Joan E. Patton

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This study analyzed the use of computers and online information systems by nonprofit organizations. The study surveyed 98 environmental, 60 arts, and 48 health services organizations in the San Francisco Bay Area.

The study identified factors which executive directors of nonprofits consider most important for the effective use of an online system and for user satisfaction. Based on the findings, a list of questions was developed to assist nonprofit managers in evaluating the value of online services for their organization.

Among the 206 organizations surveyed, 66% were using computers, but only 17% were using them for some type of online service. Online services were used primarily for gathering data from specialized databases, exchanging information with other groups, and internal communication. No special applications were identified which were uniquely suitable for nonprofits.

Reliability was ranked as the most important factor contributing to a system's effective use, with cost generally ranked second. The importance of different factors, however, was linked to the type of online function.

The research showed a relationship between the level of computer expertise of the organization's executive director and the extent to which an organization used computers and online services.