University of Delaware Office of Public Relations The Messenger Vol. 5, No. 3/1996 Nonprofits coordinate services via Diamond.net Delaware's nonprofit and community-based organizations now have a state-of-the-art on-ramp to the Internet, allowing them to communicate electronically with each other and government agencies through Diamond.net-an electronic bulletin board system. Using seed money from the Delaware Community Foundation, the University's Center for Community Development purchased the hardware and software for the system's server and is the host organization for the network. Delaware is the first state to offer such a program and, since its introduction last February, news of Diamond.net is spreading, according to administrator Jason Alexander, Delaware '96M. New clients are being added daily; other states are considering similar systems; and the program has attracted attention from the federal government, including the Department of Health and Human Services. Diamond.net is "absolutely the best system available for the nonprofit sector," Alexander says. "We chose a bulletin board format because the system doesn't concentrate just on information going out. It also allows users to put in information." All anyone needs to gain access to Diamond.net, Alexander says, is a computer and a modem. Diamond.net will work on "the oldest and slowest computer in the world" and can use MAC, Windows or DOS. "The system supports them all." It takes 5 to 10 minutes to install and is accessible from all points in the state, using a toll-free 800 number. Specifically, Diamond.net allows registered users to exchange information via electronic mail, file transfer, local newsgroups and on-line conferencing, while also connecting users to Internet e-mail. The "virtual community" provides a forum for the free exchange of ideas, thoughts and data to assist agencies throughout the state in developing new and dynamic strategies for change. With the click of a mouse button, organizations can coordinate service delivery between agencies and automate client referrals; collaborate and plan with other agencies; advertise events and available services; pursue fund-raising and advocacy activities; and conduct on-line discussions with other agencies on relevant and timely topics. An example of Diamond.net use is ACCESS Delaware, a data base of all government and community services available to state residents. Using Diamond.net, individuals in need of services can scan the data by type, location or agency name to determine those services for which they may be eligible. The Delaware Food Bank uses Diamond.net to post an updated inventory of its food supplies. Previously, agencies wanting supplies from the Food Bank had to have an inventory list mailed to them or had to send someone to the bank to fill out an order. Now, agencies can dial in, check the inventory list and make requests. This represents "a vast improvement in service delivery," Alexander says. Still another use is an on-line career center provided by DANA, the Delaware Association of Nonprofit Agencies, where job seekers can have their resumes scanned into the system, making them available to prospective employers. The Parent Education Partnership Network, a group of approximately 40 agencies dealing with parent education issues, uses Diamond.net to exchange information and avoid hard-to- schedule and time-consuming meetings. "It's a simple, efficient and cost-effective way for agencies to communicate with each other," Steve Peuquet, associate policy scientist at center, says. He and Alexander set up the network. The five areas within Diamond.net include: Mailbox, which allows members to communicate with each other or the entire group through e-mail; The Commons, serving as a town square where people can talk about whatever they want, divided into several topical areas such as housing, health issues and environmental concerns; Main Street, which has "offices" for individual agencies to post public information or where they can establish private offices with limited access for such items as minutes of meetings, tentative agendas or preliminary reports. This section of Diamond.net has a minimal fee, based on an agency's administrative budget; Resources, including a catalog of all documents on Diamond.net, funding opportunities, a statewide calendar of training classes and conferences, job opportunities and more; and System News & Help, which provides information and instructions on the system itself. Because Diamond.net is available 24 hours a day, many who use the system are able to access it in the evenings or on weekends from their homes. "I have Diamond.net at the office, on a laptop and at home and I do work a lot, which upsets my fiancee a little," Alexander says. "But, for right now, it's so new, it's like having a new baby." For information, contact Alexander by e-mail at Jason.Alexander@mvs.udel.edu or call (302) 831-3467.