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News Review

Proposal for a Voluntary Sector

Internet Task Force

Updated 31/5/01

This is a document supplied by Future Foundation for consultation. Please see bottom of page for next steps.

You may wish to refer to the draft manifesto which VolResource has prepared on Maximising the Opportunities of the Internet for the Voluntary Sector. There is also info on a useful report (May 01) 'More Than Bit Players' alongside our review of the Virtual Promise report.


The Internet is the dominant new technology of our age, which is changing the way that an astonishing breadth of commercial and public services can be, and are being delivered. The Virtual Promise report published in February 2001 looked at the existing use of the Internet amongst large charities and outlined the considerable potential for voluntary organisations. The report proposed the establishment of a Task Force (aka the Virtual Promise Task Force) to develop and co-ordinate Voluntary Sector use of the Internet. 

This consultation document expands on the idea of a Task Force and sets out some ideas for how it might be structured and operate.  In particular it focuses on the objectives for the Task Force and the structure that will support the achievement of those objectives. We want our proposals to have the widest possible range of ideas and input which is why we are distributing this consultation document.

In particular we are interested in responses to three specific issues:

  • Do you support the overall idea of what the Task Force is trying to achieve? Do you think the Task Force is needed? (And if you do please tell us by a letter or email from your Director or Chief Executive, or whoever is most appropriate. This will help us secure funding and support from statutory bodies.)
  • Do you support the various strand or sub-groups we are proposing? Do you think there are duplications or omissions?
  • Are there any specific objectives or activities that you would like us to include in our action plan or that you think might already be covered by other bodies, or that are unnecessary?

Purpose, vision and mission of the Task Force

Purpose: The Task Force exists to maximise the benefits of the Internet for voluntary sector organisations.

Vision: We want the United Kingdom to be the best place in the world for not for profit use of the Internet.

Mission: The Task Force aims to do this by providing a catalyst for development in a variety of ways, for example: by cross-fertilising ideas, by lobbying key decision makers, by securing funding for key projects, and by helping organisations collaborate on projects of common interest.

Scope and objectives for activities

The Task Force as a whole will meet on a regular basis.  However sub-groups covering a range of specific issues, will do the bulk of the work and individuals will focus their energy in the specific areas that interest them the most.  We hope this allows people to make the best use of their own skills and interests, and drive the overall Task Force forward.

Areas of activity for the Task Force

1. Suppliers and Portals


  • To have a competitive, thriving and diverse ecology for portals, websites, agencies and service providers helping charities use the Internet more extensively and more effectively.


  • Persuade the Charity Commission to work with a range of stakeholders from across the sector to make the current online charity register much more valuable as a communications tool.  At the moment, addresses on the website maybe registered solicitors, rather than trading addresses, while information such as website addresses and email details are rare, and all the information is in capitals!  By developing the existing register, it would allow members of the public to find out who does what in the not for profit sector in the UK.

  • A website is needed which gives access to (and information about) all the known voluntary sector portals and suppliers, so that any gaps can be explored and overlaps understood.

  • One website that would benefit the sector as a whole is a Trustee Register where charities could advertise for new trustees, and potential trustees could search for suitable vacancies.

  • The sub-group will have a key role in helping sector suppliers share information about the problems and pitfalls of working in the sector, as well as the opportunities for partnership, business opportunities and development.

  • The sources of funding for not for profit sector portals are uncertain and erratic.  One of the goals of this sub-group should be to encourage and develop the funding of portals by both venture capitalists and statutory bodies.

2. Setting Standards and guidelines


  • To provide a set of briefings, standards and guidelines which help not for profit users understand a breadth of internet issues, and use the internet to maximum effect


  • To create a full briefing covering all the legal aspects of Internet use, partnerships and alliances by not for profit organisations.

  • Draft a code of practice and guidelines to help organisations reduce the risks (such as inappropriate chat room dialogue or shopping sprees) to children and young people using their website.

  • Develop a 'How To' guide for not for profit organisations on developing and using their own website.  This will need to cover a range of practical issues from registering domain names to using external suppliers.

3. Small and medium sized charities (training and web development) 


  • To help small and medium size not for profit organisations develop their use of the Internet and to ensure that low-cost and accessible internet functionality and training is available to all not for profit organisations.


  • Create a range of training courses, seminars and conferences to help develop the skills of charities in use of the Internet.  These need to be easily available and at an affordable cost for small organisations.  This will include looking at mentoring, consultancy and training trainers to work with small organisations.

  • Within five years 50% of all voluntary sector organisations will be using e-training as an integral part of their training programme.

  • Agree a deal with online training portals for cost-effective access to online courses within a year of launch of the Task Force.

  • Research and stimulate the market for modular internet software so that not for profit organisations can develop their website functionality easily and cost-effectively.

  • Develop a support infrastructure for small and medium sized organisations to help them maximise use of the Internet.

  • 75% of all charities with a member of staff will have a web presence by 2005.

4. Communications, commerce and fundraising


  • To maximise the voluntary sector's use of the Internet for communications, fundraising and trading.


