In a little over a week, we open up the community-driven process to gather session proposals for the 2019 Nonprofit Technology Conference, held this year in Portland, Oregon.
Session proposals open on July 9, 2018. Every year we look for opportunities to improve the process. Below are the key changes and updates we’ve made this year.
Increased focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion
NTEN has increased our commitment to supporting diversity, equity, and inclusion overall, as well as its influence on the proposal and session selection process. In particular, the Session Advisory Committee will be using this as a specific filter during their voting, which carries 40% of the aggregate score for sessions.
Overall limits increase
As the overall number of sessions has increased over the last few years, it makes sense that the associated opportunities for community members to make contributions to the educational sessions would as well. As a result, the following limits have been increased.
Limit of proposals per organization: From 3 to 5
Limit of sessions to present on (individual/organization): From 2 to 3
Session length decreases
While 90 minutes is a great length for sessions in general, the feedback we have heard is that it becomes a bit tedious over the course of a multi-day conference. As a result, this year we will be experimenting with a 75-minute session length to help with the overall pace, and to create space in the agenda for an additional session time slot.
New session category: Tactical
To further explore new formats, we are also adding a new session type this year. Tactical sessions will be just 30 minutes long, with a tight focus on immediately applicable skills and tips for attendees. To create equity, for these presenters (versus sessions in other categories), selected sessions will run twice back to back. Although sessions run twice, they only count as a single session toward limits.
NTC Session Advisory Committee increase
The NTC Session Advisory Committee consists of community members selected based on expertise in particular content areas. Each member is assigned to a particular session category where their votes contribute to 40% of the overall aggregate score for sessions during the voting stage of the process. This year, each category has assigned five committee members rather than three in the previous year.
Each year at the Nonprofit Technology Conference, we honor some of the dedicated, brilliant members of our community and celebrate their achievements through three different awards.
Lifetime Achievement Award: Jane Meseck
At NTEN, the Lifetime Achievement award is a way to honor an individual who has been instrumental in shaping the field of nonprofit technology, someone who has dedicated their career to advocating for our sector and paved the way for the rest of us. This is the tenth year we’ve given out the Lifetime Achievement award and it is a perfect time to recognize someone who never takes the spotlight.
Jane Meseck was in the room when NTEN was created, and she has been an unmatched advocate, cheerleader, instigator, investor, and champion for the NTEN community for twenty years. We’re grateful for all she’s done to invest in NTEN and the careers of thousands of nonprofit professionals who see a way to put technology to use for greater impact.
NTEN Award: Janice Chan
NTEN’s values are incredibly important to us—from integrity and compassion to excellence and especially community. The NTEN Award was created as a way to recognize a community member who is truly living the NTEN values. These are the people who are always ready to share a case study or recommendation, they contribute to the community with articles, and regularly invest their own time and energy to support the rest of us in improving every day.
Janice Chan does all of these things: she’s a volunteer organizer for one of NTEN’s online groups, faculty in the Nonprofit Technology Professional Certificate, and a speaker at the NTC. She consistently shows up online and offline to make this world and our work better.
Rob Stuart Memorial Award: Wikimedia Foundation
The Rob Stuart Memorial Award honors the spirit of the man, Rob Stuart who was pivotal in creating the NTEN community. Rob was a builder of communities, ideas, and movements. Central to his work was the idea that technology can accelerate the pace of change, making it possible for movements to grow overnight and for change to be created in new and surprising ways. Each year, we celebrate Rob by honoring an organization and community using technology to disrupt the status quo. Rob’s legacy continues to thrive as the NTEN community pushes technology to be more inclusive, to support more diverse goals, and to truly be a tool for change.
This year we honor the Wikimedia Foundation, who develop and maintain open content, wiki-based collaborative projects, and powers the sharing of information across the world.
This year we are introducing a new aspect of the NTC agenda: featured sessions. These are sessions that are during the normal session block times and may feel just like other sessions.
The real difference that separates these sessions from the 130 other sessions is that these have been created or curated by NTEN directly (meaning they aren’t part of the community submission process) and that NTEN believes are the topics of highest interest or import for our community right now.
