NTEN Communities of Practice (CoPs) are affinity groups centered on specific topics of interest, from community management to Drupal to nonprofits in the arts. These online groups provide support for your specific needs and interests and offer ongoing opportunities for growth.
But it takes more than a name and a platform to convene a group of thoughtful people; it takes volunteer organizers who are willing to give their time and efforts to build and maintain an online community. We asked NTEN’s great CoP organizers to help us understand why they answered the call to nonprofit tech leadership. Following are some highlights from the many answers we received.
Why did you start leading your CoP?
“The previous leader left the nonprofit world, and I wanted this CoP to continue to thrive. It’s helped me, and I want more and to help others.” – Richard Wollenberger, Technology Decision Makers CoP
“The CoP used to be only about blogging. I started the group about 8 years ago because I enjoy connecting nonprofit bloggers with each other and wanted to have a place to talk about blogs. I recently expanded the CoP to digital communications to meet the needs of the NTEN community and continue to lead the CoP because I enjoy this role.” – Emily Weinberg, Nonprofit Digital Communications CoP
“A couple of us met at NTC 2014. And while each of us came from different parts of the nonprofit arts community, we all wanted to see a stronger presence by arts groups at the conference. There was so much goodness on offer! I’m hoping we can create and sustain a space where arts groups can connect and share what they know (and especially what they don’t know).” – Dawn Heinen, Arts Nonprofits CoP
“I have 3 passions: 1) Technology; 2) helping people; and 3) talking. When I heard that the IT Directors CoP (now the Technology Decision Makers CoP) was looking for a cohost for the monthly call, I was excited to step forward. I enjoy working with Richard, and I hope that our efforts mean that other nonprofits don’t have to go through the trials that we endure.” – Alex N. Speaks, Technology Decision Makers CoP
“I was searching for more meaningful work. As if a light bulb had suddenly gone off, I realized that I wanted to use my 20+ years of database experience for causes that I felt passionate about. Last summer while lying in a hammock, I was contemplating my plan to transition from corporate to nonprofit work. I happened to have my iPad with me, and whatever it was that I searched for lead me to NTEN. I became a member and am now the CoP organizer for Nonprofits & Data. People I have met through NTEN seem to really like what they do. It’s so refreshing to meet people who choose to spend their time to make positive changes in the world.” – Shari Cartun, Nonprofits & Data CoP
“After attending the 2014 NTC I really wanted to connect with more women in leadership and tech and find a common story arc of how we ended up where we are today and where we want to go tomorrow. Also, I wanted to connect with more diverse women in tech and encourage all the women sitting outside during discussions to join and be heard.” – Veda Banerjee, Women in Nonprofit Tech CoP
What advice would you give to a new CoP leader?
“See what other CoPs are doing to get ideas. Try them with your CoP but know what works well for one CoP may not work as well for another. Create a survey for your CoP to see what your community wants.” – Emily Weinberg, Nonprofit Digital Communications CoP
“Co-organizers are invaluable. You need to be able to go on vacation! And if you’re an overworked staffer or a scrambling freelancer, sometimes other things have to take priority — be open with your co-organizers about when you can step up, and when you need to take a break.” – Ivan Boothe, Drupal CoP
“If something about your CoP is not working, try something new. Once you find something that seems to work, really commit to it. Schedule it way in advance (for example, we usually have ours on the third Thursday of every month, 1pm ET/10am PT). Have a single URL when possible where notes or resource lists can live. If your CoP is open to people who aren’t members of NTEN (ours is), then consider publicizing it in other places outside of the usual NTEN circles. There are lots of nptechies out there who don’t yet know about NTEN and would love to connect.” – Johanna Bates, Drupal CoP
“Don’t try to impose your ideas on your CoP. Instead, figure out what people are already doing and find ways to enhance that. Change happens best in small moves. I use that advice in lots of places in my career.” – Alex N. Speaks, Technology Decision Makers CoP
“I don’t have any advice yet, except to say I don’t expect to see much ‘community’ activity until we get critical mass (normally over 100 people minimum in my experience).” – Maddie Grant, Arts Nonprofits CoP
Describe one big failure you had while working with your CoP and how it made you a stronger leader.
“Firstly, there’s no such thing as failure, only adjustment of expectations 🙂 We’re too new to have failed yet, but we did realize we need to do more promotion of our calls. We had a ton of people for the first one, so didn’t try hard enough for the second and had a lot less people.” – Maddie Grant, Arts Nonprofits CoP
“Our first call was pretty lively and well attended. We were psyched. However, our second monthly call consisted of just the CoP leaders and one other person (a leader of another CoP who was just listening in to see how our two CoPs might intersect). No one else joined the call. The session was being recorded, so I felt more than a little foolish. It underscored the need for me to carve out some more time between calls to build awareness for the next call. – Dawn Heinen, Arts Nonprofits CoP
“One of the biggest struggles has been trying to find candidates for a monthly webinar. A lot of the amazing women that I think our group would like to hear from tend to be booked far in advance or charge for speaking engagements. We haven’t really been able to successfully engage in a discussion about what the group members want from the webinar or who specifically they’d like to hear from.” – Michelle Chaplin, Women in Nonprofit Tech CoP
“Since I’m new, I don’t have a failure to report! Yet. :)” – Veda Banerjee, Women in Nonprofit Tech CoP
How do you identify and develop emerging CoP leaders in your community?
“I cultivate participation by manually inviting members to the calls. When I invite 20-30 people, attendance is up.” – Richard Wollenberger, Technology Decision Makers CoP
“Johanna and I are both involved in the Drupal community generally, so we’re always on the lookout for other folks who would be interested in helping present on a monthly call, or folks who might benefit from being able to ask questions on a call.” – Ivan Boothe, Drupal CoP
“With this group, it’s mostly about encouraging people to step up and be leaders. Most of the members I’ve heard from already have great stories to tell and strong leadership qualities. Sometimes they just need to be reminded that they already have what it takes to do this! – Michelle Chaplin, Women in Nonprofit Tech CoP
“The group is so new that we are still trying to find our voice and foundation. Looking for emerging leaders in the community will be the next step.” – Veda Banerjee, Women in Nonprofit Tech CoP
If you were to write a book, what would the title be?
A life lived without blinders – Richard Wollenberger, Technology Decision Makers CoP
Judgy Judge Judger (I actually have this printed on a nameplate on my desk. A birthday gift from my now-husband.) – Dawn Heinen, Arts Nonprofits CoP
Luckily I have written a couple – Open Community and Humanize. Currently working on my next book, and having major trouble honing in on a title, actually. It’s about millennial thinking and how all generations need to embrace it to succeed in the new normal – I want to call the book Epic Win but my co-author’s not so keen. 🙂 – Maddie Grant, Arts Nonprofits CoP
Old Ivan’s Miscellany – Ivan Boothe, Drupal CoP
The Hollow and the Spring – Alex N. Speaks, Technology Decision Makers CoP
Ampersand: Noticing Both and And in an Either/Or World – Johanna Bates, Drupal CoP
What’s your favorite YouTube video?
Our hats off to the many amazing volunteers who bring together their local communities of nonprofit tech aficionados to support and further social change. Thank you!
It’s easy to join a Community of Practice— just look for the group that strikes your fancy, login to your NTEN account or create an account, fill out your profile, and join the discussion(s). Do you have an idea for a CoP? You can start one! If you’d like to start a group of your own, contact us, and we’ll help get your group started!