Online resource to assist would-be non-profit startups

The concept behind a new Web site for grassroots initiatives started several years ago when its creator was fielding calls from an overwhelming number of people seeking advice on how to start up their own organization.

ideaNation is a not-for-profit organization based in Toronto whose Web site ( functions as a virtual network to provide people and organizations with the resources they need to start and maintain community-based initiatives that promote positive social change. These resources include, for example, information on setting up projects, raising funds and planning events.

The volunteer-run organization was founded by David Furlong, who has 14 years in event management. Prior to launching the Web site, Furlong had become a go-to person for people who were developing their own projects without any previous experience.

“There’s a need for an organization that helps the individuals,” he said. “I didn’t find there was an organization that supported the individual who wanted to develop an idea, a project, and get it off of the ground. That’s what ideaNation is able to provide.”

To help design the Web site, Furlong and his team created over 200 cue cards that contained elements of what they wanted the site to include. In the end, that was whittled down to three principles – to inspire, to connect and to support people who want to make a difference in their communities.

Still in its infancy, the Web site features articles on individuals giving their expertise to not-for-profits and community projects such as a cancer fundraising campaign.

A few months ago, Furlong enlisted the help of friend Dharmesh Dayabhai, senior account executive at Streampoint Solutions, to help him build a Web site. Streampoint Solutions is a Toronto-based company that does online registration forms for conferences and tradeshows.

Dayabhai said the next element of the Web site will be a set of tools called project toolbox where people can access templates, FAQ’s, links and seek expert advice on setting up and sustaining projects.

“Initially it will start off with more event-related tools such as how to do fundraising, how to start up a business and how to create a timeline,” said Dayabhai. “It will have those templates online that they can download and use as part of their processes.”

The next phase, scheduled to be completed in January, will involve a SQL Server database on the back-end of the site that will allow professionals to connect with organizations that are looking for a particular skillset.

“We’re creating a database where a lawyer could go in and say, ‘I can give five hours to a charity,’ and (the database) would match the person up with various projects that are going on in that particular area,” said ideaNation’s Furlong.

The Web site will also eventually contain collaboration tools such as chat forums, b logs, project blogging and podcasts.

Aside from the site, Furlong said ideaNation is looking into starting a seminar series hosted at the MaRS Discovery District at the University of Toronto.

“A Web site can’t link the people together in one room,” said Furlong. Seminars will include topics such as event planning and public relations, for example.

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