Case Studies: CharityChannel

LISTSERV Philanthropic List Award:


By Stephen Nill, J.D., Founder and CEO of CharityChannel
June 2004

LISTSERV Choice Awards

CharityChannel is a 12-year-old worldwide community of more than 150,000 voluntary-sector professionals who work for, or directly serve, nonprofit organizations. In order to meet the demands of its rapidly growing community of professionals, in the mid-'90s CharityChannel moved from a third-party-provided e-mail list processing system to its own in-house LISTSERV and LSMTP solutions. The move, with full technological support of L-Soft, enabled CharityChannel to greatly accelerate the imaginative use of discussion lists as a means of congregating and expanding online communities around such topics as nonprofit accountability, boards and governance, law of tax-exempt organizations, accounting, public relations, asset management, grants and foundations, major gifts and planned giving, international giving, academic research relating to the voluntary sector, and dozens of other topics.

Moving to its own in-house LISTSERV and LSMTP solutions enabled CharityChannel to host, free of charge, dozens of private lists for professional organizations in the voluntary sector, such as numerous chapters of the Association of Fundraising Professionals in the United States and Canada, the National Committee on Planned Giving, the Canadian Association of Planned Giving, the Committee for the Advancement of Secondary Education, the American Association of Grantwriting Professionals, and many more. The latter was in large part incubated by CharityChannel, which supported it from its founding.

L-Soft's Solutions also enabled CharityChannel to donate lists to dozens of nonprofit organizations, such as the Southern Arizona Community Diaper Bank. LISTSERV and LSMTP enabled CharityChannel to help incubate this particular organization – the first of its kind in the world – by linking together, through e-mail based discussion communities, key volunteers and staff at a time when resources were scarce for the diaper bank. Today, diaper banks are springing up all over the world, looking to the diaper bank that CharityChannel helped incubate as a model. There are many more examples like this one.

Because LISTSERV and LSMTP have been instrumental in eliminating the barriers of time and distance, voluntary-sector professionals in every corner of the globe have discovered that they can now instantly have access to their colleagues with little more than an Internet connection. Though our largest base is in the United States and Canada, our rapidly expanding community includes professionals from every continent of the world.

There was a time when those who participated on CharityChannel described themselves collectively as a volunteer-driven online community of voluntary-sector professionals. However, with the recent introduction of our first international conference called the CharityChannel Summit, it became evident that the community strongly interacts both online and off. CharityChannel is dropping the "online" portion of its self-description, because the CharityChannel community is evolving into something that clearly exceeds that description.

Because of CharityChannel's move to LISTSERV and LSMTP, it is able to easily support the collaboration necessary for a worldwide faculty to prepare for the international conference. Lists are constantly being created, used, and then closed as the needs arise. This positive experience is leading CharityChannel to its next step, the creation of a global online education system for nonprofit-sector professionals, called CharityUniversityTM. The lists not only serve to bring faculty into strong collaboration communities, but to provide a means for course-takers to extend the learning to well after the conclusion of the courses.

Today there are nearly 200 public and private lists at CharityChannel, with 65,000 subscriptions to the organization's public and private lists. The remarkable thing is that the worldwide professional community that has congregated around CharityChannel grew entirely by word of mouth, and most often the point of entry for professionals is the act of subscribing to a discussion list. It is no exaggeration to say that CharityChannel would not have become the organization it is today without having switched to LISTSERV and LSMTP systems years ago. By providing the professional environment for nonprofit professionals to communicate with each other, share each other's burdens, and to educate one another, LISTSERV and LSMTP have been instrumental in enabling the organization to strengthen those who are elevating humanity – the men and women who work for and with nonprofit organizations around the globe.

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