If NTEN was going to say what the top six topics of the year would be, these sessions are it. And by “top six topics” we don’t mean to say that the other sessions at the NTC aren’t incredibly valuable or pertinent to your organization! These featured sessions are NTEN’s way of showing our voice at the NTC and highlighting topics that help us meet our mission.
A version of this first appeared on cindyleonard.org and is reprinted here with permission.
The 2018 Nonprofit Technology Conference (18NTC) in New Orleans is coming up next month, April 11 – 13. I attended for the first time in 2007, and my employer has seen fit to send me back annually since then. 18NTC will be my 12th trip to this particular conference.
Thinking back to my first time at the NTC, I remember being in a state of ecstasy and overwhelm for much of the event. So many like-minded people! So many exhibitors! So many breakout sessions! Coffee breaks, receptions, luncheons, dinners, Birds of a Feather tables, Geek Games, NTCbeer, Plenaries, Ignite sessions… there was so much to see and do, it felt nearly impossible to absorb it all. I left energized but exhausted.
Therefore, I’m addressing this post to folks who will be attending the NTC this year for the very first time. I feel like I’ve learned a few things in the past decade-plus of attending this conference and would like to share it so you can hopefully optimize your conference experience and walk away feeling great!
Take a lot of business cards
Not only will you want to exchange them with people you meet, you’ll need a bunch for dropping at vendor tables (for networking and to enter prize drawings). I take a three-inch stack in my suitcase, secured by a rubber band and then keep about 20 at a time on my person during the conference, replenishing as needed. (Bonus Tip: I still forget to do this sometimes, so take a photo of your business card with your phone; then you’ll at least be able to text your card to people if you forget to bring paper business cards.) (Bonus Bonus Tip: If you forget even to do that, take photos of the name tags of people you meet—you can always look them up online later.)
Take notes on the business cards you get from others
Scribble notes to yourself on the back of business cards you collect from others. If you wait until you get home to sort through your cards, you won’t remember who you met where or what you discussed. Every few hours during the conference, I pull out the cards I have collected thus far and write notes on them (example: “WordPress BoF lunch table/Thursday/SEO plugins”). This also makes it nice that, when you find people later on LinkedIn or elsewhere, you can send a customized invitation to connect (example: “It was great meeting you at the WordPress Birds of a Feather table during lunch last Thursday at the NTC. If you’d like to talk some more about SEO plugins, please get in touch.”)
Make the most of breakout sessions
Don’t feel like you have to attend sessions in every single time slot available. There are times you’ll get into a great discussion in the hallway and that will end up being more valuable than the session you are missing for it. Collaborative notes will be available after the conference, and you can get content from people tweeting the session using the assigned hashtag.
Breakout session jumping happens at this conference. I rarely see this at other conferences, but at the NTC, if you are in a session and the content isn’t compelling to you, leave that one and try another. Everyone does it and nobody will give you the stink-eye for doing so (unless you leave loudly or obnoxiously, of course).
Along the same lines, if you are a first time breakout speaker, don’t freak out if people leave your session. It’s absolutely not personal or a reflection on your delivery or content, I promise.
If you have more than one session you want to attend in a given time slot, just pick one and write yourself a note to look up the collaborative notes for the others later.
Visit exhibitors, but plan your strategy in advance
There are simply too many exhibitors at this conference to visit them all in the time given. I tried it one year: it took me four straight hours of greeting booth staffers and having short/shallow conversations to pull it off. It’s much better to look at the exhibitor listing in advance and make notes of those you absolutely want or need to visit. Make these your priority the first day, then spend the rest of the time cruising the exhibit hall to visit the others. Oh, and leave extra room in your suitcase if you can—most of the exhibitors have a lot of cool swag you can take home, but you’ll need room in your luggage to do it unless you are driving to the conference.
Dress is casual
Yes, you’ll see a few people in suits, but not too many. Dress ranges from jeans and geeky t-shirts to business casual. Wear what makes you comfortable as long as it’s clean and becoming; nobody will look down their nose at you at this conference for not wearing a suit. And bring/wear shoes that you can walk in for at least 8 hours—your feet will thank you later. Finally, check the forecast in advance and bring a sweater or light jacket in case the hotel session rooms are chilly. Packing an umbrella this time of year isn’t the worst idea either, even without rain in the forecast.
