6 Nonprofit Technology Takeaways and One Killer Find from #12NTC | npENGAGE

6 Nonprofit Technology Takeaways and One Killer Find from #12NTC

By on Apr 11, 2012


It’s been a few days since I returned from the Nonprofit Technology Conference (#12NTC) hosted by NTEN in San Francisco, CA.

Holly and the rest of the NTEN team (including all the volunteers) did an incredible job inspiring of over 1800 people for three days. The conference was amazing!

Now that I’ve had a bit to get my brain together I thought I’d share a few key takeaways (for me) from the conference. Hopefully they’ll spark your thinking and motivate you to try a few new things.

6 Takeaways from #12NTC


1) Email is Hot

Now day’s every conference you go to has a HUGE social media focus. For better or worse.

#12NTC wasn’t void of sessions and discussion on the topic, but they made sure fundamental things like email were covered because of a rather large group of people (Eh? Everyone!) who still need to run effective email marketing and communications programs.

Rachel Weidinger and Lara Franklin, Senior Marketing Manager at TechSoup Global did a session that took a deep dive into getting the most out of your email communications by looking at how Tech Soup has been doing effective email communications for years. There was also a session on creating email campaigns that increase donations and optimizing emails for mobile phones, which leads into the next takeaway.

Key Takeaway: Email should be a critical part of every nonprofits communication strategy. Just like direct mail, email isn’t going away just because some new thing called social media came along.

2) Mobile (as expected) is On the Rise

Nonprofits and Mobiel
You probably have a smart phone in your pocket or on your desk right now.  According to a report by the Pew Internet & American Life Project nearly half (46%) of U.S. adults use smart phones as of February 2012, up 11% from May 2011 and 10% said that their phone was their primary means of getting online.

NPTech folks are keenly aware of the rise of mobile phone adoption and the need to evolve their online strategies so NTEN made sure the topic was covered by offerings sessions on strategies for going mobile, HTML5, and optimizing emails for mobile phones.

The Director of Idealware Laura Quinn delivered a popular session titled Affordable Program Delivery Through Mobile Phones. To get a full write up on the session head over to the TechSoup blog and read Mobile Tips from 12NTC.

Key Takeaway: From websites, to email, to apps to social media, having a mobile strategy that’s executed across all your online channels is a key part of future growth.

3) Websites Still Matter (A lot)

Nonprofit Websites
Similar to email in that websites tend to take a back seat to the more appealing and sexy topic of social media, #12NTC made sure there were a few high quality sessions covering topics about running a great nonprofit website.

You could learn how to create a better nonprofit websites with 52 tweaks, figure out if it was time to redesign your website (a standing room only, people hanging out the door session done by Farra Trompeter, VP at Big Duck), determine if you need a content strategy, and dig into creating a testing plan with no traffic, time, or budget.

Based on the number of website focused sessions and overall attendance it’s clear that nonprofits are always looking to improve their websites.

Key Takeaway: Your website is your property and the way a lot of the world will learn about your organization. Don’t let it go to pot because of all your focus on social media or mobile. Keep it nice, effective and evolving.

4) Strategy, Not Tools (Duh!)

Strategy for Nonprofit Social Media
In a lot of conversations and sessions you could tell there was a focus on being strategic rather than play with new tools or figuring out how to place a ReTweet button on your website.

Carla Schlemminger and JD Lesica led a 90-minute session titled You Need a Strategy, Dammit, Not a Twitter Account that focused on how to create a social media strategy for your nonprofit instead of starting with tool or tactics. Check out the slides here.

From sessions like JD’s, hallway conversations and an overall focus on more strategic thinking you could tell that nonprofit pro’s are in search of strategic thinking. Not simple tools and tactics.

Key Takeaway: Strategy first. Everything else will follow.

5) Data Visualization is the Next Big Thing

Nonprofit Data Visualization
Everyone is creating INFOGRAPHICS these days. I’m sure you’ve seen plenty (if not, here’s one).

Beyond simply creating neat graphics, nonprofits are starting to seriously think about ways to use the data they have to visually show their work, impact and results.

The area of data visualization, although not technically new (Edward Tufte has some experience here), is very new to a lot of folks in our industry which is why the one session on Data Visualization Techniques for Social Change by Beth Kanter, Brian Kennedy and Johanna Morariuon was well attended by a very interactive and engaged audience. Check out the slides.

Another way to tell data visualization was a hot topic … everyone there knew the word “infographic”. J

Key Takeaway: People starting to put more thought into the area of data visualization, but in order to pull it off nonprofits need to have folks on staff that have journalistic, data analysis and graphic design skills. If they don’t, consider outsourcing the work.

6) Gaming for Good

Although not a big part of the nonprofit tech conversation there’s clearly a group of folks interested in utilizing gaming and game mechanics for fundraising, community building and program delivery.

There was a great discussion about boosting fundraising and engagement that included Ken Weber from Zynga.org, Patty Hubber from Groupon, Ehren Foss from HelpAttack, Steve Kehrli from PETA and Frank Barry (me) from Blackbaud. The panel explored the impact that gaming and gamification is having on the nonprofits.

Check out the over 150 Tweets using the hashtag #12NTCGaming! and WATCH the recording > http://youtu.be/mG-ElS_9GJI   

Key Takeaway: Producing real games for good can be costly and requires a very unique set of skills. Applying game mechanics to existing programs and fundraising initiatives can add a very engaging new layer to otherwise unchanged element of your nonprofits work. In either case, make sure to do your homework and count the cost before you jump in.

One Killer Find, More Roundups and Visual Notes

While we were there, Blackbaud, NTEN and Common Knowledge released the 2012 Nonprofit Social Networking Benchmark Report. Obviously I’m biased on the killer find, but I think you’ll enjoy the report. Make sure to download the complete version. > http://bit.ly/npsocial

A few more roundups and tidbits for you …

Visual Notes

Check out the large versions of each image over on the rally.org blog. I tried to get them to cover my gaming for good session, but no luck this year. Maybe we’ll wow them enough to have them cover us next time J

Your Turn

If you attended NTC in person or virtually what did you learn? What was you one takeaway?



Frank Barry, formerly worked at Blackbaud helping nonprofits use the Internet for digital communication, social media, and fundraising. He’s worked with a diverse group of organizations including LIVESTRONG, United Methodist Church, American Heart Association, Big Brothers Big Sisters, ChildFund Int’l, InTouch Ministries, Heifer Int’l, University of Notre Dame and University of Richmond. Along with writing for industry publications like Mashable and Social Media Today, Frank facilitates discussions, presents solo sessions and organizes panels for industry conferences such as NTC, SXSW, BBCon and numerous others. When he’s out and about he enjoys talking to interesting people about how they are changing the world – check out his interviews. Say Hi on Twitter – @franswaa or Google+

Comments (7)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *