March 20, 2015

Report Back from Drupal Day 2015

Drupal Day has come and gone, and while the event itself goes by in the blink of an eye, the lessons learned resonate long after the conference ends. I spend a great deal of my time blogging about why people should get out of their comfort zones and take a deep dive into new technology—not just in an online forum, but in an honest-to-goodness social situation. I know that, for a lot of people, this is terrifying. But the spirit of Drupal Day is inclusive, and all of the introverted anxieties I start to feel during the few weeks leading up to the event dissipate instantly as soon as the room fills up. The enthusiasm is contagious. Judgment? Non-existent. No matter your technical competency level, you’re welcome at Drupal Day, and it’s this culture that’s been fostered that makes me so proud, and privileged, to coordinate Drupal Day.

So what is Drupal Day exactly? It’s a day-long workshop that NTEN has incorporated into the Nonprofit Technology Conference as a pre-con event. ThinkShout has had the honor of coordinating this event for the last four years. This year, we were very fortunate to have so many fantastic speakers volunteer to lead breakout groups, allowing us to offer a wide variety of sessions. This year, we heard from four nonprofit case study presenters, Lisa Goddard from the Capital Area Food Bank of Texas, August Adams of Families USA, Craig Sinclair from the Manhattan Neighborhood Network, and Kirsten Sims from Cradles to Crayons. They all provided such diverse and relatable stories, and fantastic examples of how they’ve put Drupal to work for their organization. Each of their stories varied widely, and we explored fantastic use cases, like Salesforce being leveraged to streamline both volunteer and donation processes. We saw Drupal used to manage a massive library of media, and learned from firsthand sources how an organization making the switch to Drupal can set themselves up for success.

The Immersion Experience

One of my favorite aspects of Drupal Day is that the technical competencies of attendees span the spectrum, from Drupal-savvy developers, to nonprofit staff that are simplytrying to get comfortable with Drupal terminology; their personal stories all differ, and Drupal Day is the opportunity that both sides need to bridge the gap between those two worlds. We’ve all been at square one before. The better we are at remembering that and empathizing, the better we are at providing a positive experience for others who are new to the community and less familiar with the lingo.

Drupal Day in particular provides an environment that I consider a shining example of this sort of interaction. We’re united by the common goal of using Drupal for good, and that is so evident when this crowd comes together. It’s not about throwing around jargon or cramming as much code into everyone’s brains as possible: it’s about finding that common ground we have, whether we’re coming from the marketing world, web development, or program, and helping each other accomplish our goals as we cross the bridge that unites us.

A Resource Extravaganza

A huge piece of events like these, and Drupal Day in particular, is the exchange of resources. This isn’t limited to the tools we use; rather, it includes the people whose experience becomes the example. Session topics this year ranged from digital asset management, Drupal project management and user feedback, to online mapping in Drupal, CRMs, and design. But yes, we do love those tools. Especially the free tools, like Etherpads, the suite of Google services, and, of course, Drupal.org— a fantastic hub of fellow Drupalistas. The paid ones are good too. I will never stop singing the praises of Lynda and BuildAModule for online Drupal training, especially for those who want to learn more about Drupal but don’t know where to start, or are unable to attend community events.

What Now?

Drupal Day may be over, but the learning never has to stop. What can you do? Well, if you attended Drupal Day, you can start by taking a good hard look at those notes you took and think about what the next step is for you.

Are you ready for a deeper dive into Drupal? Maybe tackle some code? It might be time to consider attending one of your local Drupal camps. Connect with your breakout session leaders and see what they recommend.

Perhaps you are simply still stuck trying to evaluate whether or not Drupal is right for your needs. Don’t stop asking questions; reach out to that new contact you made that morning and see what they took away from the day. If you live in the same state, see about teaming up and attending a local Drupal event together. Take the steps you need to get more comfortable in the space, and remember that we were all newbies once. Seriously consider exploring BuildAModule’s training library, and take a look at the websites of the organizations you heard from. Experience for yourself the difference Drupal has made for their websites.

So you didn’t go to Drupal Day? That’s OK. There’s always next year. You can also join some of the Drupal Day veterans and attend a local Drupal camp. If you’re curious about Drupal, there’s no real wrong way to enter the Drupal world. Whether you prefer online research or in-person meet-ups, it doesn’t matter—what matters is that you’re learning. If you’re considering a switch to Drupal, or just want to learn about what it can do for your organization, I encourage you to get out into the community and get it from the horse’s mouth; see for yourself how other organizations have made the transition. Arm yourself with all the information you can handle so you can be in the best possible position to make that informed decision. No one in the Drupal community wants you to fail, and that’s part of the beauty of the open source world: when we contribute something positive to the technology and community we all rely upon, everybody wins.

Stephanie Gutowski
Stephanie Gutowski is the Marketing Manager at ThinkShout. Through her nonprofit experience, Stephanie developed a great appreciation for open source tools that help nonprofits better engage their constituents, and she continues to be an advocate for nonprofit technology. She also really, really loves video games.
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Tags: drupal, technology management, website strategy