Meet as many people as you can
The NTEN community is filled with members who are incredibly friendly. You’re not likely to click with every single person you meet, but if you talk to 100 people during the conference, you’re bound to make a half dozen deeper connections and come away with some new friends.
If you suffer from social anxiety the way I do, keep in mind that we are largely a bunch of geeks (I mean that in a loving way) and that the person sitting next to you may be feeling as awkward or shy as you are. There’s nothing to be lost by smiling at someone and saying “hello, how are you enjoying the conference so far?”
Disconnect from public wi-fi (or turn off your wi-fi on your devices) when not using it
We crash the wi-fi nearly every year because over 2,000 people are connecting through multiple devices. It makes connectivity better for everyone if you are conscientious about connecting. It’s become better in recent years, but the network can get really slow, even if it doesn’t crash altogether.
Try to avoid checking Twitter just before going to bed
The Twitter stream at the NTC is vibrant and compelling. I have missed out on hours of sleep from checking it before bed, getting sucked in and ending up very tired the next day. You’ll need your sleep to make the most of the conference – there’s a lot to see and do each day.
Listen to your mind and body
If you find yourself overwhelmed, skip something and go for a walk or find a quiet corner and meditate for a bit. If you are hungry, find something to eat. Drink a lot of water so you stay hydrated throughout the day. If you are tired at the end of a day, go to bed early instead of going out drinking. A little self-care will go a long way towards helping you have a great time.
I’m sure there are more, but these are my best tips off the top of my head. If you want to get in touch with me during the conference, Twitter (@cindy_leonard) is best—I check my feed throughout each day. I look forward to seeing everyone next month!
NOTE: Edited to include links to current discussions and live video chat.
It’s time for another NTEN community book club!
Let’s read 18NTC keynote presenter Luvvie Ajayi’s book together! A dynamic and humorous speaker known for her straight talk, Ajayi brings a wealth of nonprofit tech and digital strategy experience. She even presented at 11NTC!
Her book, I’M JUDGING YOU: The Do-Better Manual, is a collection of essays that critiques our fame-obsessed, social media-centric lives, while encouraging us to do better. It looks like a great read and I can’t wait to learn, laugh, and get ready to see her on the NTC main stage!
During March, fabulous volunteers Janicia Moore (Beaconfire RED), Kelly Harris (KHD Communications), and Genie Gratto (AnitaB.org) will lead us through weekly discussions in NTEN’s online community forums. We’ll wrap with a real-time conversation via video chat during the first week April. Then it’ll be time for the 18NTC and we can gather in person.
All are welcome to participate in the forum and video discussions regardless of NTC registration. On-site NTC gatherings are for registered attendees only.
Get the book (don’t forget about your local library!).
Recently Facebook announced what could be the most drastic change to the news feed yet. As many nonprofits know, organic (unpaid) reach and post engagement from Pages has gone down in recent months, with fewer and fewer of their fans seeing their Page posts. I’ve written a lot about this topic and ways to fight the Facebook algorithm and get in front of more of your supporters on Facebook.
Soon many of the traditional, battle-tested social media strategies may not be as effective as they once were on Facebook. Before we dive into the announcement and its implications, it is important to note that Facebook has always prioritized posts and content from users’ friends and family, since day one. However, this new change will once again dramatically affect the reach and engagement of posts made by business and organization Facebook Pages.
Mark Zuckerberg wrote on Facebook about feedback he has received from users about the overwhelming amount of “public content” on the platform—posts from businesses, brands, and media. He went on to say, in a public Facebook post of his own: “As we roll this out, you’ll see less public content like posts from businesses, brands, and media. And the public content you see more will be held to the same standard—it should encourage meaningful interactions between people.”
What are “meaningful interactions”?
Facebook wants their users to spend less time mindlessly scrolling through cat memes, slapstick videos, and BuzzFeed links. It turns out they want Facebook to get back to its roots, where individuals spend more time personally interacting on the site, with friends and family. There is speculation that Facebook is making this shift due to recent research that it published that found that spending more time on social media correlates with mental health issues.
