Nonprofit Technology Conference #18NTC

NTEN's annual conference is always a special treat. Vendors and attendees all focused on making the world a better place while investigating the appropriate role technology plays in that transformation.  2018's New Orleans location offered extra fun with the French Quarter Festival overlapping at the end (music, art, celebration).  #18NTC programs contained threads organized by interest areas (marketing, fundraising, trends, programs, leadership, etc.)  With 144 sessions plus keynotes, Birds of a Feather lunch tables, Ignite talks and pre-conference workshops, to say the conference is robust is an understatement.  The following are my main take-aways from the conference, but if you are curious for more, be sure to check out their social channels with hashtag #18NTC.

BLOCKCHAIN: what it is and when to use it

Source: Photo taken by author

Source: Photo taken by author

Blockchain, the engine behind the cryptocurrency craze, is the trending panacea for all things digital.  This session, hosted by a consultant from Tech Soup and the leader of the charge on Blockchain at the World Economic Forum discussed how blockchain works, its opportunities and its challenges.  Most importantly -- they detailed when TO use blockchain and WHY NOT to use blockchain when a standard database solution will do.  The biggest lesson learned is that blockchain is being used or is in design for solving some of the world's biggest social problems.  The issues of environmental sustainability and blockchain's own linear ledger structure are challenges that will need to be addressed as its uses continue to grow.


Avalon Consulting Group with representatives from the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and the Monterey Bay Aquarium presented successes and future plans for using digital advertising as an acquisition path for annual fundraising.  Lessons learned included digital is valuable as a fundraising acquisition tool but it is only part of a multi-channel campaign (direct print marketing is not dead).  The second lesson is perhaps more important:  think broadly and evaluate over a long term when measuring impact from digital advertising.  An ad for fundraising acquisition might not generate an immediate donation but might generate an admission ticket and a later, larger donation through a separate pathway over time.

SOCIAL STORYTELLING FOR MORE MEASURABLE IMPACT: case study of Atlantic 57 + PBS Kids / Parents

This session connected changes in how nonprofits should mobilize their content curation to increase engagement and mission - impact.  The session was led by Atlantic 57 and discussed their consulting work with creating more narrow, impact-driven content streams with PBS.  Critical to the shift is recognizing that CONTENT IS MISSION WORK -- not sales or product promotion. How does your content achieve your mission? How is your content valuable to your readers? To move to this model, they recommended a) prioritizing your audiences, b) build for engagement c) have criteria for WHAT you will share and what you WILL NOT share, and c) hire with outcomes in mind.  For PBS this included evaluating all current channels of all the PBS online identities and minimizing to two discreet identities (PBS Kids& Parents and PBS Teachers) and actually cutting some social media channels. 

SKETCHNOTES:  analog meets digital for visual storytelling

@greglee from #18NTC

@greglee from #18NTC

Sketching can be a way to capture and visualize thoughts in summary for internal or external audiences.  Sketchnotes pop out what is important helping staff remember the content and context from a 90 minute staff meeting, for example.  While word for word notes are great for archival purposes, they are rarely used completely and for many the levels of importance are lost.  Sketchnotes offer presence, opportunity for creativity, deeper memory. The tools needed:  Paper and pen/markers OR for those dedicated to a life with a tablet, apps like Paper on IOS.  The best tools are those that work for you.  And practice by sketching a tv show or Ted Talk.   Resources for those who want to try this at home:  Mike Rohde's Sketchbook Workbook or Sunni Brown's Doodle Revolution

WORDPRESS -- the (once and still) powerhouse for website design

The Wordpress Connect meeting brought together nonprofit technologists and consultants who use Wordpress everyday. These small group connections provide hands on solutions to everyday problems.  While this is normally something that often happens 'off-site' at conferences, NTC helps by offering conference time for specific content areas.  At our session, discussions circulated around cleaning out your WP_options autoload, using page builder plugins, event calendar strategies, rationals for using Buddypress and building strategies by using WP multisite.

Overall -- #18NTC offered great connection, learning, and inspiration plus a big dose of fun.  The keynote by Luvvie Ayaji kicked the conference off with a tone of optimism, courage and leadership.  The conference closed with attendees taking that ethos back to their various institutions.  Looking forward to #19NTC in Portland, OR!