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Advansys Formativ used to assist victims of Hurricane Katrina

Novell Cool Solutions: Feature
By Advansys

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Updated: 8 Dec 2005

Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) is a non-profit organization which advocates for the right of parents to homeschool. Their organization represents the needs of over 80,000 member families and regularly communicates with them. HSLDA also founded the Home School Foundation (HSF), which focuses on helping homeschoolers in need. The size and nature of their organization requires systems and practices that are reliable, accurate and efficient.

HSLDA, a GroupWise user of over 200 mailboxes, uses its GroupWise email platform to communicate with over 98,000 subscribers to their Elert email alert system. GroupWise provides the security and reliability they need when communicating to their constituents. HSLDA uses Advansys Formativ to assist them in communicating accurately and efficiently with their large base of participants and members.


Many of us are familiar with the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina and subsequent hurricanes in the Gulf Coast region. HSLDA was affected significantly by the destruction of the hurricane as thousands of its members were left without the necessities of life. Understanding that they had the opportunity to communicate freely with a large population, HSLDA decided to use their Elert system to call for help from its 80,000 members.

HSLDA normally uses the Elert system for timely presentations of information regarding its legal activities, upcoming legislative events, homeschool conventions and advice for homeschoolers. John Bullock, Network Manager for HSLDA, stated that this was the only time that he could remember in which HSLDA was using the system to reach out to its constituents beyond its core mission.

Using their newsletter subscription list and newly created email accounts, HSLDA, via HSF, sent an email alert/invitation searching for individuals who were in need of help or who could offer assistance. The responses were overwhelming in both kindheartedness and volume. HSF immediately began receiving thousands of responses from those willing to provide shelter, money, and food and from others who were in need of such necessities. Many individuals throughout the 50 states offered their homes, money and food storage to those in need. The volume of responses caught HSF off guard and they soon found themselves scrambling for solutions regarding management of the emails and information. Without proper management of the information, many of the offers would go unused and many of the needs would go unmet.

HSF needed a system that would allow them to take an email and place it in an appropriate folder from which it could be extracted when the information was needed. Additionally, they needed to be able to quickly match needs with offerings based on geographic locations without having to continuously open and search emails for addresses, phone numbers, and other contact information. The solution would ultimately help them manage their information by allowing quick sorting and storage of information while decreasing the amount of time and transactions required from HSF employees.


HSF came up with three solutions that would help them manage and sort their emails and information. The first option was to use the GroupWise Frequent Contacts Book. This function of the GroupWise system automatically recorded contact information of respondents. However, within GroupWise there was no automatic means of organizing this information.

The second option was to hire assistants or employ volunteers. This extra help would sort emails into different folders and then manually extract contact information from each email and create Excel spreadsheets or copy entries from the Frequent Contacts address book to manually created regional or needs-based address books.

The third option was to employ Advansys Formativ and use its Address Book Applet to quickly select emails in a folder and create an electronic address book integrated with GroupWise.

Why Not Others

Options one and two were inadequate for a number of reasons. First, HSF needed a solution that was quick and efficient. Although GroupWise Frequent Contacts could store the contact information, it did not provide the means necessary to match needs with assistance. This would require employees and/or volunteers to search through emails and find those that fit in terms of needs, assistance, and location and then manually create and manage address books. Employing staff to manually read, sort and extract information from thousands of emails and create spreadsheets would also be too time consuming given the circumstances.

Why Formativ

HSF chose to use Formativ from Advansys because it offered them a quick solution that was easy to use and efficient in terms of meeting the goals of HSF. Advansys Formativ is a revolutionary product suite enabling organizations to extend GroupWise in just about any way they want. It transforms GroupWise into a business solutions platform for both the enterprise and individual user, taking GroupWise well beyond 'out of the box' messaging and calendaring. Formativ uses applets that integrate with GroupWise adding functionality and extending the capabilities of GroupWise. HSF chose to use Formativ because of its Add Sender Addresses to Address Book Applet, which is available free to Formativ users at Formativ Applet Central on GroupWise Cool Solutions.

Add Senders to Address Book Applet

  1. Select desired messages within the appropriate folder
  2. Right mouse click on the selected messages and from the context menu, click on Add Sender to an Address Book
  3. Use wizard to choose the target Personal Address Book which will store the sender address(es) - see Figure 1 below
  4. Allow applet wizard to extract appropriate information
  5. Use address book for desired tasks

Figure 1: Address Book selection from the Applet's Wizard

John Bullock and HSF employees used the above applet process to solve their email management needs. They were able to quickly sort emails into appropriate folders and then in a matter of seconds create address books with the Formativ applet that could be used to create matchups for victims and helpers.

The applet was attractive because it was easy to use. Bullock did not have the time or resources to train volunteers or individuals on difficult software. However, with Formativ, he was able to do the training in a few minutes or even by email. This small amount of training was all that was necessary since the applet wizards took users through the process step-by-step. Bullock did not have to waste time training or offering tech support. Using Formativ was easy for the novice as well as the expert.

Another reason that HSF chose to use Formativ was that it was extremely fast. Instead of taking hours to sort emails into folders and then read and extract contact information, HSF could quickly sort the emails and then extract the information in a matter of seconds. Formativ gave HSF the tools they needed to be faster and more efficient at responding to the needs of victims and utilizing the resources from those offering their goods and services.

Due to the success that HSF had with Formativ, they found that they were able to generate more donations simply due to the speed at which they were able to respond to and match needs with help. Their speed and efficiency made them more able to accommodate more aid which allowed them to expand their scope of help to those in need.


The implementation of Formativ was just as easy as its use by the users. Upon finding Formativ online at, Bullock downloaded the software to his desktop and in a matter of minutes he used the applet to sort and extract the information in one of his own GroupWise folders to a GroupWise address book.

The Formativ software allows the administrator to allocate applets to specific users using Novell eDirectory. Using this feature, Bullock was able to assign access to his employees in less than a minute. With one email, he was able to train his employees and in less than 30 minutes total, all were able to benefit from the Formativ applet.

Bullock said that HSF did not experience any technical difficulties or roadblocks during the implementation process. The software integrated perfectly with all of the components of their network infrastructure including their GroupWise servers and personal computers.

Moving Forward

Bullock and HSLDA plan to implement more of the Formativ applets into their business practices. Formativ comes with a number of preinstalled applets and users can find a list of more than 100 applets here or at Formativ Applet Central here in GroupWise Cool Solutions. Bullock says that he looks forward to evaluating Formativ with the new GroupWise 7 and using the two to enhance the services that HSLDA offers its participants and members.

For more information on Advansys Formativ - Novell GroupWise Client Extender, visit

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