Facebook does give us several clues about what constitutes a “meaningful interaction” and how brands and organization Pages can adapt.
What can nonprofits do?
My advice for nonprofits on Facebook has always been two-fold:
Become the go-to resource for your audience; and
Share compelling stories about your work and your impact.
Remember that Facebook changes may take months to take effect. However, nonprofit Facebook page administrators should be prepared for another drop in organic reach.
While we wait to see the effects, there are some strategies that your nonprofit can start to put in place immediately:
Email still remains the best way to communicate with a large group of people at scale—when email campaigns are carried out thoughtfully and with purpose. Nonprofits should be doubling down on building their email lists in a strategic fashion, and develop a plan to send meaningful communications to their lists more frequently.
Consider creating a Facebook Group
Groups may now get priority over Pages, since they promote “meaningful interactions” (in many cases). If it makes sense to your organization, your nonprofit may want to consider starting a Facebook Group.
Facebook said itself, in the official announcement around changes to the News Feed: “In Groups, people often interact around public content. Local businesses connect with their communities by posting relevant updates and creating events. And news can help start conversations on important issues.”
Groups require different strategies than Pages. They are organized around topics rather than brands, and people tend to engage more with each other, asking questions and offering helpful resources.
Focus on engaging content but stop using “engagement bait”
It may seem counterintuitive, but posts on Pages will have to be engaging without using so-called “engagement bait” on posts.
Examples of engagement bait include:
Vote baiting—asking users to “vote” by choosing a reaction (smile, wow, heart, etc.)
React baiting—”LIKE this if you…”
Share baiting—telling people to share with friends to win a prize or similar
Tag baiting—asking users to tag themselves or others in a picture that isn’t of them
Comment baiting—”Comment ‘YES’ if you agree with…”
However, Facebook did clarify that posts about fundraisers, asking for resources, help, or recommendations, etc. will not be affected by the changes.
Focus on live video
We all know by now the popularity and proliferation of live video on all social networks, especially Facebook.
80% of respondents said they would rather tune into a live video than read a blog post.
82% of respondents were more interested in watching live video from a brand than reading social media posts.
Facebook said the following: “Page posts that generate conversation between people will show higher in News Feed. For example, live videos often lead to discussion among viewers on Facebook. In fact, live videos on average get six times as many interactions as regular videos. Many creators who post videos on Facebook prompt discussion among their followers, as do posts from celebrities.” It’s all about promoting discussion.
Consider paid promotion
While many nonprofits, especially smaller ones, don’t include marketing costs in their budgets, it may be time to start doing so. Social media is increasingly pay-to-play, through boosts, ads, and promotions. Even boosting a post for a few bucks can greatly increase your views, likes, and comments—and more importantly, click-throughs to your nonprofit’s website.
A version of this article was originally published on jcsocialmarketing.com and is reprinted here with permission.
Sometimes three days of the Nonprofit Technology Conference are just not enough. We get it. 🎊
Take advantage of already being at 18NTC, surrounded by the smartest people at nonprofits, and join us for a pre-conference event. This year, we’re proud to offer the following:
A day for IT decision makers who either currently manage or are considering the Drupal content management system in the nonprofit sector. Sponsored by ThinkShout.
An interactive, all-day learning and networking event for nonprofit leaders and staff who manage WordPress websites. Sponsored by Kanopi Studios.
A day for CiviCRM users in the nonprofit community. Sponsored by AGH Strategies.
Creating a secure nonprofit
A half-day session about security breaches, compromised data, and cyber attacks that can put nonprofits and their beneficiaries at risk. Sponsored by Microsoft.
All pre-conference events will be held at the New Orleans Convention Center on April 10, 2018—the same location that will host the NTC the following day.
So much of our work at nonprofits is about meeting people where they are at. When our donors joined Facebook, we set up pages. When they stopped reading our letters, we invested in small email marketing. Yet, so many of our resources are only in the languages that nonprofit workers speak, and that means we we are missing opportunities to connect, engage, and collaborate with the full breadth of our communities.
Having a website that is accessible in multiple languages is fast becoming best practice for nonprofits that serve multilingual communities. So where do we start?
