Reflections from the Road | npENGAGE

Reflections from the Road

By on Apr 11, 2007


(originally posted on BlogBaud)

I just wrapped up six weeks traveling from East Coast to West Coast and points in-between visiting with a number of nonprofit organizations along the way. While I could share my thoughts on the state of the airline industry I thought there might be some value in covering some ideas and trends I came across during my travels. So here goes…

Strategy Stills Trumps Technology: Just like in the dictionary, strategy always comes before technology. Not having a strategy is like driving cross-country without a roadmap. Yet a lot of organizations still seem to be throwing the map out the window when making technology decisions. I found myself caught-up in more than one discussion where people were more focused on moving the mouse than moving their mission. Don’t let small shiny objects distract you from your organization’s North Star.

Marketing, IT, and Development Really Can Co-Exist: A major problem faced by many organizations is website disenfranchisement. One group, typically marketing or IT owns the website and other departments don’t always get a vote in what goes online. Often the development office isn’t allowed to join in any online reindeer games. But things are changing and change is a good thing. Development is getting its well deserved seat at the table because brochureware websites don’t get the job done and the tools to make things happen no longer require major IT involvement.

The Climb to Web 2.0 Continues: For every nonprofit leveraging Web 2.0 technologies to build relationships there are dozens still struggling to move beyond Web 0.5.  Organizations still struggle with acquiring email addresses, converting website visitors into investors, providing a personalized experience, and stopping finance departments from throwing tantrums over transaction fees. If you lack mountain climbing experience, then don’t rush off to scale the highest peak first. Start by establishing a strong foothold using proven online tools and techniques. Get results from doing the basics and you will find it a lot easier tackling more challenging heights.

Hope Still Springs Eternal: The positive takeaway from my time on the road is that there are a lot of hidden success stories out there. Organizations are going great things online despite limited budgets and the lack of technical horsepower. This has created more of a level playing field where a nonprofit of any size can get impressive results. In some cases these successes are being driven from the ground up, but it also very encouraging to see these endeavors led by senior leadership. In future posts I’d like to share some of these success stories.


Steve MacLaughlin is the Vice President of Data & Analytics at Blackbaud and bestselling author of Data Driven Nonprofits.

MacLaughlin has been featured as a fundraising and nonprofit expert in many mainstream publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, USA Today, The NonProfit Times, Stanford Social Innovation Review, Bloomberg, and has appeared on NPR.

He is a frequent speaker at events including the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), Association for Healthcare Philanthropy (AHP), American Marketing Association (AMA), Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE), Direct Marketing Fundraisers Association (DMFA), Giving Institute Summer Symposium, National Association of Independent School (NAIS), Nonprofit Technology Conference (NTC), Institute of Fundraising National Convention (United Kingdom), Civil Society Conference (Netherlands), International Fundraising Congress (Netherlands), Ask Direct Fundraising Summer School (Ireland), and a keynote speaker at several conferences across the social good sector.

Steve previously served on the Nonprofit Technology Network (NTEN) Board of Directors and is currently an adjunct faculty member at Columbia University.

He is a frequent blogger, published author of a chapter in the book People to People Fundraising: Social Networking and Web 2.0 for Charities, and is a co-editor of the book Internet Management for Nonprofits: Strategies, Tools & Trade Secrets. His latest book, Data Driven Nonprofits, became a bestseller in 2016.

Steve earned both his undergraduate degree and a Master of Science degree in Interactive Media from Indiana University.

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