Web portals are also opening the door to a different kind of association, one that Bellevue, Wash.based Northwest Venture Group Executive Director Lynn Aebi likes to call a "virtual organization."

NWVG resides on the Internet but, before that, it was an organization that hosted a monthly networking breakfast for member entrepreneurs and investors at various hotels in Bellevue. There is no headquarters and the nature of the organization's members--home-based, scattered, isolated--begged for a central community, but an expensive bricks-and-mortar headquarters was not in the cards.

"Members are early-stage entrepreneurs who have funded their business from personal finances," Aebi explains. "So when a NWVG board member heard of eSociety.com's work in building Web portals specifically for associations, the concept was a winner."

The planned launch for NWVG's new Web portal is sometime in February and, compared to what Aebi calls the group's present "static, online brochure" site, the improved portal, she says, will cement the concept of community with members. Among new features are tools enabling members to register for events online and search a job bank.

But Aebi bristles at term "portal" to describe NWVG's new Web presence. The term, she says, "implies people will pass through the site, which is not the case here. The whole point is that members will stay on the site and communicate among themselves."