Thoughtful planning for adding multilingual content is a vital step. There are many considerations when integrating additional languages into your site that can mean the difference between a quality experience for your non-English speaking users and a poor one that just degrades over time and becomes a waste of valuable resources.
Here are three steps to planning a multilingual site.
1. Choose your objectives
Make two short lists of the kinds of content you’d like to make multilingual: Current objectives and future objectives. List your priority languages.
Keep it simple. Each time you add an additional requirement, such as bilingual menu structure or taxonomy translation, consider the cost of developing as well as ongoing maintenance, and content administration. Review examples of sites and note what you like and don’t like about their multilingual approach.
2. Get input from your web development team
Work with your team to develop a technical matrix that accounts for elements including:
What types of content will be translated.
How the translation will happen. For example, it could be done at entity level, editing individual fields, or at node level.
How multilingual content relates to other content.
Costs are for each option.
3. Treat this as a web development project
Choose a development partner who has experience with multilingual content, create a technical plan, plot a structure and project methodology and start your build.
We have produced a white paper for nonprofits with Drupal websites that gives more detailed step-by-step instructions on how to develop a plan. While the paper focuses specifically on Drupal, the thinking and planning outlined in it is applicable to any CMS. The more you can plan ahead, the easier this process will be. Gracias, asante, and good luck!
It takes a lot of work to put on a conference for a few thousand nonprofit professionals—luckily, we have some dedicated volunteers who help us make it happen.
Besides saving you a chunk of change on registration, volunteering at the Nonprofit Technology Conference is a great way to meet people. You get to help attendees, meet presenters, and build your connections. And this year, we’ll have room monitors, which means you may be able to sit in on some sessions while volunteering—double win! You’ll also get some exclusive volunteer swag, and lots of appreciation from everyone at the conference.
We talked to three previous NTC volunteers about their experience—here’s what they had to say.
What did you most enjoy about volunteering at the NTC?
Megan Bruce: I really loved meeting other volunteers and conference-goers. The NTC is such a vibrant and welcoming community, and it’s fun to really feel like you’re a part of it and to be able to give back as a volunteer. I also met two other volunteers who are based in my newly adopted hometown of Seattle, which was great!
Mark Mathyer: Volunteering at the NTC allows me to support an event that has been very useful and enjoyable to me for many years.
Taida Horozovic: Being one of the first people to welcome people to the conference and help them register quickly (or find the information they need) felt really good. I loved connecting with people and learning more about topics that I am curious and passionate about.
Any particularly memorable experiences to share?
Mark: I remember most the happy faces and grateful responses of the attendees that I assisted. At the 17NTC, I was a room guide at the top of the stairs, and a lunch table guide. Some people made me feel like the simple act of telling them where to go made their whole world a brighter place.
Megan: At the end of one of my volunteer shifts, I sat down on a chair next to someone I had helped direct to a session earlier. We ended up bonding over the fact that she lived in Brooklyn, where I had just moved from, and that we both had worked at social justice nonprofits. I ended up introducing her to another friend in Brooklyn who had just moved to town and also works in that space, and they’re now friends and talk regularly! It was just a really cool connection to make.
Taida: I just remember that it felt like walking into a place where I belong, and my curiosity grew the whole time I was there. There are so many opportunities to do fun activities and to meet seriously smart and awesome people.
What’s your #1 tip for future NTC volunteers?
Megan: Take advantage of your enhanced visibility and talk to as many people as possible. One of the best parts of NTC is meeting people who really understand the nature of the work you do and who share a lot of the same values as you. It’s such a great place to meet like-minded and passionate people and to share tips and tricks about improving the nonprofit sector through technology.
Mark: Do it!
Taida: Come early and with an open heart and mind.
What’s the most important thing you learned as a volunteer?
Taida: All the volunteers working together as a team (and we were an awesome team 😊) play an important role in the conference running smoothly and keeping everything on a positive note. It was kind of an honor to be a part of that.
