Jeri Curry — New domains and ‘OnGood’ community will change the face of the social sector online

When we spoke to Jeri Curry, President and CEO of Enset, she was preparing for an 11-day tour of Australia and New Zealand, the organization’s first big in-country launch. Created in 2015 by Public Interest Registry (PIR), Enset is a nonprofit domain registrar that helps NGOs register their exclusive .ngo and .ong web addresses as well as raise awareness, funds and support for their missions through the OnGood Community. Shifting the global nonprofit standard to these new domains is one step in a collaborative process Curry hopes will change the face of the social sector online.

curry_200WINGS: When you say these new domains will change the face of the global nonprofit community online what do you mean?

Jeri Curry: Right now .org is the standard but .org is not a validated domain and are available to any organization or person who wants to register that domain. Most .orgs are serving the social good but there are also for-profit entities using the domain. And it has also gotten political. A political action committee (PAC) in the US for instance can have a .org. There are also great crowdfunding sources out there using .org but it can be individuals raising funds, and sometimes it’s hard to distinguish between a nonprofit and a really well done individual campaign.

PIR is the registry for .org, .ngo and .ong. While .org will still continue to maintain its place in the social good sector, the distinction for .ngo and .ong is that they are a validated space. Prior to launching the new domains it was important to get the nonprofit community’s feedback, which PIR did. Nonprofits had voiced to the registry that they were in support of it, because they wanted something that was theirs, something that shows they are nonprofits and they are credible and validated. Likely the new global standard for non-profits over time will become .ngo.

WINGS: How does this new domain bundle differ from .org and how will the sector benefit?

JC: The .org domain was standardized, offering something that was consistent across all CSOs and NGOs, and now .ngo just takes it one step further. It shows that a nonprofit is registered in the country of origin and now others will recognize that just from the domain itself. This will hopefully create a greater level of standardization and an understanding of who is in the community, and maybe a broader exposure in the Global South and elsewhere, where nonprofits may not feel as connected. Because we don’t want competing names on a similar domain, when an organization purchases either domain (.ngo or .ong) it receives both. This is called a technical bundle. This is great because nonprofits can use it to appeal locally based on language.

On the foundation side it’s an important piece to the puzzle. What’s important to foundations is that they’re granting to validated and verified nonprofits. For foundations we feel that the .ngo is at least a first pass. I know many foundations go very deep in their validation of grantees but we feel we can offer, from a .ngo standpoint, the piece of mind that comes with knowing they’re working with a registered nonprofit, and a credible one. Something else that’s an important piece of foundation grantmaking is that they want their grantees to be sustainable. So part of sustainability is having a web presence and being part of the community online. From a mission standpoint, we’re aligning with what a lot of foundations want in terms of organizational development and the sustainability of nonprofits around the world.

WINGS: Tell us about Enset and PIR’s new OnGood portal.

JC: Enset was created so that there would be a registrar that was purely focused on nonprofits, and I think that’s an important point because the domain industry is very large and commercially driven and that’s great, but for those that carry .org, non-profits are not the focus, it’s not part of the mission. That’s an important distinction for Enset. We’re part of the community and not outside of the community. We’re excited by PIR creating the OnGood portal, which is still developing over time. The goal of OnGood is to provide a space where NGOs can interact. It also provides a membership directory where you can find organizations by theme and focus and donors can search for NGOs that do the work they wish to support. One of key benefit of these new domains relates to fundraising. When donors are choosing a cause to support, they often look to an organization’s website to verify their donations are supporting credible nonprofits. Many donors have a particular charity or nonprofit they support, but others may utilize search engines to look for organizations that are aligned to a donor’s personal interest.

However, simply looking at the nonprofit’s .org domain extension does not always ensure or provide validation of legitimate status as a charitable nonprofit, since personal, political, and corporate websites can also use this extension. In contrast, .ngo & .ong domains may only be used by validated nonprofits, so these new domain extensions give instant, internationally-recognized credibility to an organization.

OnGood is supported in five languages: English, Spanish, French, Portuguese and German. These languages were chosen based on interest from the nonprofit community. More languages will be added in the future, based on demand.

WINGS: In a recent NTEN blog you said, “the hope [is] to offer an online presence to both large and small organizations globally, especially in the developing world, and an opportunity to be part of a larger NGO community.” It sounds like a new tribe is coming together.

JC: Yes, I think so! And if I just put on my development hat for a minute, when I look at it from an international development standpoint, the question is can we help these small organizations or those who are trying to do good wherever they are – is there any way to make civil society stronger through standardization? Obviously this isn’t going to happen overnight or just because they have a new domain. But if there could be this hopeful piece of this that says we believe in making sure that everyone has the opportunity to be part of the conversation online – they have the digital tools and there’s digital inclusion – what would that look like? Could this potentially move development? I don’t have the answer or the data for this but I’d say that’s the goal. And it’s an equalizer. If you’re a community-based small NGO in Zimbabwe you’re actually getting the same domain on the same directory of OnGood as you would be if you’re a large well-known organization like Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). Down the road the other goal is that best practices can be shared between NGOs so all can learn from one another.

WINGS: How can WINGS members take advantage of this new domain?

JC: To register your organization, it is as easy as going to Register.NGO, where you can register for your .ngo & .ong domains, which are bundled together. In collaboration with WINGS, Enset is offering for a limited time a 25% discount at Register.NGO on new registrations using the coupon code “WINGS”. Many organizations will likely choose to register with .ngo & .ong domains and redirect them to their current .org domain address or to their profile page on OnGood, until they are ready to establish these domains.

View the Enset overview here (PDF). More WINGS interviews here.

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