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At Penn's Office of Library Development, most of our fundraising and communication activity is conducted in the "traditional" way: brochures, newsletters, annual appeal mailings, phone calls, personal visits, written pledge reminders, wall plaques, and bookplates. Were we to adopt an Internet-only pattern of communication, we would lose touch with the vast majority of our older constituents. This is a transitional time, and old methods must coexist with the new. However, the new methods are so revolutionary that they are transforming all forms of communication, and are leading to a new, "wired" mindset.

As the Internet works its magic in the home, the school, and the workplace, more and more people will use it as a basic tool--like the telephone. They will use the Internet to communicate with friends, check on cultural events, play games, find sports scores, plan trips, order products, acquire information, manage their bank accounts--and make charitable donations.

There is a place in this matrix for your institution. The challenge is to find out where that is, and to "take your place" in a way that serves your constituency and supports your future.

We believe that libraries and other non-profit organizations should move toward a "wired" or "web-centric" communications model. What we mean by this term is quite simple: Always start your communications with the web in mind.

Are you planning a new brochure? First, try out your written "pitch" and your design ideas on the web. If you like what you have created, then move toward production of the printed piece. While you are waiting for the designers and the printer, you will already have your promotional piece available on the web. Perhaps you can alert your e-Friends that the brochure is there, and invite them to have a look. Perhaps you can link it to your main site, and create an electronic response form, even collect credit card gifts online. If you need a printed piece right away, you can print one or more copies of the web-based brochure in color. If you need multiple pieces, make color photocopies of the printed web brochure.

Often, the creation of a printed brochure is the end of the creative process. With a web brochure, you may only be at the beginning of the creative process. For example, your brochure can be linked to additional web material that takes the reader further into your site, or into the project that is being promoted. Thus a piece on your renovation plans can easily lead to web pages on how the new spaces will be used, on who will use them, on what collections will be housed, what classes will be taught, and so on.

Similarly, the web can be the beginning of planning a special event. The first notice of the event can go online, as can a registration form. Pictures, drawings, and text can be added daily. New aspects of the event can be added, and considerable background material can be linked. After the event, a photo album can be created online, and printed versions can be circulated to your guests. If something of substance happened, such as a major address, then that can be put online in text, audio, or video. In addition to promotion and education the additional value of such a lively site is that it can serve as a rallying point for volunteers and staff. Want to know what's going on? Check the event site. Want to start getting the word out early? A page can be created as soon as you have conceived of the event--and even before the event is fully planned.

A wired development office, therefore, is not an office that uses the web exclusively to communicate with its constituency. Rather, it is an office that uses the web to plan, organize, design, and advance your entire communications strategy. It is an office that thinks of every scrap as a potential building block, whether that scrap is a picture, a well-turned sentence, a floor plan, a drawing, a music segment, a taped interview, or a video clip. It is an office that is aware of the multi-point and multi-dimensional qualities of web-based communications, and which achieves a new synergy between print and electronic media.

The wired development office exists in cyberspace, a new dimension in which the barriers of time and distance have been largely removed, and new forms of affinity and community are possible. Increasingly, staff of the wired development office will comfortable soliciting, acknowledging, and stewarding electronic gifts.

We development and public relations professionals are in the midst of a process of transformation. As this transformation occurs, non-profit institutions will find that their entire model for communication will be dramatically redrawn. The web will change from being an interesting addition to our communications mix to being at the very center of our mix. The Web-Centric Office. Or the Wired Office. Or simply the Modern Office.

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From the CD version of Fundraising and Friend-Raising on the Web: A Handbook for Libraries and Other Non-Profit Organizations. ALA Editions, 1998. Copyright © 1998, Adam Corson-Finnerty and Laura Blanchard, all rights reserved.