Communication environments for non-profit orgs have changed dramatically since the Internet became widely used. Covenant House is a privately funded childcare agency that provides shelter and services to homeless and runaway youth. They do work in the US, Canada, and Latin America to help stop child labor and prostitution and to pass legislation that protects itinerant and fleeing youth. Luckily, Covenant House has enough financial resources to establish an effective Internet presence.
According to Covenant House’s website “the Internet has tremendous potential to benefit children and these innovative projects show just what can be achieved, often with limited resources. ” The target audiences for Covenant House are homeless and runaway youth as well as people who are willing to donate time and money to the cause. To aid communication with donors, volunteers, and people in need of help and/or information their website offers a variety of e-mail addresses, mailing addresses, fax numbers, and phone numbers (including the “Nineline”, a 24-hour help hotline).
There are several links on every page directing viewers how to contact the organization and it is very clear that any communication is helpful and welcome. According to www. affinityresources. com a virtual community refers to group of people using the Internet to share knowledge, interests, emotions, and problems on an ongoing basis for mutual benefit. This includes chatrooms, discussion forums, subscription to mailing lists, etc. By this definition, the only virtual community available at www. covenanthouse. org is the mailing list.
The site encourages social interactions in the form of e-mail, phone calls, or personal visits to one of their many crisis shelters across the US, Canada, and Latin America. The internet offers many new research opportunities that did not previously exist. “It enables immediate access to information as well as the sharing of this information” (Boeder, 17). Covenant House’s website is extremely easy to navigate with a site guide and menus to help viewers find what they need. Acrobat downloads and Real One Players are used to accentuate details about agency events.
Knowledge about the organization is shared through the website, news articles detailing the charity’s efforts, and word of mouth. Though Covenant House is primarily known as a provider of services for homeless and runaway young people, the agency places great importance on its role as a spokesperson for not only the youth it serves, but for all young people at risk. “In addition to advocacy efforts undertaken by each of Covenant House’s sites, Covenant House periodically publishes and widely disseminates books which tell stories of the young people who to Covenant House for help” (www. ovenanthouse. org).
The aim of these publications is to counter the often-negative stereotypes many people have of homeless youth and sensitize the public to the needs and ambitions of this very vulnerable part of society. The Covenant House publications also provide advice to parents on how to relate to a child they think may run away, and options for young people whose problems at home may cause them to consider alternatives. Having a website greatly benefits Covenant House’s fundraising capabilities. Donations can be made directly online, or sent to the addresses provided.
It also gives the organization a unique opportunity to learn more about their donors through “ongoing interactivity” (Boeder, 6). Covenant House raises a lot of their funds through a monthly sponsor program that automatically charges a set donation from a donor each month. They also receive regular donations of clothes, money, and time to their crisis centers. As stated by the financial statement available on the website, in 2001 Covenant House received over $99 million in financial donations from individuals, foundations, and corporations. They also received almost $13 million in government grants.
Covenant House holds several fundraising events throughout the year including golf outings and award dinners. Stakeholders in Covenant House include its 24 members on the Board of Directors, as well as two honorary Board members. Others are its thousands of employees, volunteers, and supporters of the organization and its cause. Though there is little information on the website about how the knowledge is shared within the agency, they do mention that Board members are actively involved with the staff to fulfill Covenant House’s obligations.
Since the website is quite advanced for a non-profit it would be fair to assume that Internet applications, such as e-mail, are a main source of communication within the organization. Covenant House’s work extends across the US, Canada, and Latin America. Though there are hundreds of other charitable organizations doing the same kind of work Covenant House is not very concerned with competition, as long as homeless and runaway youth are being helped. Covenant House is the largest privately funded childcare agency in the US with the amount of volunteers and donations growing every day thanks to the effectiveness of its website.