"It takes an Internet company to compete with an Internet company." If that's not your association's mantra, it should be, according to Anne Gordon, president and CEO of Seattle-based eSociety.com, a start-up Internet portal builder for professional and trade associations.
Gordon, whose roots are in Madison Avenue, saw the impact of the Internet on traditional nonprofits. Now Gordon, with the backing of venture capital, plans to conquer the Web portal world for her growing client list of associations. Gordon was recruited about a year ago by eSociety.com founder Tom Poole, who created Senior.com, a Web community for seniors.
Taking a cue from VerticalNet.com, eSociety.com recognized the power of for-profit commercial ventures to usurp the domain of associations by duplicating certain of their functions, such as gathering large groups of like-minded people in a central place and leveraging the benefits of group purchase power.
The trump card that associations hold, however, is their hallmark role in advocacy and education for members. "It's a role that no for-profit will ever take on," Gordon says. "There's a great benefit for associations in the immediacy of the Web to lobby for members and do grassroots work," Gordon says.
Gordon says eSociety.com can level the wild Internet playing field by creating Web portals and hubs specifically for associations with the "Three C's" as the backbone--community, content, and commerce. The commerce angle is what associations must target to stay alive economically, especially if for-profit companies are dipping into the well of e-commerce, an area ripe for nondues revenue.
The competition for eSociety.com is Web design houses, but Gordon explains a clear difference. First, the upfront costs are minimal in the scheme of things--about $25,000 to $50,000, an important feature for cost-conscious nonprofits. Associations then pay a monthly site maintenance fee. Second, eSociety's revenue-sharing model is designed specifically for association Web sites:
* Revenue from subscription-based services such as advertising, sponsorships, supplier directories, and job banks offered on a Web site is split 50/50 between the association and eSociety.com.
* A small fee is charged for the sale of goods and services on the site such as sales between association members, members, and their suppliers and between members and their buyers. This fee is also split 50/50 between eSociety.com and the association.
Why outsource portal design? Three reasons, Gordon says. First, Internet savvy and talent is hard to find and keep. Second, software is expensive and application know-how even more so. Third, if the up-front price is reasonable, that's half the battle.
For more information about eSociety.com, visit their Web site at www.esociety.com.