You may have attended your local Tech Club, as an attendee, speaker, or organizer. NTEN 501 Tech Clubs are informal, local groups that meet regularly in many cities. These meetings allow people interested in nonprofit technology to meet local colleagues, develop professional support networks, and talk shop in a relaxed setting.
But it takes more than a name and a place to convene a group of thoughtful people; it takes local organizers who are willing to give their time and efforts to build and maintain a local Tech Club. In honor of our June theme of “Tech Leadership,” we asked NTEN’s great Tech Club organizers to help us understand why they answered the call to nonprofit tech leadership in their communities. Following are some highlights from the many answers we received.
Why did you start leading your Tech Club?
“I wanted to create a tech club that was more than just a talking head meeting of local nonprofits. I wanted to create a group of local nonprofit leaders that gets its hands dirty working with real tech challenges – issues that nonprofits are facing now and need help solving to make their organizations more efficient, more sustainable, and more able to accomplish their missions using technology.” – Craig Grella, Steel City Nonprofits (Pittsburgh, PA)
“I liked the idea and put out feelers to some friends in the nonrprofit tech world here, and they said heck yeah. So we did it. I don’t think I would have gotten it rolling if it hadn’t been for about 8 people that showed up when I asked them to for that meeting. They also provided presentations to get us going.” – Dale Thompson, Austin 501 Tech Club (Austin, TX)
“Although technology has become more and more accessible across all sectors, I perceived a gap in educational opportunities in Denver. Plus, the peer-to-peer opportunity present in a Tech Club is really appealing. The Denver/Boulder area also abounds in tech start ups so it almost seemed mandatory that there be a nonprofit tech group here as well.” – Amy Quinn, Tech4Good Denver (Denver, CO)
What advice would you give to a new Tech Club leader?
“I think that you can’t sweat the small stuff. If the food isn’t ready right when you arrive, it’s ok; if the speaker is 10 minutes late, that’s fine too. Overall, it’s the quality of the entire event, not the specifics, that make the NTEN event worthwhile.” – Julie Dennis, 501 Tech Club DC (Washington, DC)
“Just jump in! There are a million ways to help. If you have an idea, run with it!” – Sara Rasmussen, PDXTech4Good (Portland, OR)
“Don’t get discouraged. Ever. Talk to other Tech Club leaders. Always.” – Birgit Pauli-Haack, NFN4Good TechClub SWFL (Naples, FL)
“Make sure you read your audience well. If people are asking a lot of questions every month, make sure to leave time for discussion and questions. Cast a wide net to get people involved who maybe don’t know about NTEN – use your personal networks wisely. Don’t forget social events too!” – James Porter, 501 Tech NYC (New York City, NY)
“Plan ahead. You’re likely juggling a lot of tasks if you work full-time and lead your Tech Club in your “spare” time. We’ve found it really helpful to plan in December for our Jan-June events and then plan in May our July-Dec events. This lets our community know the types of activities and topics they can expect from us for the next six months and has helped with RSVPs and interest.” – Paula Jones, NCTech4Good (Triangle Region, NC)
“Have fun! The best part of Tech Club is the connections you make and can see happening with your group. I remember our first few meetings, no one knew anyone else. Within a year there were great friendships starting, and we all developed valuable connections to colleagues who shared our concerns and interests. After one of our summer breakfast with an expert series ended, one member said it was like having to leave summer camp. He really enjoyed meeting with the group for our programs and was sad to see it end!” – Kathleen Malin, 501 Tech Cub Rhode Island (Providence, RI)
How do you identify and develop emerging Tech Club leaders in your community?
“We perform pre and post meeting surveys to get information about the effectiveness of our events, and also ideas and needs for future events. I personally follow up with everyone who returns a survey. These dialogues are invaluable in finding new talent and future leaders for our group, and the local nonprofit community in general.” – Craig Grella, Steel City Nonprofits (Pittsburgh, PA)
“Amazingly, several people stepped up on their own to help. Opening up my schedule for short-ish meetings to keep momentum. Email is great, but face-to-face is much better – as often as possible, but not so often that they resent the time commitment.” – Dale Thompson, Austin 501 Tech Club (Austin, TX)
“Identify who consistently comes to events, engages in discussion, is active in the online community, and shows a passion for NTEN!” – James Porter, 501 Tech NYC (New York City, NY)
“Find the people who are passionate about nonprofits and technology. You’ll know who they are because they’ll be the ones who are most active in local tech groups and in nptech conversations online. Take them to lunch and learn more about what they’re doing. More than likely their goals will align with your Tech Club and viola you have a new leader eager to help you!” – Paula Jones, NCTech4Good (Triangle Region, NC)
“We always build in social time before and after each forum. This allows us to get to know who regularly attends our forums. These attendees can make good candidates. Secondly, our board continually seeks out potential members within their own networks. We have created board job descriptions and when we bring on a new leader usually it’s with a specific job in mind. Also, we like to have representation of all size non-profits across the technology, fundraising and communications/marketing ‘buckets.'” – Amy Quinn, Tech4Good Denver (Denver, CO)
If you were to write a book, what would the title be?
The Nontrepreneur – or the nonprofit’s guide to entrepreneurship and reducing reliance on foundation funding. – Craig Grella, Steel City Nonprofits (Pittsburgh, PA)
If My Life Were A Musical – Julie Dennis, 501 Tech Club DC (Washington, DC)
QuickBooks and Nonprofits – Dale Thompson, Austin 501 Tech Club (Austin, TX)
The Music in My Head – James Porter, 501 Tech NYC (New York City, NY)
Finding My Way – Jason Mata, 501 Tech Club San Antonio (San Antonio, TX)
Hunter-isms. I’ve been collecting short phrases that my son, Hunter, has said over his 11 years and I cherish them. It’s really fun to go back and read them. – Paula Jones, NCTech4Good (Triangle Region, NC)
Cooking Fun – Judy Hallman, NCTech4Good (Triangle Region, NC)
I’ll Clean My Desk Tomorrow – Kathleen Malin, 501 Tech Cub Rhode Island (Providence, RI)
Confessions of a Philanthropic Hitman – Ricky Bogert, 501 Tech Cub Rhode Island (Providence, RI)
I have written a book and it’s called Fundraising Innovators: Leaders in Social Enterprise Share New Approaches to Raise Money. The first chapter explores how the use of technology can help raise money. I learned about NTEN when researching for this book. My second book might be called Venture Out which would explore the benefits and “how tos” of regularly living outside of our comfort zone, pushing ourselves more often to the edge! We only have now. – Amy Quinn, Tech4Good Denver (Denver, CO)
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!
If you would like to meet a 501 Tech Leader near you, Join one! It’s easy to join your local 501 Tech Club – just look for the group closest to you, login to your NTEN account or create an account, fill out your profile, and go to the next meeting. New groups are forming all the time. Don’t see a group near you? You can start one! Find out more about what it takes to start a 501 Tech Club. Contact the NTEN community team who can help answer any questions, and help you get started!