Megan: People are sometimes shy about asking for help, so as a volunteer, it’s good to be proactive. For example, the Washington DC venue last year is basically a labyrinth: I saw a lot of people wandering around looking lost and sort of looking in my direction, but seemingly were a little nervous about asking for help. By proactively identifying people who looked lost and offering to help them, I made it a lot easier for those people to find their sessions in time, and staying busy helped make the volunteer shift go by really quickly.
Mark: It takes a lot of energetic people to make a great event happen.
How did volunteering help your personal or professional goals?
Taida: I gained a lot of confidence. In a way, I affirmed without seeking it that I am doing well in terms of using technology, but more importantly I found awesome ways to improve my work and learn more after the conference thanks to the amazing collaborative notes and shared resources.
Megan: I always like to challenge myself and, being a bit of an introvert, I find it sometimes intimidating to be in a position where I have to talk to a lot of people. So it was great to get the opportunity to interact with lots of people as an NTC volunteer. It was also a lot of fun, and helpful: everyone is super-friendly and nice, and volunteering helps you feel more comfortable during the conference, because you’ll see people you recognize in every session. If you’re hoping to come out of NTC with new connections and friends, being a volunteer is the best way to achieve that.
Mark: Volunteering gives me a chance to see, and re-connect with, friends and colleagues from previous NTCs.
For the 2018 Nonprofit Technology Conference, we are headed back to New Orleans for the first time in 10 years! I’m excited to see all of you there and to ensure you are just as excited about it, I’m sharing some of the conference highlights that are new or unique this year.
Pre-Conference Days are back! That’s right, the day before the conference will host three all-day events that you can register for when you register for the NTC (if you are already registered for the NTC and want to add a pre-con event, just let us know). This year, you can choose from three different events, all with a product focus, which makes them different than the rest of the educational sessions at the NTC: CiviCRM Day, Drupal Day, and WordPress Day.
When it comes to the NTC educational content, we have a few awesome announcements for 18NTC. First, we have already announced the keynote, Luvvie Ajayi, and I know that it is going to be a great way to start the conference. Second, this will be the largest agenda we’ve ever had with over 130 educational sessions! We believe that having too many sessions to choose from is a good problem to have. Some aspects of the Conference, like our collaborative session notes, session-specific hashtags, and the mobile app, help make it easier to find a session that works for you and to track down great content from the sessions you don’t attend.
This year, for the first time, we will also have Featured Sessions. There will be one Featured Session during each session block and they will be topics that span organizational departments and missions—ultimately, the big topics that we at NTEN want to be sure are on your radar.
Outside of the sessions, we have a lot planned to make this the best NTC yet! To do that, we are focusing, as we always do, on supporting the community to do what it does best: connect, share, and have fun together. We will be facilitating a Career Center in the exhibit hall for the first time—sign up now to be a mentor or mentee.
Oh, and that exhibit hall? The one filled with over 100 incredible service and product providers? It’ll serve as our central hub for accessing general sessions, food, COFFEE, and networking. Events that returning attendees will remember like Birds of a Feather lunch tables and conversational lounges in the exhibit hall will be back this year, too.
To continue the community engagement that makes the NTC so special, we are bringing back the Official Party! Folks who have been to the conference in the last eight or so years will remember that usually we have sponsored parties that take place at different locations. Well, what is old is new again: Just as we had when we were in New Orleans before (and in the years before that), NTEN is hosting the only official party of the NTC. And thanks to sponsors including Care2, it is going to be awesome! You can register for the party when you register for the NTC or you can let us know if you’d like it added to your ticket.
And instead of three days of morning general sessions, the last day of the conference will include a Jazz Brunch so you can reconnect with all the new friends you made at the party and plan out your last day of sessions together.
Returning attendees may notice some other changes this year. We have done a lot of reflection, reviewed many years of evaluations, and taken lots of valuable ideas from our NTC community committee. We’ve made some changes that may be small but we hope have a big impact on continuing to make the NTC the very best conference you go to and the very best opportunity for you to meet friends new and old, learn new skills, gather new ideas, and ultimately do your work better.
What little changes have we made? For example: the morning general sessions are now only 60 minutes instead of 90 and focused on featuring diverse ideas and perspectives; we’re planning new, limited edition buttons and we are recruiting more volunteers to help both speakers and attendees have a great experience.