New Brunswick, N.J., June 19, 2000 — Rutgers professor Dr. Michael Shafer calculates that if every person in New Jersey over the age of 13 were to pledge just one hour of volunteer time per year, nonprofit organizations statewide would benefit from 5 million hours of community service annually.
That was the theory behind Shafer’s
“Give an Hour”
campaign, which last spring helped launch njserves.org, a Web-based clearinghouse for nonprofit organizations in New Jersey that Shafer and his students developed under the auspices of Rutgers University’s Citizenship and Service Education (CASE) program. This unique Web portal contains a database of 40,000 civic-sector organizations and, thanks to the
“Give an Hour”
campaign, the names of 10,000 individuals who are interested in community service.
“Our idea is to provide an essential community service at no cost to the users, and at no cost to the taxpayers and citizens of New Jersey,”
“Assistance comes from corporations like Microsoft that want to support the community.”
When Shafer began this project two years ago, he found many nonprofit organizations asking how to get onto the Internet and where they could find helpful resources online. His initial survey of nonprofits in New Jersey, which he undertook to create a database for the site, indicated that 95 percent of the organizations he wanted to include on njserves.org did not have their own Web site.
“I concluded that CASE had to engage in the problem of getting New Jersey nonprofits onto the Internet,”
“njserves.org has given many nonprofits their first Web presence.”
njserves.org offers a searchable Web directory of New Jersey’s civic organizations: who they serve, how they serve them, where they’re located, and how to find them whether they are on the Web or not. Other services on the site include an online matching of volunteers and civic organizations, a digital warehouse of donated goods and services, a calendar of statewide community events, an online newspaper, and thousands of links to nonprofit, corporate and governmental Web sites. njserves.org also includes information on foundations, government agencies, chambers of commerce, municipalities, city counselors and political parties.
“What this site does so well is use technology to create a sense of community across the state of New Jersey,”
said Colleen Farrell, Microsoft’s community and media relations representative in the New York/New Jersey area.
“njserves.org is a great example of technology as an enabler-helping nonprofits get access to skills and/or people that would be difficult or costly to reach through traditional methods and enabling the sharing of information in new and positive ways.”
Experts agree that computer skills and access the Internet are becoming increasingly important for full participation in this country’s economic, political and social life. Microsoft’s corporate philanthropy is focused on creating greater access to information technology in communities throughout the United States, so collaboration with njserves.org was a good fit, Farrell said. In fiscal 1999, Microsoft donated $25.5 million in cash and $79 million in software to nonprofit and educational organizations to help make technology’s benefits and opportunities available to people worldwide.
Using software that Microsoft contributed, njserves.org is based on the Microsoft Windows NT operating system and uses several other Microsoft technologies, including Visual Interdev/Visual Basic. njserves.org uses Microsoft Office 2000 at all of its workstations and is in the process of adding Microsoft Exchange to facilitate communication and collaboration among staff. The Web site itself runs on NT Server 4.0, using Internet Information Server as the Web server, and the data is served up by SQL Server 7. njserves.org has recently installed Office 2000 Server Extensions to the Web site to facilitate collaboration among its Web developers. The site uses Microsoft Active Server Page technology throughout.
In the near future, Microsoft also plans to assist njserves.org in upgrading to Windows 2000 Professional and Windows 2000 Server.
“The powerful combination of Microsoft’s SQL Server 7 and Internet Information Server has allowed us to create and manage a huge database and to provide results to users with amazing speed as they search our Web site for information,”
said Ed Angelina, director of technology for njserves.org.
“Microsoft has provided us with every piece of software we’ve needed.”
New Jersey’s civic sector is represented on njserves.org by hospices, ethnic associations, schools, houses of worship, volunteer centers, fraternal organizations, gardening clubs, veterans’ posts, museums, United Way chapters and community theaters.
“njserves.org provides another avenue for individuals to access information about what’s going on in their communities,”
said Jay McMurren, director of planning and program development at the United Way of Central New Jersey.
“Whether it’s news, information about the nonprofit sector or volunteer opportunities, njserves.org gives individuals who may not have the time to call one of our offices during the day the opportunity to sign on at their leisure and get connected to the United Way.”
New Jersey’s Civic Education Consortium uses njserves.org to track down other organizations that might be interested in joining them in their work to improve civic education in the state.
“Our goal is to make civic education materials more accessible to teachers in the state,”
said Tobi Walker, senior education associate at the Eagleton Institute of Politics who oversees the consortium.
“njserves.org is a model and a framework by which we can make resources available to teachers. Ideally, we’d like to see a teacher be able to sign onto njserves.org and search for a lesson plan about a particular topic and find a lesson plan submitted by another teacher.”
Sarah Thoma, director of the New Jersey Governor’s Office of Volunteerism, calls njserves.org
“a tremendous resource to New Jersey’s volunteer communities. It not only connects you to some of the endless possibilities that exist to volunteer, but more importantly it connects people, organizations and opportunities to help make a positive difference. njserves.org also benefits the civic sector by providing a one-stop resource for volunteers that matches skills with opportunities.”
Shafer would like to do a
“Give an Hour”
event every two to three months.
“Collecting 5 million hours worth of pledges for community service is a reasonable goal, but it’s very challenging. We’ll need njserves.org to reach out and engage a very large proportion of New Jerseyans to build our virtual volunteer bank.”
Shafer figures that everyone in New Jersey has at least an hour to spare – especially in a leap year like 2000 – and he wants to make it easy for them to donate their time to an organization that is doing good work in their community. It seems to be working.
“njserves.org is bringing people and organizations together in an exciting new way that’s certainly unique in New Jersey and, from what we’ve seen, perhaps in the country,”
“njserves.org helps put volunteering at your fingertips,”