Nonprofit Net Links:

History of The Nonprofit Net

In February 2003, I began talking to Narain Bhatia about starting a nonprofit organization. We knew each other through our involvement in Lexington, MA town government and we were both involved in various volunteer activities. We had also both started companies in the past. We quickly decided that we were more interested in helping the nonprofit sector generally than in focusing on a particular cause. During the next month, we investigated the nonprofit sector and formulated some ideas of problems the organizations faced.

Some of the things we learned included:

  • There are huge numbers of registered 501(c)3 (nonprofit) organizations. For example in 2003, Lexington, MA with a population of about 32,000, had about 200 nonprofits.
  • Most people can't name more than a few of their local nonprofit organizations.
  • Foundations have a variety of programs for urban nonprofits, but they provide hardly any support to suburban nonprofits.
  • Only about 4% of charitable donations (excluding donations to churches) go to local nonprofits.
  • Management of nonprofits is of vastly varying quality and sophistication.

Based on our findings, we discussed ways we could best apply our business and entrepreneurial backgrounds to benefit the suburban nonprofit sector. We concluded that the areas we could help most were in:

  • Education: Helping organizations to learn what other successful nonprofits were doing and how to accomplish those objectives.
  • Organizational visibility: If people don't know you're there, they can't donate to you or volunteer for to help.
  • Management: If nonprofit leaders learn more and have good opportunities to interact with each other and to attend high quality educational seminars, they will be able to improve their own on-the-job performance.

To advance these goals, we formulated a plan to create a monthly educational and networking seminar series. Because I wanted to bring in a salary, we also planned to build a consulting practice associated with The Nonprofit Net.

Armed with enthusiasm and ideas, we started interviewing leaders of various nonprofit organizations, consultants in the nonprofit sector and other people with a strong interest in nonprofits. Many of our ideas survived, some did not and we modified other ideas. Our core ideas were greeted enthusiastically, although a number of people told us that they would be very hard to implement.

Ultimately, we decided to create a monthly meeting with a format that would foster education, by bringing speakers, and networking, to foster cooperation among the organizations—many of which are small.

One of my contributions was to create a dynamic, data-driven Web site. This became a significant development effort, resulting in 11,000 lines of code and the database and was the foundation of the interactive portion of the site.You can see that site at:

We incorporated The Nonprofit Net in mid-2003 and received our 501(c)3 nonprofit status later in 2003.

In January 2004, we had our launch event at the National Heritage Museum. Representatives of more than 50 nonprofits, most but not all from Lexington, attended along with state representatives and Lexington political leaders.

In April 2004, we started our monthly seminar series. Our policy was to make these monthly 2 hour meetings free to the attendees. Organizations that wished to join our organizations were encouraged to support The Nonprofit Net by paying a small annual fee—up to $250/year for nonprofits with annual budgets of over $5million and less for smaller organizations.

In order to accomplish other goals we had put the consulting business on hold. Early in 2005, I started to look for other work, although I continued to support The Nonprofit Net in whatever ways I was able.

After my departure, a volunteer assumed responsibility for the web site. You can visit it at:

The local newspaper, The Lexington Minuteman, published an article about our 3rd anniversary meeting at which 3 citations were awarded, including one to me. A copy of that article is on my web site at:

The monthly free seminar series continues and the average attendance is about 45/meeting. Attendees come from as far away as Cape Cod, the North Shore and Worcester. Meetings are free and some organizations do pay annual dues. A few months ago, we began recording our meetings and they are rebroadcast on local cable TV.

There are also some organizations in Boston that are asking us how to create a similar organization in their area.

So, it seems that The Nonprofit Net has a future—which is very gratifying to me.