  • Five years from now, over 100 charities will receive more than 10% of their income from the Internet.

  • Get Government departments to allow government employees to have information about specific charities and ways of giving (eg payroll giving and gift aid) through the departmental intranet.

  • Persuade the Inland Revenue to let charities claim Gift Aid tax reclaim online, so reducing paperwork and speeding on repayments.  This would also make it easier to link reclaimed revenue with individual database record.

  • Develop the use of the Internet both for internal communications and communications with supporters and stakeholders.

  • Negotiate affinity deals with Internet suppliers to maximise fundraising income from the Internet.

5. Government and voluntary sector policy


  • To help create Government and Voluntary Sector policy that results in the most thriving not for profit use of the Internet anywhere in the world.


  • For the sector to be seen as a key partner by the Public and Private Sector in supplying dynamic, independent and authoritative information over the Internet.

  • Sector bodies (eg CAF, NCVO, ICFM, etc) will view sector development of the Internet as an important part of their role.

  • Persuade the Office of the E-envoy to set targets for Voluntary Sector use of the Internet and put them into next UK Online report (numbers of charities online, amount of revenue from online activities and breadth of services online, etc).

  • Persuade the Office of the E-envoy to fund a support service for small and medium sized charities equivalent to the service for small businesses.  This could be a dedicated part of the existing service or a new service altogether.  The service should include training as well as consultancy.

  • Lobby for the establishment of a fund to promote more widespread use of the Internet amongst charities and community groups.  A range of bodies could put forward proposals to meet an agreed set of criteria (benefit small charities, provide website building software, promote use by key excluded groups, sector capacity building, etc).  A panel could assess the proposals, and then distribute grants.

  • Work with UK Online to empower not for profit organisation to be able to tender for the provision of services to particular groups eg disabled people, volunteers, older people or rural communities.

6. Research and marketing


  • To ensure ongoing and systematic research into not for profit use of the Internet.


  • Fund research to assess the breadth of internet use amongst small and medium-sized charities (estimate of around £25,000 or less).

  • Repeat and update the original 'Virtual Promise' research in order to understand how charities use of the Internet has developed over the  previous year.

  • Collect and share 'best practice' experience on marketing of charity websites.

  • Aim for 25% of Internet users to have visited a charity website in the previous three months (up from the current 13-15%) by 2004.

7. Purchasing and cost-saving


  • To maximise the use of online purchasing and online services not only to save money but to improve service provision.


  • 75% of all charities will be using the Internet to make savings equivalent to 5% of their annual income within 5 years.

  • 75% of all voluntary sector jobs will be accessible over the Internet.

Composition of Task Force

The list below indicates some of the key stakeholders in the success of the Task Force.  This could be made up as follows:

Charities (6)

Sector Bodies (3)

Internet suppliers (4)

Co-Chairs (2)

Government departments (1-2)

The main Task Force will meet 4-6 times a year for half a day, with the sub groups (with additional members) meeting as often as necessary to push the issues forward.


Initially the Task Force will be co-chaired by Joe Saxton from the Future Foundation and Caroline Pile from Horwath Consulting.

Funding and resources

The Task Force at this stage will be driven by people's personal voluntary contributions of time and money. We believe we are able to do a substantial amount without funding, but inevitably we will be limited in the scale of our ambitions. However we will be looking for funding from a range of sources including trusts and companies.

We will be pressing the hardest for support from Government both through the Active Community Unit and the Office of the E-envoy since we believe that the work of the Task Force matches the policy agendas of both departments. In the medium term, we may look to register as a charity to formalise our structure and facilitate grant applications

Next steps

We would like as many comments and ideas as possible in response to these proposals, particularly focused around the three questions we set out at the beginning of this document.

  • Do you support the overall idea of what the Task Force is trying to achieve? (If you do please tell us by a letter or email from your Director or Chief Executive, or whoever is most appropriate. This will help us secure funding and support from statutory bodies.)
  • Do you support the various strand or sub-groups we are proposing? Do you think there is duplication or are omissions?
  • Are there any specific objectives or activities that you think might already be covered by other bodies or that you would like us to include in our action plan?

Meeting for interested people

A meeting is being held on Monday 25th June from 3pm to 5pm at Horwath Consulting, 25 New Street Square (off New Fetter Lane). This meeting will be an opportunity for anybody who is interested in the Task Force to discuss the areas they would like to contribute, and to make any comments on this proposal overall. If you are coming please let us know so we can get book the right size of room.


We would like all comments on our Task Force proposals by 29th June. We will then put together an action plan with dates and tangible objectives for the first year of the Task Force and beyond, by the end of July.

People who want to make comments or get involved should email either:

Joe Saxton ( or Caroline Pile ( Alternatively we can be faxed on 020 7251 8138 or you can write to 'The Voluntary Sector Task Force' at the Future Foundation, 14-16 Cowcross St, London EC1M 6DG.

Joe Saxton and Caroline Pile, April 2001