postheadericon Top 10 Things I Learned from N-TEN’s Online Technology Conference

1. Nonprofits are getting past the basics. With well over 100 workshops (so lots of options to choose from in each track and session), there were some definite standouts in terms of attendance. It’s heartening to see that nonprofits are getting past the basics and looking to really drill down into their data, figuring out how social media can interconnect better with their other tools, and touching on new ways to reach people.

Most well attended workshops were:

  • Managing Your Personal and Professional Brand in Social Media
  • What Does the Data Say? Converting Analytics to Action
  • Social Media and Contact Relationship Management – The New Mix
  • What Donors Really Do Online: Nine Years of Fundraising Data from 1.8 Million Donors Uncovered and Interpreted
  • A Scientist in Your Communications Department: Segmenting Messages, Customizing Content, and Delivering Results.
  • A Storyteller’s Toolkit – 5,000 Years in the Making
  • Mobile Invasion: Which Mobile Strategies are Really Working Today
  • The Social Website: Integrating Social Media into Website Design and Function

2. Everyone else is getting tired of product pitches too. Equally as interesting are the topics that nonprofits were NOT as interested in. They had a whole track for “products” where software and other companies could presumably openly pitch and talk about only their product. These were universally not well attended. I attended a local NTEN conference in San Diego several years back and was horrified to see almost every workshop was a thinly disguised sales pitch so I’m really glad that they separated out the sales pitches from the real workshops – but clearly most people are just not interested in the sales pitch and maybe they should just be excluded.

3. IT guys (or any non-marketing people) should never be allowed to pick their workshop titles. These poorly attended workshops MAY have generated more interest if a) the titles weren’t so long or b) we knew what in the world they were talking about.

Examples:

      The Good, The Bad, and Averting the Ugly: Enhancing CiviCRM as the Database Platform for Community Organizing

 

      The Multiplier Effect

 

      Tech Track: Veritably Valuable Virtualization – Voila!

 

      A Unified Voice for the Nonprofit Technology Community: Possibility of Herding Cats?

 

      Learn How You Can Easily Support the Mission and Goals of Your National Organization Without Having to Give up the “Local Feel” That Makes You so Unique and Loved by Your Constituents

 

    Online Tools for Capacity Mapping and Resource Matching: The Big Picture

4. Nonprofits want to hear about the latest and greatest not yesterday’s news or sales pitches. These workshops were also not well attended:

      Enable The Supporter Journey™ with The Raiser’s Edge(i)™

 

      Innovating Your Program: Case Studies from the Field

 

      Observing Oz: Diversifying Your Office Culture-A Journey from Monochrome to Technicolor

 

    Tech Track: Keeping it Real (Secure) – Security in Your Network Neighborhood

5. Technology problems can happen even amongst the best of the best. OK – I’m just assuming that in a technology conference run by technology experts, filled with significant numbers of technology experts, that there would have been less problems. But apparently workshops couldn’t start on time, powerpoint presentations weren’t working (they said something about the “system” not being able to handle the number of people accessing the internet wirelessly – really? that couldn’t have been predicted?), and for us online users some of us using Internet Explorer couldn’t access the live video streams. And to make it even worse – we were told to check the HELP tab to fix the problem but some rocket scientist put the help tab within the interactive portion of the page (the iframe) which means that if your iframe wasn’t working (which was the most likely place anyone would have a problem) then you HAD NO HELP BUTTON. Brilliant.

6. Jeff Shuck, President/CEO of Event 360 is a fabulous speaker. The workshop was A Scientist in Your Communications Department: Segmenting Messages, Customizing Content, and Delivering Results. He clearly brought home the point that if we don’t deliver messages targeted specifically to that constituent we are essentially saying that “we’re just not that into you”.

7. Your website is still your most important online giving tool. According to a survey Network for Good conducted of its own clients, 65% of online giving happens through the nonprofits website, 25% through giving portals like Guidestar and 10% through social giving like Cause pages. Since Network for Good is the owner of many portals and social giving platforms, we have to assume that their numbers skew a little higher for those types of online giving than for general nonprofits not using their services. Either way, it’s a great number to think of in terms of how much time you spend on each of these platforms. Make sure your website online giving experience is really optimized before spending extra time on portals and social giving. Network For Good’s Online Giving Study.

8. Chocolate is a great tool to get people to understand segmentation. Groundwire, in their Secrets of the Engagement Pyramid workshop, gave a clever little test that had people scoring their love of chocolate and then separated people by their score to see how you would address each of the various resulting groups in terms of fundraising engagement. Nicely done! Although they started off with a bang, the momentum was lost in information tedium as they went through example after example of different engagement pyramid setups.

9. Sales Force for Nonprofits looks like a seriously kick-ass application. The customer relationship management software manages and tracks social media communications with constituents. Judi Sohn did a great job of describing how her organization uses it. Kind of a sales pitch but interesting nonetheless. SalesForce is one of those software-as-a-service companies where you pay monthly per use – not that fond of the model because you pay so much more in the long run but will check it out in more detail for a later blog! See SalesForce Foundation for more information.

10. Holly Ross, Executive Director of N-TEN really rocked her new shoes.

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