by Sarah Stapleton-Gray, Internet and LAN Manager
While the Internet can be a quick way to retrieve information, it can also be a great networking tool for activists, especially for those who are busy and hard to reach by phone, such as college students. NOW expanded its outreach—easily and inexpensively—on two recent events thanks to the Internet.
To help organize and promote the Women of Color and Allies Summit, NOW used the Internet several different ways:
Information on location, dates, registration and speakers appeared on our own web site (http://www.now.org). We sent an e-mail message with this information to all of the NOW members and non-members on our action-alert list. A large percentage of the requests for information about the Summit came by electronic mail, and several of the Summit sponsors signed up using our web form. We then linked to the sponsors' sites from our web page and asked them to link back to our Summit information.
NOW also posted information and links to our site on Usenet newsgroups at soc.feminism and misc.activism.progressive. Usenet newsgroups are ongoing Internet discussion groups on specific topics where visitors can choose what messages they want to read and then post responses. Another way to reach a targeted audience is through electronic mailing lists, and Joan Korenman has compiled an extensive list of "Gender-Related Electronic Forums" (http://userpages.umbc.edu/~korenman/wmst/forums.html).
In an effort to mobilize student involvement, NOW visited the Center for Campus Organizing's web site (www.cco.org) and sent a Summit announcement to one of the e-mail lists found on the site: CAN-RW (the Campus Activist Network on right-wing policies). Without any more work on NOW's part, the information spread and soon announcements about the Summit turned up on college web sites, such as the Afrikan Student Union's site at Ohio State University and the Diversity Connection web site at the University of Maryland.
Notices were also sent to feminist and women-oriented sites that have calendars and were placed on online calendars at electrapages.com, feminist.com and the Feminist Majority's site (www.feminist.org).
We made sure to ask activists to forward Summit information, and the event ended up on the electronic "Peace and Justice Events" calendar and at sites such as the Alaska Women's Network (www.juneau.com/akwomen/), Pleiades.net, www.igc.org and many more.
The NOW Political Action Committee also publicized its annual Party with a Purpose on our web site and asked other organizations and activists to link to our page on the fundraiser (you can connect to the NOW PAC site from the main NOW site). We sold about 10% of the tickets through the web site, which can securely encrypt, or scramble, credit card information.
The Women of Color and Allies Summit and Party with a Purpose successfully made use of cyber-networking, reaching a number of people who may not have heard of these events otherwise. If you have an action, rally, conference or fundraiser you want to promote, try using the Internet as an important supplement to your grassroots networking!