I was on the phone with one of my clients this morning who reported that she'd spent the last hour trying to find the text of a U.S. Senate bill and information on its status. Like many of us in the nonprofit world she needs this information to keep an eye on potential funding and program issues that may be impacted by legislation.
I did a quick search for her and stumbled across a nice little Web 2.0 tool, GovTrack. A 2006 Webby Award Nominee,
"GovTrack brings together information on the status of federal legislation, voting records, and campaign contributions. The site automatically tracks legislative events and categorizes them into thousands of subjects, such as "nuclear energy" and "medicine," so that users can subscribe to follow just the events that interest them. Events, like the passage of bills, are sent to users on a daily or weekly basis by email, or through RSS/Atom feeds."
The nice thing about the site is that individual nonprofits can keep track of federal legislation that may impact their organizations by signing up for a feed or e-mail updates in topical areas that interest them. No need to manually track a bill's progress--just sign up and you'll automatically be notified when there's action on an existing bill or a bill related to your nonprofit is introduced in Congress.
Even better, you can also easily copy code from the GovTrack to embed updates directly into your site or blog. So nonprofits engaged in advocacy can automatically notify their constituents about pending legislation as a service through their site. Or organizers of a network of nonprofits could embed the information into their site or blog as a service to members.
This is a great example of how a Web 2.0 tool can be leveraged to improve the quality of your nonprofit's information and services, adding value to a network.