendly site also helps individuals find out about volunteer and donation opportunities. Additionally, it features news reports and a "learning center."

Giving money to nonprofits is currently like investing in for-profit companies without have the benefit of tools like Edgar, a database of public filings used by investors to research publicly traded companies, Brody said.

Guidestar hopes its database will change that, and at the same time help nonprofits to meet new IRS requirements for making the information available, she added.